Monday, March 29, 2010

Spring Dreaming

With yet another 5" rainstorm dampening (!) NYC, and the daily temperature hovering just below 60, this man's fancy inexorably turns to ... morels.

In case you don't know, morels are mushrooms - members of the genus Morchella. However, they are SO much more than just mushrooms. Many people - myself included - believe them to be the best tasting mushrooms that exist.

Morels come up when the soil temperature is in the high 50's, April and May in NY/NJ. They are found only in certain, very restricted habitats, none of which the hard-bitten 'shroomer would even dream of publicly mentioning.  Of all wild foods, only ginseng inspires more competition, secretive behavior and obsessiveness than morels.

By my calculation, this year the black morels (Morchella negra) will appear the second week of April.  While the rest of the works sweats their tax forms, this old guy will be scrambling the boulders in a deep quiet forest, scanning the earth for something that looks like a pine cone crossed with little brains.

There is, I have to confess, no natural scent more divine than the first whiff of a freshly cut April morel. Here in smoky fungal essence are the promises of spring, dinner, environmental rejuvenation and many months of mushrooming to come. Even this late cold night at my laptop I can envision that moment.

If you've never eaten a morel, take yourself down to a local high-quality grocer in May, the height of the season, and pick some up. I've got some more work to do tonight, but tomorrow when I have more time I'll post my (in)famous pizza with morels in cream sauce recipe. Oh Yeah.

Oh, and a special bulletin for readers in the Pacific Northwest: My GF Sourdough Breads Workshop is coming back on Saturday May 15. Click here for details.

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