The fungus requires a near-perfect combination of temperature and moisture at just the right season if it is to produce abundantly.
—Billy Joe Tatum’s Wild Food Field Guide on morels
Ideal conditions produced a bountiful morel season in central Oklahoma. My Facebook feed has been peppered with friends excitedly documenting their finds, just as I did Saturday after returning from a foraging trip.
My friend Matt led me through brambles of greenbrier and poison ivy as we crouched, crawled and peered along the forest floor in pursuit of morels. Everything covered — save face, neck and hands — to protect from the ticks that still managed to get me. Despite all that, I still found myself thankful the morels provided a challenge: I loved the effort put forth for this fleeting, funky-looking fungus. I also enjoyed being in the forest, appreciating it at a large and small scale.
Other than vegetable gardening, I rarely obtain my food from its source — from its origination, without middlemen. I relished this chance to forage morels and turn them into a meal a mere hours later. I imagine hunting or fishing, and to some extent ranching and farming, must elicit the same feelings of self-satisfaction and thankfulness for nature’s provisions.
But back to the hunt: Foraging requires a trained eye, and it seems even more challenging when you’re looking for that one specific thing. It was like I was very aware of the space between actual seeing and the realization of what I was seeing. My brain wanted so badly to see the honeycomb-like fungus emerging from the leaf-covered humus, and my eyes were straining to make it so. This awareness was intensified when Matt, aka Eagle Eyes, would excitedly announce his finds. What?! Where? Meanwhile, he’s loading his bag. As he said, his is a trained eye, and I’m thankful he shared his spot and knowledge with me. It rained this week, so hopefully I can get more practice and take advantage of these perfect conditions.
The greenbrier thorns got me through my jeans. And check out that red dirt!
Morels simply sautéed in butter are amazing.