Sunday, June 12, 2011

what's so fungi? (oral morels!)

the forest floor in mccall is exploding with mushrooms. i picked nearly 40 morels this weekend.

some of them are enormous!

i’d never cooked or eaten fresh morels before, so i did what i usually do with food i’ve never tried: sauté with olive oil, salt and pepper. a lot of juice comes out at first, then the liquid cooks down and gets partially reabsorbed as they cook longer, about five minutes over medium heat seemed right to me. they were super delicious, very reminiscent of longneck steamers with lots of broth, dipped in melted butter.

i also picked a few very large white puffballs...

and i found five artist conks (ganoderma applanatum polypore mushrooms). the largest is almost a foot wide. now i need to think of what to draw on them.

i hiked through the woods for hours, mostly in the morning and evening when the light was best. and guess what: i encountered A FUCKING BEAR. this morning i was getting pretty deep into the forest and suddenly i got this weird feeling, so i looked up and looked around a bit…didn’t see anything. still felt kinda funny, so i made some noise, looked around a bit more, and there was A FUCKING BEAR. a medium-size brown bear, less than a hundred yards away. i got the hell out of there.

i saw more false morels than real ones. it was frustrating. i wished they would just try a little harder and become real morels.

i didn’t bring a mushroom identification book with me, but i had a feeling this kind (above) was edible. i found four of them, the largest over a foot wide. so i took a cell phone picture and sent it to jason knowing he had just borrowed a guide from someone, and he tried to look it up for me but said it was hard to tell from the photo.

since i only had a hunch to go on i didn’t pick them. when i got home i was thinking, “those really looked like coral,” so i googled “coral mushrooms.” i love it when things have really obvious names! turns out they are indeed edible.

these are some kind of jelly fungus, another very sensible name given their jiggly, gummy, gelatinous texture.

“orange peel cup mushrooms” (aleuria aurantia)--saw these all over the place.

i can’t wait to post more photos from my trip. the last time i was up there was in january. this time it was only two and a half days but i crammed in a lot of activity.


Shari said...

I love morel mushrooms! We have them in Michigan, but I've not really found many of them. I did recently get a mushroom identification guide but haven't used it much.
You've inspired me to start searching around to see what I can identify. Nice photos -- as always!

Bumble Lush (A Garden Blog) said...

Hey I just ate a morel for the first time a few days ago! I think it was sauteed in oil and it was good, and I don't even like mushrooms. This one was small, but I had no idea they got that big. How can you tell the real ones from the false ones?

And holy sh$! the bear--glad you got away unharmed!

Emily said...

shari--that's awesome! i hope you find some good ones.

bumble lush--yeah, apparently they can be huge, i had no idea either. even the biggest ones i found are tiny compared to some others i've seen online. it's pretty easy to distinguish the realsies from the falsies...the most surefire way is to slice one open: morels are hollow and false morels are solid. but it's not difficult to tell by looks alone--the texture and shape is different and the color is usually different, too, more of a reddish orange.

Bumble Lush (A Garden Blog) said...

I'm fascinated by the idea of mushroom hunting. I've read about people who keep their spots secret, and I'm also impressed with the skill it takes to learn to recogzine things like this on sight.

Emily said...

hehe yep there's a lot of secrecy in morel hunting. personally i probably wouldn't tell the whole world where i found these, but i'll happily tell friends and other non-commercial mushroom enthusiasts. a few years ago there was a huge morel crop after a forest fire, and it brought day laborers from various countries swarming over here to pick for the large commercial mushroom companies...that was messed up on numerous levels. the same thing has been happening with huckleberries. it's kinda scary.