You must look closely at the spelling of the title I have written. I am not writing about behavior, but, fungi. While it is true that some people have an aversion to eating something that looks like a wilted sponge, that is an issue of taste and culinary adventurism, not morals.
I have tried to avoid writing it, I can’t help it: “May is Michigan’s morel month”. That saying is plastered in all the local news during the time of morel harvest. Believe it or not, the harvesting of the morel is a huge tourist attraction. Mesick, a city in the northern half of the lower peninsula is known as the “Morel Capital” and has a parade and festivities to accompany it.
What is this lowly fungus that can attract so much attention and respect? Well, its scientific name is “Morchella”. It is unique among the edible mushrooms in its form. It literally looks like a golden (or grey) waxy, wilted, cone (or oval)shaped sponge on a fat smooth stem. It is hollow inside. It varies in size from two inches tall to over six inches. It comes in a yellow type(“Morchella esculenta”) and a black type(“Morchella elata”). There are variations in shape related to the kind of trees they are growing under. Also there is a “false morel” (“Gyromitra esculenta”)that is poisonous and quite nasty looking. Edible morels are so unusual in their appearance that some people won’t eat them for that reason alone.
Usually there is some argument about the pronunciation. Webster’s shows it to be “mo-‘rel”. Note that the emphasis is on the second syllable.
Morels grow like any mushroom. They sprout out of a web of fine threads called the “mycelium” that permeate rotting vegetation. They spread to new areas by means of spores. They seem to pop out of the litter on the forest floor overnight when the temperature and moisture is just right. They grow in forests of aspen and oak, abandoned orchards and burned over areas. They can be found throughout North America, but, especially in Michigan and Washington.
Eating morels is what all the hype is about. Fresh morels sauteed in butter are one of the most wonderful flavors that could ever tickle your taste buds. They have a sweet nutty or woodsy flavor all their own. Most people love the taste, however there are a few holdouts. I have often found that young children don’t like the flavor. Maybe they do not have the highly refined palate of their parents–or, maybe they have more sense. You be the judge.
Most people enjoy the hunt. In that way they are a poor mans delicacy. Anyone can find them in the woods. There, they are free for the picking. If you try to buy them (if you can find someone who sells them) you will pay dearly for them. I hear of thirty to forty dollars a pound. However, with a little effort and time in the woods almost anyone can find them. One word of caution, however, don’t ever ask a morel hunter where he struck it rich. There is no chance he will tell you. In fact he will probably deliberately lead you astray! A passionate morel hunter will protect his find at all costs.
I have a confession to make. When I was a teacher my sixth grade class would camp out at my farm in the Spring during (you guessed it) morel season. I would show the children what we were looking for. They would scour the nearby woods and bring their finds to me. One year we nearly filled a grocery bag. During suppertime I would cook up the mushrooms for everyone to share. Here’s where my confession comes into play. Remember I said adults like the taste more than children? Well, the students would taste test their findings and leave. The chaperons and I would eat sauteed morels until we couldn’t hold anymore. Thanks, kids. You made some old folks very happy.
You may wonder what kind of a lesson can be drawn from an edible mushroom. I find it amazing that our Creator can cause such delicious food to grow out of rotting vegetation. He made the strange morel fungus wonderfully edible. In fact He made over 38,000 kinds of mushrooms in every shape and color. Well over 1,000 are edible.Only an all wise God could have come up with such a thing. Maybe it is a picture of His work in taking dead, rotten sinners like me and turning them into sweet tasting children of God that glorify Him. Also, mushrooms come in every size, shape and color, just like the members of His body, the Church. Blessed be His name.
…No, I won’t show you where I find my morels! Good try