Sunday, May 26, 2013

Peace and the Mighty Morel

Memorial Day weekend. Campers and self-proclaimed BBQ experts are out in droves; families getting outdoors to make the most of this pre-summer holiday weekend, and to take a moment and recognize and thank those who have served, and are serving, this country. While it is a universally wonderful weekend, we all choose to celebrate it in our own way. Cam and I are a perfect example of this. He was invited to go on a 'guy's day trip' to pick Morel mushrooms and I was left to my own devices. We, of course, jumped at the opportunity to learn how to gather these precious mushrooms from, quite nearly, our backyard, so he decided to go!

Seeing how I found myself alone very early on Saturday morning, I decided to take the opportunity to do whatever I felt like doing. That happened to be paddle boarding! I loaded my board and gear, and headed to the lake. Only remembering half-way there that it was Memorial day weekend, I quickly discovered there was quite a bit more aquatic traffic than I had originally planned. But this fact didn't deter me. I set out to do something fun and I intended to keep this promise to myself! And I must say, it was so worth it!

While the fishermen and boaters were quite abundant, the lake somehow seemed so isolated and peaceful. Perhaps it was the sound of the water lapping against my board as I glided through the calm lake; or maybe it was the sound of the hawks and other avian creatures that made this area home; or it may have just been the fact that I felt like it was just me out there. Me, my board, nature, and God. Nothing else really mattered and nothing else really burdened my thoughts. I was free.

While I was out on the water, Cam, however, found himself in quite a different area. He was surrounded by ponderosa pine trees, trickling creeks, and towering mountains. He was hunting for Morel mushrooms. Listening to his experience when he finally got home was intriguing...but only half as much as the amount of mushrooms he brought with him! He had a great time and learned so much. He wants to take me out again in the very near future in fact! This being said, I wanted him to be able to share his this is Cam's day, hunting for the mighty Morel!

"It's amazing how you can live in the same area for 20+ years without realizing the things you have been missing out on. I had the opportunity to join a friend who has been picking Morel mushrooms for years and wanted to share the experience.

We were up-and-at-'em bright and early, sure to beat the Memorial Day crowd that would also be heading up to claim their bounty. It was a beautiful morning; the crisp spring air with blue skies and towering mountains in the backdrop. There is something about the ponderosa forests of Central Oregon that words just can't describe. 

Driving up the gravel roads, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  In no time after pulling off, our "guide" found a Morel and gave us a quick tutorial. The honeycomb pattern was very distinct. With this boost in confidence, the hunt was on. 

We made our way up and down the slope, covering a ton of ground.  Mushrooms coming and going.  One tip he gave us was, once you see one mushroom, STOP!  They will often grow in patches, so you want to stop, scan, and step carefully...last thing you want to do is step on one of these little gems!  So once you have scanned and hopefully spotted a few more, you need your pocket knife to harvest.  You want to slice below the cap, leaving the root. This will allow the mushroom to live and sprout up several more in a matter of days.  If you pull it out, you risk killing the mushroom, and nobody wants less mushrooms available for the next hunt...right?!

It may sound a little cheesy, but every find brought a little rush, kind of like a kid in a candy store. The hunt was great fun, but I couldn't help but just stop and enjoy the sounds of the forest and beautiful scenery. The crystal clear creeks, chatter of the birds, and especially the lack of 'noise' was enough to revitalize the soul. 

So I would encourage you to do some research on the area you live in. The more you search, the more likely you are bound to find something you haven't experienced. Get out and try it, you may just find something you have a passion for and never knew it. God has offered us so many opportunities here, it's up to us to experience it."

With his great bounty of Morels securely stored in a paper bag in our fridge, we decided to try them out. For supper tonight, I made sundried tomato couscous (from the tomatoes I dried at the end of the summer last year) and we sautéed some local zucchini and Morels with olive oil and garlic, then scattered them over the couscous. It was amazing! The morels, having a honeycomb texture, had quite a different, yet appealing, mouth feel. Their flavor was sweet and just every-so-slightly earthy. A perfect combination to the sweet/tart tomatoes and juicy zucchini. A perfect side dish!

Tomorrow, now knowing their flavor profile, we plan to make a supper around this ingredient. I am looking forward to it!!

Experiencing and learning seem to be what Cam and I are striving to do as of late. We have sought out and grasped at opportunities we would normally have let pass us by. While it has been a fun journey, we are also remembering our little homestead. I love my gardens; these new excursions are simply serving to feed our souls making us better care-takers of the blessings bestowed upon us!


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