I have been wanting to learn to 'hunt' morels for a long while. These wild mushrooms come up in the early spring, between the blooming of the Redbud trees and the time the blossoms fall from the Dogwoods- a fairly short window. My friend Dick Fowlkes goes hunting morels and asparagus in Rockbridge County. Since I could not accompany him, he was kind enough to write and send photos of his adventures. I must say, his life in the country sounds positively dreamy. Here is his tale of the hunt.
Sorry you couldn't make it for the morel and wild asparagus hunt last weekend- the Richmond Forum needed your expertise. I climbed up and down a mountain for two hours to find not even a glimpse of a morel, I was perplexed. It was hot and dry so I wasn't totally surprised, but usually find some evidence of morels. I decided to give up and run over to The Herbery and get some Thyme plants. The owners Stephanie and Pete Louquet, said that they had seen some morels nearby. Pete and I trekked over to the spot and low and behold was a white morel the size of my fist. I was shocked- and not far from that one was another nice sized morel. My hips and knees were killing me from my earlier hunt, so I headed home with my dinner sized portion of morels. On my way home, I stopped at another friend's home who bakes their own bread for a local CSA. I needed to pick up the bread I had ordered. In our small talk, my friend Mary mentioned that she had seen some morels in a clearing on her driveway. She said to check it out on my way out. There in the clearing were three nice large white morels. I had hiked all over for two hours and here were morels right outside the car!
On my way home, I stopped at my favorite asparagus patch and found about twenty wild asparagus. They were so tempting that I munched on-two of them as I harvested. Happy with my "catch", I went home.
I took a shower and came downstairs to prepare the morels when the phone rang. It was my bread friend Mary. She had stopped by and left me a bag on the back porch. Inside the bag were about 25 white morels. I could not believe it. She said that she and her husband Gary had checked the clearing out and in about ten minutes had found these morels. What a dumb bell I was to have missed them. Mary said to come back in the morning to look for more, and I would. The next morning, I stopped by Mary's and found another thirty or so morels right there in the same spot. It was like an Easter Egg Hunt !! I had a blast with my pocket knife carefully cutting the morels to leave the "root system". I then tap the morel to release spores for next year. This is very important to leave spores behind so that they will procreate.
Even when I clean the morels, I rinse them in a bowl of water and pour the water out in our garden so that the morels will come next year !! I hope you will make it on one of our excursions soon. Good luck on your inauguration of your new Farmers Market at St. Stephen's Church this Saturday!!!