It has been a very wet spring and summer in Kamloops. I have talked to long term residents of Kamloops who say this is the greenest they have seen the mountains in over ten years. The pastures are lush and green and the grasses have full heads of grain. The wild flowers are a wonder to behold. Nature abhors a vacuum. The areas ravaged by fire in the last few years are seeing an explosion of growth. The rain has brought us the best mushroom season in many years.
I have had the pleasure of enjoying the bounty found in these fire ravaged areas. As I dry about five pounds of morels, my house is filled with their rich, dark smell. Actually, it smells like the forest is in my house. These mushrooms have a brainy look to them and a very strong meaty flavor that reminds me of deep dark places in the earth.
I like my morels fried in lots of butter with a bit of sea salt. The mushrooms can be eaten by themselves but most of us would find their rich flavor overwhelming. Food from the forest is wild and rich. Real food has a strong flavor. Most of us have only eaten foods tamed by the cultivating hand of humans, and have forgotten the pleasure of these deep rich flavors.
Dehydrating morels is a good way to enjoy this fragrant food throughout the year. I have never used dried morels before but I can tell already they will be a wonderful addition to soups, stews and sauces. Louise Freedman of the Mycological Society of San Francisco says that morels dry very well: “The intensity and character of the morel flavor is not lost in drying. We have used them after three years of storage and found them to be just as aromatic, if not more so, as when fresh.”
Getting foods from the wild is called wildcrafting. There are environmental concerns with gathering food from the wild. But if you compare the environmental impact of wildcrafting to the environmental disaster of the Industrial Food System, this argument rings false. Enjoy your wild foods knowing that an intact ecosystem such as a forest will recover from your meal very quickly. It is our modern food system based on oil and externalizing costs into the greater environment that may not fair as well in the long run.
If you are in Kamloops and interested in trying wild mushrooms, please call Al Cadorette at 250.819.8260. Fresh black morels are $10.00 per pound but are almost done for the year. Yellow morels will be coming up later in the season. He also has whole or flake dried mushrooms for sale. Al says: “I will be getting shaggy manes which are a choice mushroom but not many people are aware of. They are great. Also, chicken of the woods are picked in the fall. I will be looking for king boletus. They should be coming up soon.”
10 large morels cut in half
1/2c organic butter
sea salt to taste
1/8c raw cream (optional)
Saute the morels in butter until tender. Add salt. Add the raw cream if desired for a creamy steak sauce. Serve with a blue rare barbecued pastured beef steak.
Wild Mushroom Soup
2c finely chopped onions
1tsp sea salt
1/2c organic butter
4c chopped mushrooms
1/4c fresh morels or 1/8c dried morels finely chopped
6c beef or chicken bone broth
finely chopped fresh herbs from the garden: thyme, chives, parsley, or rosemary (optional)
2T fresh raw cream in each bowl
Saute onions in a small amount of butter until soft. In another pan saute mushrooms in small batches in butter. Add each batch to the onions. You can add a splash of wine if you desire, but the morels have a complex wine-like flavor of their own. If you would like a creamy texture, puree some of the onion and mushrooms. Add the bone broth to the onions and mushrooms and warm through. In each bowl of soup add some chopped herbs and the fresh raw cream on top.
Updated October 6, 2010: Al Cadorette contacted me today. It is time for the shaggy manes. The mushrooms will be $5.00 per pound.