Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Morel of the Story

Every season we learn new things about our new hometown, Bend, that will make next year even more awesome. For example, I found out too late last year that this orchard down the street has 100%-totally-free apple picking. This fall, you can be sure I'll be all up on that, and we'll be canning apple sauce, apple butter, and making apple fruit leather for weeks.

This spring, we've been learning about morel and bolete mushroom locations. I've started keeping a list, and maybe next year we'll find enough to share! 

If you're interested in mushroom hunting, I strongly advise you join up with a local mycology club, rather than buy a slew of mushroom books or apps. Trust me, we did both. It's just SO MUCH EASIER to have a bunch of nerds show you what to look for. They've already made all the mistakes, and also, seeing the right and the wrong mushrooms in person makes more sense when you can touch them, smell them, cut them open, etc.

a peek at Wickiup Reservoir through the trees.

The leaders of the forays are dedicated. They scout out locations the night before, so that we're pretty much guaranteed to find something the next day. They brought us near Wickiup Reservoir, one of the many lakes off the Cascade Lakes Scenic Byway. 

A cool thing about mushroom hunting is that you are generally in a beautiful spot, enjoying a nice long walk through the trees. So whether or not you find something, it's still a winning situation.

I was standing at the actual spring that feeds the reservoir.

I sort of spent the first 30 minutes just wandering, because I'm more of a lucky mushroom hunter, not a good one. Mike is much better at actually spotting them. I rely on the stumbling method, as in, I sure hope I stumble into one. 

And stumble I did! I was the first in our whole group to find a morel. Once you find a mushroom, you're supposed to stop and look around carefully. Mushrooms are social and like to hang in groups. 

My first sighting! Looks sort of like a blonde pinecone, so they're hard to spot.

Sure enough, there was a second right nearby. Mike ran over and we found about 5 more.

a second one!

Mike picking a morel, coral mushroom, and amanita mushrooms.

I felt a little guilty leaving at the end of the day, because you usually do a potluck after a foray, and share all your findings. But since this foray was in Bend and we live here, we just headed home with our goodies...

Beginner's Luck!

We found more than the whole group that day. Go team! Did you know these suckers are like $40/pound? 

An added bonus - we learned how to find and identify boletes, another mushroom that is prolific in this area and very popular with those in the know. I cooked one up for us and although it was tasty, it tasted just like a regular mushroom. The morels, though - they were tasty. It might have been the butter.
King Boletes. According to the book, they are "edible, and choice."

The true test will be next spring, if we can find morels all on our own. If we're successful, I know a bunch of foodie friends (and relatives) who are going to be super happy!