Thursday, June 14, 2007

Wild mushroom Hunt: Morcella esculenta / Yellow morels



All my regular readers know by now that I love mushrooms, especially wild ones. And although you can easily buy various fresh wild mushrooms at the market or preserved wild mushrooms in supermarkets, I prefer forageing for my own wild mushrooms - see here and here, for example. There's something immensely gratifying and refreshing about those long and quiet walks in the forests, and the excitement about what and where and how much we'll find is fun.

In late April and early May, I came across few ladies selling morels at the Tallinn Central Market. There's nothing special about these mushrooms as such (they were on the menu in pretty much every restaurant in London back in April), although they tend to be somewhat unknown among urban fungiphiles here in Estonia. K and his mom, for example, know loads of autumnal wild mushrooms, but had never come across morels yet. They hadn't even looked for any. When in Paluküla in early May, I asked my grandma and uncle and other villagers about morel mushrooms, and they knew nothing. Yet, my recently acquired new mushroom forager's bible, 400 Eesti seent (400 Estonian mushrooms) had a picture of black morels (Morchella conica) on the cover and claimed that these spring mushrooms should be pretty common in northern Estonia.

I was convinced that if I just looked hard enough, I'd find some.

And so I did. In mid-May, K's mum - as I said, hitherto unfamiliar with morels - asked around in her village about some unfamiliar spring mushrooms, and soon enough one of the neighbours told her that there are funny-looking mushrooms growing on the grassy open field just outside their farm. She picked up the mushrooms (on the bottom left, see photo above) and brought them to us for identification. With the help of the trusty mushroom bible we easily identified them as Morcella esculenta, examples of one of the yellow morels (pallohuhtasieni in Finnish, rundtoppmurkla in Swedish, сморчок настоящий alias smortšok nastojaššii in Russian). A fortnight later we were in Paluküla area again, and K. and I headed out to the field where the mushrooms were found earlier. Nothing.. We wondered around for about half an hour, carefully staring at the open fields, trying to spot a precious morel, but without luck. On the way back to the house we decided to have one last look at a yellow-green open field surrounded by tall birch trees. And voilà - suddenly I spotted a huge yellow morel (bottom right, photo above). And another, and another and another. Four in total. Then my mushroom luck was over, but K. found four more mushrooms (- you see, there is justice and gender equality in the world, after all:) Quite surprisingly, we returned from our first ever morel forageing trip with eight succulent yellow morels (top left, photo above). We must have got a good nose for mushrooms, the pair of us :)

The mushrooms? Well, if you've got something so delicious, you don't want to over-handle them. We cleaned and sliced them, fried in butter with some salt and pepper and a dash of cream, and ate them with some fried garlic scapes and salad leaves (top right, photo above). Mmmmmm.

I've got a feeling that it'll be a good year for wild mushrooms...

PS You can read more about identifying morel mushrooms over at MushroomExpert.com. Only pick mushrooms that you are certain about!!!

15 comments:

Alanna said...

Did you see any moose scat? (Some day I'll get to tell you, over a glass of good wine and a great meal, with any luck! about the 'mushroom hunting' in the archipelago of Finland that remains ever so memorable lots of years later ... )

PS Since I read via RSS, I'd forgotten how pretty and simply perfect your new header is! What a great treat to visit ...

Helen said...

I went mushroom picking only once before in the Bordelais region and it was agreat adventure. I learned so much in one day. The mushroom is I miss the most is morel, but I have never had the yeloow kid before. Thanks for sharing this with us!

Thredahlia said...

Mina olen ka üks neist, kes veel hiljuti söödavatest kevadseentest midagi ei teadnud :)
Otseloomulikult sellepärast, et minu seenetundmine on pärit vanaisalt, kes mind vist juba siis, kui ma veel korralikult kõndidagi ei osanud, metsa viis. Kahekesi me enamasti metsas käimegi - aga tema kogemus ja kindel teadmine piirdub sügiseste seentega.
Retseptides tuulamine ja Sinu mainitud raamat on mind viimasel paaril aastal valgustanud. Mulle on jäänud mulje, et eestlased pelgavad kevadseeni, sest kardavad mürklit ja kogritsat segi ajada (umbes nii nagu šampinjoni ja valget kärbseseent), kuigi teatud tunnuste alusel on nad üsna eksimatult eristatavad.

Lydia said...

We were thrilled to discover morels (not these beautiful yellow ones, however) on our front lawn a few years ago. Seems this land used to belong to a charcoal maker, and the residual ash in the ground makes a perfect soil for morels. Most years we get only a few mushrooms, but one year we found more than 100 morels! We go out and look for them every spring.

Jeanne said...

Great post, Pille, and how lucky you two were! I have always been too terrified to forage for my own mushrooms - have visions of keeling over and dying after eating the wrong mushroom :o) But the thought of finding fresh morels is sooooo tempting. They are my all-time favourites.

joey said...

Ok Pille, I have officially passed out in envy :) Oh to be able to go mushroom foraging for my own morels...or any other wild mushrooms at that! Your posts are the closest I get...so please don't stop posting about your mushroom adventures! :)

Andrea Dickson said...

Morels (not the yellow ones) grow wild in the mountains where I live (Washington State, US), but it's quite a competition to get to them - lots of foodies out here! They sell for $60 a pound at our Whole Foods market here.

Trig said...

In an amazing coincedence, I've just come in from my garden where I found an enormous mushroom/toadstall growing wild on it's own. I'm gonna take some pics and post a blog to see if anyone can identify it, and what, if it's edible, I can do with it

Trig said...

oh forgot to mention, love the new banner! very chic

Lauren said...

That really sounds delicious, and the idea of mushroom gathering is extremely appealing, if somewhat daunting. (It's not that long since the only mushrooms I ate were those extremely ordinary closed cup ones. I blame a veggie-phobic father!)

I mentioned my food-loving Edinburgh department in a previous post - my PhD is in German. (My life as an Australian doing a PhD in German in Scotland is the source of more than a few jokes, alas...)

Anonymous said...

Tere Pille ...siin Kanada`s kevadel naudime ka MORELLE , no~geseid ja nu"u"d ka sinu bloggi...Jo~udu to"o"le ! Peeter

Pille said...

Alanna - no, no moose scat for us:( But I'm very much looking forward to that meal & glass of wine, and hearing all about it:)
And thanks for your kind words about the new banner - I owe Ximena a big time:)

Helen - you're welcome. Next spring we'll be hunting for black morels as well (but before that we're looking forward to a long autumn/fall mushroom season!)

Thredahlia - mina aga õpetasin turumuttidele, seesama seeneraamat käes, et mis vahe on mürklil ja kurrelil :) Nad müüsid kõiki mürklite pähe.. Kogritsaid pole veel proovinud ja väga ei kipugi, aga mürkleid-kurreleid söön edaspidigi meelsasti.

Lydia - I'm hoping to find some morels and other spring mushrooms on our plot of land next spring too, but I doubt we'll be able to pick 100 of them! Lucky you!

Jeanne - cannot say that morels are my favourite, as there are so many gorgeous autumn mushrooms (chantarelles, ceps, saffron milkcaps etc). But they're definitely a great new local find!

Joey - I'll definitely take you along to a forest to forage for mushrooms next time /you're in Estonia/ :)

Andrea Dickson - 60 bucks a pound?!? Well, I totally believe you. I once saw yellow chantarelles - another favourite mushroom of mine - in an upmarket Italian deli in Edinburgh, and the price was similary prohibitive. Thank god I can now just pop into a forest and pick my own:)

Trig - will keep an eye on your blog - who knows, maybe I can even help identifying that mushroom!

Lauren - an Australian doing a PhD in German in Scotland is quite an intriguing combo :) My dad is not as much a veggie-phobe, but meat-phile (alias carnivore). He'd probably eat couple of vegetables with his meat, but he'd never settle for just vegetables. K, on the other hand, eats meat quite rarely, which is great.

Peeter - tore, et te mürkleid süüa saate ja mul on hea meel, et teile Nami-nami blogi meeldib. Uute kohtumisteni!

Anonymous said...

hi i just moved to south scotland from the USA and was wondering is there morels in south scotland im in gretna green help anyone please if you can help me e-mail me at trixykitty24@aol.com

Laura said...

Do you know of anywhere in southeren Estonia where morels grow?

Anonymous said...

Great information on Morels. I also love them! Do you ever go to Washington state? They have tons of Black Morels there. I saw a website with some great pictures of them let me see if i can remember...

http://ediblemushrooms.org/mushroom-photos

yep thats the site! look at all those blacks! yuuuum. anyway just wanted to say great info and pictures and...I LOVE MORELS!