The spring season is often thought of as a time for re-birth and shedding the cold and dark of the long winter season. Marked by the vernal equinox on March 20th or 21st, many people begin looking for what I consider to be the Spring Trilogy: Morel Mushrooms, Fiddlehead Ferns and Ramps.
Let’s start by looking at the much anticipated Morel mushroom. While considered by many to be a vegetable, mushrooms are actually fungi. The morel mushroom is considered a sac cap fungus, and the most famous, which simply refers to how they produce and disperse their spores. Typically appearing in late March/early April, the morel has become prized for its uniquely intense flavor and texture. Recent studies have shown that Morels actually become more abundant in forest areas that have recently burned. Though the reasons are still unclear.
Buying and cleaning morel mushrooms
When buying morels, look for firm caps that are relatively clean. As these are a foraged item, there will often times be remnants of the forest still attached to the caps. Delicately brush the caps clean or just prior to cooking, place them in the sink with cold salted water, this helps ensure there are no unwanted guests hiding in your morels.
Never eat raw or undercooked morels, and avoid eating them when consuming alcohol, as morels contain small amounts of hydrazine toxins. These are destroyed when cooked, but can still cause issues in people with a sensitivity to mushrooms.
So, what’s the best way to eat morels?
My favorite way is simply to sauté them with a bit of butter, shallots, red wine and a splash of heavy cream.
Why are dried morels so expensive?
Fresh morels are expensive to begin with, and to make one pound of dried morels, you need to start with eight pounds of fresh morels. Good to use in a pinch, but use a light touch.
Content provided by Daniel Snowden, the Director of Culinary Development for FreshPoint Central Florida. He has been in the produce industry years almost 20 years, and loves getting geeky about food. Follow FreshPoint Central Florida on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.