John and I have been hunting for morels far and wide. We scoured old apple trees and every stand of oaks we could access here in Kingfield to no avail. Until today! As expected, when you aren’t looking for something that’s when you’ll find it. John was moving his turkey blind to a new location and happened upon this little wonder.
I’m not a big fan of eating mushrooms— I like them sliced so thinly on top of pizza, they dehydrate to chewy slivers or swimming in marsala wine and cream. However, I am mystified by them—their diversity, the endless textures, shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s a sweet, quiet challenge, to reverently gather specimens, take spore prints and try to identify a new mushroom. It’s like an Easter egg hunt for adults. Perhaps most of all, I’m enthralled by the way you don’t see the whole organism, just the fruit prodding out of the duff, obscene and jocular.
A few years ago, I picked a red egg-like mushroom, wrapped in a white skin, just starting to break through its veil. I left it on my counter and was astonished to find in the morning that it had emerged from the egg shell, complete with a stem.
Some field guides describe the aromas of mushrooms the way wine labels describe flavors. “Hints of cherry and chocolate with a buttery finish” Really? In this $7 bottle of Cabernet? I don’t get it. Likewise, a chanterelle doesn’t smell like an apricot to me. It’s aroma is more like almonds. But this morel does smell distinctly like anise. What to do with a singular, hideous, delicious treasure?