The Great Morel Mushroom Hunt… or Silicon Valley’s Push for a “Shroom Boom”
Where we live, lots of folks have been out walking the fields and in the woods looking for mushrooms the past few weeks. The first morel sightings this year were reported back in February in the state of Georgia. Imagine that, the first state to reopen the massage parlors were the first to get a taste of this year’s magic mushrooms. Just kidding around, but I do find it a bit funny:)
The highly sought-after fungus are generally only available to harvest for a few weeks. For us the hunt usually starts in early to mid-April. Most avid seekers gather the morels simply to enjoy them prepared in their favorite style, while others are more entrepreneurial as the shrooms can garner a nice little profit by selling to local restaurants, which is NOT the case this year! I’ve heard that a pound of the dried morels can go for up to $300 to some local chefs.
There are four main types of morels but three that are most widely known. The Black, White, and Yellow morels all have the similar “brain-like” appearance and are usually easy to spot even by beginners. Around here we will see the Black ones first once the weather conditions are suitable. That means the days get to the 60’s, the nights stay above 40 and the ground temps hover between 45 and 50 degrees. If you are going to hunt them down it usually helps to wait for a good spring shower followed by a warm day.
Interestingly, I’ve learned over time that the mushroom hunters are a lot like gold prospectors, meaning you will have a hard time getting them to share their “honey holes” even with their closest friends. Morels can be found in almost all states. I am quite certain that if you are not privy to a hot spot it may take a while to collect a pound worth of the fungi, but the hunt is a good way to spend time with the family walking in the great outdoors.
What’s perhaps most strange about the mushroom is the recent surge in psychedelics out West. There are all kinds of reports circulating that many famous West Coast venture capitalists and Silicon Valley elite are turning to “magic” mushrooms as a new way to treat high-anxiety, depression, OCD, PTSD, opioid addiction, alcoholism, eating disorders, cluster headaches, and more. Building off the medicinal benefits and softening regulatory stances with cannabis, some early-investors are hoping to create the next elixir. Leading the charge is angel investor, best selling author and podcast guru Tim Ferriss. I should mention, Ferris was also early to invest in Uber, Twitter, Alibaba and is now hoping to advance research into the psilocybin market.
Ferriss has donated several million to support the underlying science, as well as gathering millions more from wealthy friends. They’ve supposedly raised enough to provide a sizeable grant to create the Johns Hopkins Center for Psychedelic & Consciousness Research, the first U.S. research center of its kind. Ferriss is focusing on the science behind psychedelics because he believes a stronger scientific foundation will make it more difficult to push the medicine back into the shadows, and a reason why the prestigious Johns Hopkins Center was chosen. Drawn to psychedelics by a history of family depression, friends lost to suicide and drug overdoses, Ferris believes many might be fighting a deadly battle inside our own heads that we don’t want others to know about. Science is learning that this suppression and lack of help can be a lethal combination.
Boomers may feel like the psychedelics train left the station back in the late-1960s and there is absolutely no reason to bring it back. But some smart people are now arguing with the skyrocketing costs for treating mental illness, the public’s acceptance of cannabis, as well as scientists signaling the remarkable potential of the fungus, this time could be different.
Thousands of women across the U.S. and in Canada and Europe already self-medicate with tiny amounts or micro-doses of mushrooms that contain the psychedelic compound psilocybin. From all I’m reading and understanding, especially with more municipalities and states needing more tax dollars, it wouldn’t surprise me if we start eventually seeing more medicinal “shroom” proposals on the ballots. I might go as far as to say eventually it will be an opportunity for a new indoor cash-crop.
For those of you who may not have grown-up around this springtime hunting tradition, I’ve put together some tips for finding your own “shrooms” and preparing them for a delicious meal. On a final note – make sure you know if the mushrooms you pick are safe to eat or not – click HERE for an identification source. (Sources: WideOpenSpaces.com, Wiki, Fortune, HowStuffWorks, Denver Post)
Finding Morels: Morels live in and on the edge of forested areas. Look for ash, aspen, elm, and oak trees, around which morels often grow. Early in the spring as the ground is warming, you’ll find them on south-facing slopes in fairly open areas. As the season progresses, go deeper into the woods and onto north-facing slopes.
Soil Types: Morels like loamy soil. Loamy soil is what you might find in creek bottoms. It’s well-drained, moist but not wet, has a good mix of clay, sand, decaying matter, calcium and/or lime. But again, morels can appear wherever they appear. I’ve found them growing in gravel and under pine trees.
Disturbed Ground Is Good Ground: Burn sites and logging areas are often prime morel locations. Check online sources for wildfires that occurred the previous year in your area. The Global Incident Map for forest fires is a site that tracks current and past wildfires. Pay attention to wooded areas that have been torn up by large equipment or logging operations. Morels like areas that have also been disturbed by flooding.
Follow The Rain: A warm spring rain can be just the right medicine for getting morels to show themselves. If the temperatures are right and you get a nice rain, mark the following day on the calendar as “morel hunting” day.
Don’t Forget The Ticks: You may not find morels every time you hit the woods, but you can probably bet on a tick or few finding you. Lyme disease is not something to take lightly. Dress appropriately, use a tick repellent and be sure to give yourself a once-over when you get home.
Preparation For Cooking: To clean morel mushrooms, place mushrooms in a pan or bowl. Cover with water; add a dash of salt. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and repeat two more times.
Sauteed: Start with a pound of fresh morels, all-purpose flour and 1/2 pound of butter or margarine – Slice mushrooms lengthwise in half, or quarter large mushrooms. Toss with some flour to coat. In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter or margarine over medium heat. Add mushrooms and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown, gently stirring occasionally. Serve warm. Makes 10 to 12 side-dish servings.
Simple Fried: Place flour in a shallow bowl. Heat vegetable shortening in a large skillet until very hot. Roll mushrooms in flour and tap off excess; gently lay mushrooms in the hot shortening. Pan-fry until golden brown and flour coating is crisp, 5 to 8 minutes, turning often. Drain morels on paper towels, salt to taste, and enjoy your treasures!
19 morel recipes: If you want to step up your game next time you have some company.
Potentially Largest Morel- Found In Missouri: For those of you who hunt religiously every spring, here is what I found as when looking for the largest morel ever found.How does your best find compare to this one! Click HERE to read the whole story.