It's official. May is here and we are finally beginning to thaw. Our appetites have also turned a corner, taking a cue from the sudden growth around us sparking cravings for lighter fare and fresh, flavorful dirt candy. If you happen to be a mushroom fan then perhaps the morel needs no introduction, but if you are and have yet to experience this delicious fungi, it's time to schedule a tasting immediately.
Spring offers an abundance of earth's delectable offerings ripe for the picking and versatile for cooking. Wild morel mushrooms start to reveal their trademark heads during this time when the temps are between 60-80 degrees and the new leaves on trees offer just enough shade/sun combo to nurture these guys into existence. Not as easy to source in the wild as they are to identify, morels tend to grow near strawberry patches and violet, and are mostly found in hardwood forests. Black versions are the first to sprout during this time, preceding white morels later in the spring season. These elusive mushrooms are in the truffle family, so expect them to be pricey when sourcing them at specialty produce stores or local farms.
Hard to find in the wild or not, morels are so recognizable because of their spongy, honeycomb shaped heads, and are considered one of the safest wild mushrooms to eat, and the greatest source of vitamin D over any other plant or spore. They are considered the #1 target of mushroom hunters across North America due to their earthy, nutty, steak-like flavor as well as the thrill of the hunt. Foodies alike will testify, morels are king and simply the best tasting. There are numerous ways to enjoy these gems. Because of the woodsy, rich and meaty flavors of the spores morels only become more satisfying when cooked with like ingredients such as browning in butter and folded into pasta, lightly fried, or even whipped into fluffy egg recipes for a gourmet breakfast. One tried and true dish that serves as the most satisfying, savory accompaniment to grilled fish, short-ribs, or even alone is creamy polenta with butter-sautéed morels and garlic, topped off with a poached egg. Scrumptious.
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