One More Attempt

 

Mushroom table

Mushroom table.

 

by Brady Raymond

The weather has been cool the last week and subsequently, my mind still thinks about mushrooms.  Around the house, I’ve noticed a couple things fruiting, some Coprinellus in the garden woodchips and some Agaricus in the duff off the side of the road.  These are farmland mushrooms though, domesticated in a sense, I wanted things more wild, mycorrhizal and Ascomycete in nature.  I still want Morels.

Once again, the family and I set out to try our luck on another weekend mushrooming romp.  What would we find and would we even find anything?  We figured we’d snag a couple Morels, enough to hopefully make it worth firing up the dehydrator and adding a little more to our reserves.

Clustered Morels

I kept wondering if each Morel was my last for the season.

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Do You Morel?

2019 MDay Morel Morel in hand

Most of the Morels I was finding were fresh and of good size.  This one being on the larger end.

by Brady Raymond

We started high, around 4000ft. and that is where we stumbled across the first few Morels of the day, just off the trail among the grass and leaves.  They were still young and fresh.  I wondered if maybe this was the last hoorah and worried that it might just be the tail end of the season, I prayed to the Mushroom Gods, that they lead me to nature’s bounty and deliver me from my fungal hunger, a hunger that has been gnawing deep inside after the long winter, with no dried reserves of the fungus left.

Do you Morel?  I Moreled my butt off Saturday, well as much as I could with two young children and a geriatric dog.  The rain seemed to scare off a lot of folks over the holiday weekend but many, including myself, were gallivanting around eastern Cascade forests in search of one of the most delectable treasures nature has to offer, the Morel.  It is also in my opinion, the best mushroom, and one worth bragging about, even if just a little bit.

Now there are some who would argue my assessment of this, finding Porcini to be the best of the west, the springtime variant of the Cep being superior to what the fall has to offer.  Yet, others will proclaim Matsutake or Lobsters to be their mushroom of choice. But I will always adore the spongy fungi known as the Morel.

Pits, pores, veins or gills, whatever your fancy, you have to make the most of it when the getting is good.  Right now is the time for Morels here in Central Washington, so get out there, they won’t last long.

2019 Mday Morel

First Morel of the day.

As the weather warmed this spring and the snow melted things seemed right on track, then it got hot and the landscape dried out.  Not the best recipe for a banner Morel year.  My season seemed like it was going to stall with an all-time low of only two Morels.  But then it happened, the weather cooled and the rains rolled in, soaking the mountains over the last week.

There was ample moisture but I was worried the temperatures were just too low, I still had hope though.  The Morels took to this second spring and erupted from the soil and a couple pounds of which I was lucky enough to find.  I cradled in my hands the first Morel of the day and rejoiced in its splendor.  This is Morel hunting in Washington, and I’m living right now.  Are You?

Usually when we’re hunting in the spring things are dry, at least on the surface, they are downright soggy this year.  It is certainly annoying to be wet, although the Morels really seemed to pop in the moisture-laden landscape.  My eyes scanned the ground and with little strain and I spotted one after another and yet another.

2019 Mday stream

My first truly wet Morel hunt in Washington.  It seemed more like fall than spring weather wise.

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Morel Count, I’m at two

Salixland Morel 2

My second Morel of the year.  At this rate I expect to find five or six total this season.

By Brady Raymond

Things were looking good at the end of winter, sufficient snowpack, and some late winter rain but then a dry spell.  Over here, east of the Cascades the last couple of weeks have been warm and dry.  Dry enough ironically to put a damper on my mushrooming mood. Today, however, the rains did come and it looks like they will extend into next week. I got myself a bit of a good omen and stumbled across another Morel only a few feet away from where I had found my first Morel of the year.  I snapped off a few shots then decided to snoop around a bit and see if I could spot a few more.

As I circled around some brush I saw a yellow laser streak in front of me across the damp ground. My mushrooming focus now tuned into snake vision, I reassessed my naturing priorities and the hunt for the serpent was on.  The snake, small, only a youngster really, caught cover under the corner of a large concrete chunk.  I thought I had lost it but with a little gentle prodding and the snake emerged from its shelter.  I captured it and after a few seconds of squirming and discharging a foul-smelling musk, it decided I wasn’t a threat and calmed down.  I was deep in shade and as if on cue, a gust of wind blew on the canopy of Willow above, allowing the evening rays of the Sun to penetrate down to the snake in my hand.  Lighting went from bad to good in an instant, I took advantage of the situation and snapped the photo below.  Look for an article about my adventures snaking to follow this story soon.

Garter Snake 5

Newborn Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi.  Garter Snakes give “birth” to live young.

My second Morel of the year and an encounter with the beautiful Valley Garter Snake, Thamnophis sirtalis fitchi left me giddy and with a touch of the fuzzies.  Then I remembered spotting some mushrooms the day before, just up the trail on the exposed roots of a wind-toppled Willow tree. I had to bushwhack my way through standing dead to reach the specimens, which from across the creek looked to be Coprinellus micaceus, and upon closer inspection that is the name I gave them.

It was kind of a difficult shot, which had me lying prone on a mat of sticks and twigs and below that was a black soupy muck.  If I applied too much pressure to a knee or elbow seepage of this muck into my clothing was inevitable.  The image isn’t a wall hanger but it is good enough as evidence that this species occurs both on my property and on Willow.  I haven’t identified anything down to species but so far I’ve spotted Agaricus, Pholiota, Psathyrella, Galerina, Xylaria, Morchella, and fairy rings in my lawn, evidence left presumably by Marasmius.

Coprinellus micaceus SL

Coprinellus micaceus, or at least that’s what I’m calling it.  DNA studies suggest however-blah, blah, blah.

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It’s Morel Season

1st Salixland Morel 2019

First Morel of the year, in my own backyard!

by Brady Raymond

I had already been out on one walk for the day, doing a little birding, trying to figure out a few plants and thinking about all the work that needs to get done on the trails for summer.  I came inside to get some water and like always my Jack Russell was there to greet me, wagging his nub of a tail in a playful puppy kind of way despite his twelve years of age.  I could tell he needed a walk so I decided to head out again.  Just a quick spin around the compound.  Unbeknownst to me that my first Morel of the year was only a few short minutes away from being found.

As I crossed the creek into “Salixland” my senses focused in on the surroundings.  Truth be told, I was thinking more about seeing some Warblers, maybe even a few new ones to add to my home bird list.  We’ve had Yellow-Rumped Warblers all over the place lately and I think there have been a few other species of birds among them but I never seem to have my binoculars on me when I really need them.  As my brain processed these thoughts I passed through the first stand of Willow trees and headed out through the Reed Canary Grass to a second stand of Willows a little further down the trail.

As I entered the woods my eyes adjusted to the lower light, I throttled down my pace a bit to optimal birding speed and continued on.  I glanced downward to watch my step and what would you know, right in front of me just ten feet away stood my first Morel of the 2019 season and my first Morel at our new home.  Surprised, I said aloud “There’s a Morel” then a giddy grin stretched across my face and a fuzzy feeling engulfed the whole of my body.

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Is It Really Over?

Noah 2018 Morels

by Brady Raymond

I keep reminding myself that things are cyclical, not necessarily circular but, more likely some form of a distorted oval.  Yes, the seasons make their rounds but, they do it differently from year to year.  Some seasons, bucket loads of mushrooms are brought in by almost anyone that glances way of suitable habitat and yet other years you scratch by the best you can.  All of this is overlaid on a 3-D geography interacting with weather systems both worldly and cosmic.

Why are some year’s seasons stellar while others kind of, well, meh?  I like to think it is everything else in life, but it is likely that my own distractions shielded the mushrooms from my lustful gaze.  Maybe my brain wasn’t fully tuned into them this year, maybe I need to find new spots altogether, maybe the last Morel to have ever existed has been picked, put into a basket and taken home to be eaten by some newbie undeserving of such a tasty forest treat.  Oh, the horror if that were to be true.  I did, however, find enough this year to feed well upon, and I am thankful for all that nature has provided me, yet I still I want more, more from a season that seems to be breaking fast.

Morels Eagle Creek 2018

It’s not much to look at but, they are all mine, so at least there is that.

 

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Morel Hunting In Washington

Mt. 1

by Brady Raymond

What will be the outcome for the “Spring 2018 Washington Mushroom Season?”  Only the future knows.  However, I know that I’m finding Morels at various elevations.  I also know that I’m loving every second of it.  I worry a little that the weather is going to get too hot too quick and before we know it the season will be over.  I cast these thoughts aside though, and I focus on the task at hand, which is quite simple, “To find as many Morels as I can.”

So far, the pickings have been a little slim for me, but what I have found has been thoroughly enjoyed.  I’ve seen a few other folks while out and only one looked to have a bag with very much in it, so I don’t think I’m doing too bad.  The two times I have been out this season We’ve collected enough to feed three for both breakfast and dinner.  These are meager pickings comparatively speaking but, one has to be thankful for anything Mother Nature is willing to offer up.

2018 Morel Breakfast

Even the simplest of meals is awesome cooked over campfire coals, especially breakfast.

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Deep Fried Morels, a Dud?

Deep Fried Morels

by Brady Raymond

How could you go wrong deep frying Morels?  How could you go wrong stuffing them with jalapenos and cream cheese, coated with breadcrumbs?  Well, maybe it’s just too much.  Deep frying Morels is something I’ve wanted to try for a while now and with Erin’s help, we did our best.  They weren’t really bad and I did enjoy eating them, the only problem was that the flavor of the Morel was kind of lost.  How do you remedy flavor lost?  It’s not like you can just add bacon and boom you’ve got the perfect recipe.  And you can’t amplify the Morel flavor either, or can you?  While I do recommend frying most foods, this idea needs some tinkering before I can say it’s a delicious way to eat Morels.

We are out of fresh Morels for the season and it seems like that is necessary for at least the vessel of this recipe, however, we have been thinking of a Morel sauce to drizzle over top and a little less breadcrumb and well, maybe some bacon too.  I’ll let you know next year if it’s a keeper.  Email me if you’ve had success deep frying Morels.  psmsblog@gmail.com

Deep Fried Morels, cream cheese, jalapanos

Memorial Day Weekend

 

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When you find a bunch of Morels in a small area make sure to mark it on your GPS.  Erin and I have some reliable patches that seem to produce each year.

 

by Brady Raymond

How do you thank those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country?  As folks barbecued with friends and family this past weekend or in my case mushroom hunted, I hope we all took a moment to reflect on the freedoms we have to do these things and the lives that were lost to protect those freedoms.  Since I can’t thank those who were lost in the line of duty I would like to thank those who are currently serving and those who have served in the past.  Thank you, your service does not go unnoticed by this author.

For the last five years, Erin and I have taken part in what may be the premier mushrooming foray in the Pacific Northwest, maybe even the country.  As we arrived at our destination, thoughts of the Morel season coming to a close were on our minds.  Things had been dry over the last week and as we all know “dry” is the enemy of fungi.  What would we find this weekend?  Would we find anything at all?

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Morels with Scallops and Asparagus

 

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Thyme flowers are a great addition if you have them in your herb garden

 

by Erin Raymond

I recently saw a post by Langdon Cook on Instagram of a meal with morels and scallops that looked amazing.  I had never had morels with scallops, but decided I needed to try it immediately.  Fortunately, a couple days after I decided this, Brady and I found a couple pounds of morels.  I looked at a number of different recipes online and combined them into the recipe below.  It was delicious!  Thanks for the inspiration Langdon!

Begin by roasting the asparagus in the oven with a bit of olive oil and cook wild rice pilaf.  Melt butter in a pan and sautee the morels and shallots until the mushrooms are cooked through.  Turn the heat up to medium and add the scallops, turning once.  Add some cream when flipping the scallops.  Once the scallops are done, serve over wild rice pilaf and top with fresh thyme and asparagus.

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It’s Happening

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Erin took this picture with her phone.  It’s incredible what phones can do these days, maybe some day genetic testing in the field will be possible.

by Brady Raymond

  • 5-19-17 – 5-20-17
  • 70 degrees, sunny
  • 1800-4200ft.

Things are heating up and Morels are popping.  Erin, our daughter, the dog and I headed out for an overnight mushrooming mini adventure and we were not disappointed.  Over the two days we spent looking, we gathered around 120 Morels totaling 2lbs almost exactly, not bad for naturals considering we had a small child and a dog who is more of a trail dog than a hunting companion.

On Friday we hit up a trail in one of our spots and within a minute or two I had already picked my first Morel.  It didn’t take long to find the next few either.  I hopped off the trail expecting to find Morels everywhere but to my surprise, I found zilch.  There were a few spots of snow in the shade but for the most part, it was gone.  I’m assuming the trail itself received more sunlight thus was a bit warmer than the surrounding woods.  We were at 4000ft. and up here it was still getting quite cold at night.

We continued down the trail happily picking Morels along its edges for a quarter mile or so.  As the trail gained in elevation the mushrooms were fewer and further apart.  After a hundred yards of finding nothing, we turned around.  We wondered how many we would spot on the way back and were greeted by a number of these shifty fungi we had somehow missed.  It doesn’t take much for a Morel to be obscured from sight, it only takes a leaf or branch to hide it from you.  Erin spotted a number of them that I had walked right by as she walked behind me, no doubt due in part to the discrepancy of height between the two of us.

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