Sure Signs of Spring

Weather conditions can bring joy or destruction. Luckily in our case these past few days we’ve had the perfect amount of rain, humidity, sun, wind and soil temperatures to provide a bounty of morel mushrooms. The only drawback, at least for me, is finding the little buggers. But a romp in the woods makes up for any drawbacks.

We took a road trip to southern Minnesota recently too hunt for the elusive fungi. Arriving at the ancestral home of a friend, we immediately headed up a rather steep hill, beyond a yet to be planted field.

Other friends were already in the woods patiently looking both to the sky and the ground. Looking upwards allows you to notice the dying elm trees. If you head towards the tree, with any luck you will find your prize. Sometimes above the trunk other times below. There never seems to be any rhyme or reason. Something about the symbiotic relationship between the dying tree and the ground around it allows for the growing of morels. When you do find one, be sure to pinch or cut it off just above the ground and if possible carry your treasure in a mesh bag. This allows for air circulation and the dispersal of morel spores.

Taking a moment to catch my breath, I couldn’t help but notice the trees overlooking the valley were just starting to bud out. Jack-in-the-Pulpits were profuse yet the Trilliums had yet to bloom. What looked like wild Columbine and Violets were in full color and the ferns were just beginning to unfurl. Making too much noise, we startled a couple of wild turkeys and they ended up flying across the field.

Bringing our bounty back to the house, we all pitched in and prepared dinner. It included a creamy morel mushroom and wild onion risotto; sautéed foie gras on seared beef tenderloin with a truffle oil drizzle, smashed potatoes, cold slaw and grilled asparagus.

We were reminded once again that perfect fresh ingredients, simply prepared, shared with good friends and family are a foretaste of heaven. It didn’t hurt either to be introduced to many delightful wines, including a red from Spain called Juan Gils. It was fruity, with the nose of leather and barnyard, ending with pepper and spice. What a perfecting pairing with the tenderloin. Dessert was a Sherry pound cake with fresh strawberries and whipped cream.

Many morel hunters keep their favorite hunting spots under-wraps. I’d love to share my spot with you but alas it was on private property, so it wouldn’t do any good for me to tell you anyway. If you can’t get to the woods, at least hunt for some at your nearest market. These gnarly jewels won’t be around for long.

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