Northwest Montana has a reputation as morel country—one that’s unfortunately being increased by extended wildfire “seasons.” But as I learned by talking with local forager Dale Johnson for my Twice as Tasty column for the Flathead Beacon, morel mushrooms also tend to crop up in areas thick with cottonwoods. So we’ve been looking closer to home for these flavorful fungi over the last couple of weeks. No luck yet—I’m suspicious that they’ll be in hiding from the near-freezing nights as long as my asparagus—but we’re keeping our eyes peeled.
Dale shared more than just tips on foraging for morels. He also offered up some of his favorite cooking techniques, many of which apply to all sorts of wild mushrooms. He emphasized how there’s so much water in mushrooms like morels that they will have the best flavor and texture if they’re cooked first and then hit with butter, soy sauce, cream, or other favored ingredients. I’ll be following Dale’s advice and grilling or dry sautéing our morel harvest.
Learn more about cooking morels in my column.
Twice as Tasty
Foraging for wild mushrooms takes time and some skill, since it’s important to know exactly what you’re collecting and that it’s safe to eat. Fortunately, growing mushrooms has become increasingly popular, with opportunities to buy a surprising variety of mushrooms from local growers or even start your own crop. We’ve successfully grown mushrooms from small, self-contained kits, most recently harvesting several rounds of oyster mushrooms from a Cascadia Mushrooms grow kit.
In my local area, Shawn McDyre of Sun Hands Farm not only offers a mushroom CSA but recently gave a free, info-packed presentation on mushroom cultivation for Free the Seeds that’s available online. We’ve also enjoyed beautiful chestnut, king trumpet, and blue oyster mushrooms from Valleygirl Mushrooms. If foraging isn’t for you, it’s worth checking for a local mushroom grower in your area.
Besides the techniques in my column this week, fresh morels are delicious mixed into a stir-fry, dry sautéed and sprinkled on a strawberry–spinach salad, and cooked into a pan sauce and tossed with fresh pasta. I share several recipes on the blog that can be made with many types of fresh mushrooms. You can find more in the recipe index.
Of course, you can also pickle mushrooms. I include two pickled mushroom recipes in The Complete Guide to Pickling and recipes that use them in The Pickled Picnic.
Get my books! Click here to order a personally signed, packaged, and shipped copy of The Complete Guide to Pickling directly from me. I also share tasty ways to use pickles in The Pickled Picnic, a digital collection in an easy-to-read PDF format; it’s only available here.