Morel Mushrooms — a Novice No More

Bonnie Neidhart and son Paul NeidhartRecently, we were invited to spend the day with long-time good friends Bonnie and Jim Neidhart at their son Paul’s 60+ acre woodland paradise in SE Ohio that he owns with his wife Amy. That’s Bonnie and her son Paul in the photo to the left.

Paul has a degree in botany (with a special interest in mushrooms) from Ohio University. If there ever was an expert to learn from, he is the one. We were told that the morel mushrooms had just started emerging the week before and they had saved some big ones for us to find.  We were so excited.

At first, I couldn’t see them.  Paul and Amy were spotting them immediately — and these were the BIG ones!  Later, we started finding much, much smaller ones — maybe just a few inches tall — but I was improving.  Amy said sometimes it helps to actually get down on the ground and look for the white stems.  Also, she said that they like disturbed soil.  And, indeed, we did find a number of morels around spots where they had previously cleared out brush.  I later read that morels often have bumper crops in areas that has been burned.

Morel MushroomsMy final triumph was actually coming across a new patch on their property that they had never explored before and finding 10-12 morel mushrooms there!

The two bowls to the left show our day’s bounty.  Note the differences in sizes.

Morel Mushrooms - Rinsing in Salt WaterSince I had never prepared morels for eating, I was all eyes when Paul went through the preparation.

Morel Mushrooms - Cutting in HalfStep 1:  Paul first soaked the morels in salt water.  This was to flush out any critters that might be inside.

Step 2:  Then he cut the morel mushrooms in half.  Don’t skip this step, because even then, he found a slug in one and a dozen or so ants in another.

Step 3:  Heat some olive oil in a skillet on medium heat and toss in the cut mushrooms.

Step 4:  As they cook, you’ll notice moisture coming out.  Paul likes them to be less watery, so he continued to let them cook.

Step 5:  Perfect!  The moisture is gone and they are nicely browned.

So… is the flavor of morels worthy of all the hype?  Yes.  Definitely yes.  Good bye button mushrooms.  Hello morels.

Morel Mushrooms - Cooking Step 1Here is a good website to learn more about morels.

Thank you Bonnie, Jim, Paul and Amy (and kidlets Maya and Ethan) — for memories that will last a lifetime.  Life is an Adventure!

Morel Mushrooms - Cooking Step 2 Morel Mushrooms - Cooking Step 3 Enjoying the Fruits of Our Labor