It is spring in western Montana. The soil is still moist from recent rains and the winter snowpack. Cheery green shoots of grasses are just popping up. Brilliant white Trilliums and golden yellow Glacier lilies grace the shadowed forest floor.

Young Trilliums

Young Trilliums

I have come to hunt the elusive, “Gold in them thar’ hills”, Morels!

Timing in Morel hunting, like life, is everything. I go in search of morels when the forest flowers tell me they have arrived. Those lovely trillium flowers start out with three bright white pedals and as the plant ages, the pedals fade into a striped purple.
This my friends is the key. When those purple pedals drop off leaving only the three leaves and slender stalk. This is the foretelling that the Morels have arrived.

Trillium just before dropping the pedals

Trillium just before dropping the pedals

I have found morels pop up just as the purple pedals drop.

Now just because I know when to look doesn’t assure that I know where to look. There are zillions of miles of Forest service roads across the northwest and the majority of these are closed to motorized traffic. This is where a mountain bike becomes very handy.

These forest roads are winding, dirt, often rutted and bumpy so it is important to have a comfy bike seat for long distance.

Morels are most commonly found growing after a forest fire burn. They can be found in the short forest grasses for two to three years after a burn as well.

Also, I find mushrooms when the forest floor has been disturbed such as along skid trails or around logging operations. Many folks believe these ‘srooms grow most frequently in association with the roots of a Douglas fir tree.

Hidden Morel Mushroom

Hidden Morel Mushroom

Looking for morels is an odd thing.

You wander along, looking at the ground and several things catch your eye that makes you think you have discovered a morel. Such as an upturned pinecone, a brown burned stick, or even a rotting piece of wood turned brown with age. But these are impersonators.

Pine Cone Copycat Morel

Pine Cone Copycat Morel

Yet, every time I see a morel, I gasp with excitement. It is so fun to find them. Generally speaking, if you find one, there is another two or three growing close by.

This hunting stuff is rather addictive, again another reason it is good to go with a bike. Because I wander further and further up the road or mountainside and by the time I stop, I have miles to go to return home. Once again, my trusty bike and Carbon Comfort road bike saddle will carry me and my precious cargo home.

Wildcrafting is a term used for gathering edible food from wild surroundings. So, while mushroom hunting I also gather fiddlenecks.

Fiddlenecks are the small tender shoots of Bracken fern. Best picked at about 2-4 inches tall while still tightly curled. In a soup these taste much like asparagus.

Here is my favorite way to enjoy these flavorsome treats.
(My husband loves this soup so much he calls it-It’s Gone Soup.)

• Morel Soup Recipe •
• 1 quart chicken stock, (one box)
• 1 cube of chicken bullion1 tsp minced garlic
• 1 TSP dried or fresh Basil
• ¼ tsp ground sage
• ½ tsp ground black pepper
• ¼ thinly sliced onion
• 2 TSP butter
Combine in a medium pot and bring to a boil. After reaching a full boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes to reduce the fluids .
Reduce to low heat and add directly to the simmering stock:1/3 cup white wine
Up to 1/2 cup fiddlenecks (Chop larger pieces into half).
If you do not have fiddlenecks you may substitute sliced spinach or swiss chard.
Gently wash and remove the roots and/or dirt from the Morels.
Slice the morels into ¼ inch slices and add to the stock.
Bring to a gentle boil for 2 minutes.
Serve immediately

Let me know if you have success in your mushroom hunting or if you make my It’s Gone Soup!
Happy Hunting!

 

Morel Dinner is about to be served

Morel dinner is about to be served

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