Monday, June 6, 2011

A Spring Ritual

Hunting for morel mushrooms is a spring ritual in our family.  After the cold snowy winter, rambling about in the woods is the perfect antidote for cabin fever, and finding tasty morsels is really just an added incentive.  Growing up in Iowa, Mother's Day was always the magic day on the calendar that we looked forward to for our mushroom excursions, but of course the season depends on rain, temperature, and other factors (that I don't even remotely understand).

This year in southern Ontario, May 19th was the magic day, the only day of the year we found any morels. And I had a fool-proof plan for finding the precise day this year: I checked the spot where we found them last year every day in May until I spotted one. It helps that this was a few feet from our backdoor, so I am very spoiled here.  I am aware that not everyone has the luxury of having morels in their backyard, so you're on your own trying to decipher the weather and watching the lilacs for blooms (an indicator my dad swears by). 

This year we found 21 morels, and some were the tiniest mushrooms I have ever see.  I thought this was a pretty good amount for city folks without access to farms and creek beds to search.  Mina even found a few herself and picked them and added them to the basket. She was so proud. And I am so proud to be able to share this spring ritual with her. I had a phenomenal childhood, and hope to give her the same.

If you're lucky enough to find your own morels, you can try them Mina's favorite way:
cut in strips, lightly dusted in flour, pan-fried in butter and a touch of oil and finally, sprinkled with sea salt. I'm pretty sure this is the standard Midwestern way of cooking fresh morels, but it is delightful, simple, and so very seasonal. Mina loves all mushrooms, but she loves these the best of all.


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