Sunday, May 1, 2011

Morels and Leeks

After a long winter of being stuck inside working, I’ll use just about any excuse to get out when the weather is decent. So yesterday, Otis the Wonder Dog and I spent a couple of hours combing the forest floor for the first tiny morels of the year. I’ve been told by some that these little mushrooms just aren’t worth the effort. Maybe. But it’s not really all about the harvest to effort ratio. The sun was warm on my shoulders and a Carolina wren was singing nearby. A wild turkey gobbled several times from across a large field of winter wheat and made me think about the shotgun hanging on the wall at home. Every bird in the county was consumed with the chores of nesting or tending eggs. The constant chatter from our avian entourage offered pleasant background noise to the outing. Of course all this bird noise has a bigger purpose than our entertainment. The business of attracting mates and warding off rivals requires a lot of whistling and chirping. Otis sat nearby, ears forward and head cocked, taking in all the action.
With all the distractions, it takes some time to find that first morel. You find yourself slowly walking along scanning last year’s fallen leaves for any sign of a mushroom, but this simply won’t work. Remember, these mushrooms are so tiny 8 or 10 will fit on my camera’s lens cap with no trouble. The only way I’ve been able to consistently find them is to stand in one spot and visually scour the ground around me… say within 6’ or so. It’s not easy. Every muscle in your body is prodding you to take another step and your mind is telling you there are probably more and bigger mushrooms over by that stump, or out by the edge of the field, or… well… anywhere but where you have your feet glued. Sometimes it helps to kneel down and the knees of my jeans are usually damp and covered with dirt. Once I’m convinced there are no mushrooms in that spot (or more likely I just can’t stand in that spot any longer), I’ll take 2 or 3 steps and do it again. Still, that first mushroom can be very elusive and I can’t search in futility for very long before I get distracted. There is a lot to going on in the forest this time of year and every bit of it distracts from the task at hand.
With any luck, I’ll find one in the first 15 minutes or so. It gets a little easier after that. Before I pluck that first mushroom from the duff, I’ll carefully look nearby for more. There’s a distinct texture to morel mushrooms, so once I’ve found one and have a visual reference point, it seems my eye can pick out that odd little pattern with some regularity. There is almost always more than one, so a few minutes of turning over leaves can pay off. It’s not uncommon to realize I’ve been standing on a couple the whole time.
Yesterday was a good day. We got some mushrooms, even pulled a handful of wild leeks (which were devoured on the spot), and shot a few wildflower photos. Lunch is going to be spectacular!

1 comment:

Cher' Shots said...

Our plans were to go morel hunting yesterday as well. However; the wind and rain stopped those plans. Maybe today if it clears up.