The Short-Season Morel Mushroom is in Now!
By Carmelo Sigona
There are few things that get me as excited as wild Morel mushrooms. Hearing my nephew Robbie say Morels will be rolling in means it’s just about summertime, which, to me, translates to and grilled New York Strip steaks with Brandy & Morel Mushroom Sauce, or Morel and Asparagus Frittatas…oh, the list goes on and on.
The rare wild Morel mushroom is cherished by chefs and foodies alike for its rich, creamy flavor that is described as earthy, smoky and nutty. Also, they hold their firmness better than some other wild mushrooms so they lend themselves nicely to hearty or baked dishes.
Morels are easily identified by their appearance. The upper portion of the variety is composed of a network of ridges and pits, giving the mushroom a distinctive honeycomb-like appearance that can range in size from a cherry tomato to an avocado. Wild morels are sought out by thousands of experienced hunters every year, and we’re proud to say that the morels we have in the stores were harvested by our very own local mushroom-hunting pro!
Morels usually have a short season (about 3-5 weeks) and then can be found dried for the rest of the year. Morel growth is dependent on the temperature of the soil and the amount and timing of precipitation. About 50 degrees Fahrenheit seems to be the right temperature, according to a recent newspaper quote from Johann Bruhn, research associate professor of plant sciences at the University of Missouri.
This season’s Morels are coming from the Sierra Mountains, just below the snow line at about 6,000 feet. These are the primo mushrooms – they start just when the snow melts, compared to the early crop that comes in from the flatlands and aren’t as good.
Morels should never be eaten raw. Make sure they’re cooked thoroughly to eliminate any toxins that exist. We have lined up a few outstanding recipes featuring Morel mushrooms for your gastro-enjoyment, including one for Salmon Roulade With Garlic Potatoes Morels & Fresh Peas from our friend Luisa Ormonde of Luisa’s Catering. The beginning of Morel season this year coincided with the beginning of wild King salmon season, and the two combined make a palate-pleasing pair.
As for selecting, storing and using these mushrooms, remember to read through Robbie Sigona’s produce tips for Morel mushrooms.