It seems that almost everybody loves the out-of-doors. Some like to hunt and/or fish, others might boat or canoe, or maybe camp, hike, bird watch, even just swim in a lake and picnic.
But there's one sport that draws thousands of the above, and even folk who never venture into Mother Nature's territory normally. That's mushroom hunting, an activity that brings out families, oldsters, even 10- or 12-year-old kids to roam woodlots, fencerows, and heavy forest seeking the elusive morel.
These myriads of fungi seekers look avidly for this brown capped, ribbed mushroom mainly for one reason. You can talk about healthful exercise, a chance to see wildflowers and forest creatures, or breathe fresh air, but the real reason is they taste great.
If you've never eaten a morel, and would like to right this minute, you can often find them in larger supermarkets where they sell for a price slightly lower than gold bars. But the best way to get some is to head forth and find them, and the time to do that is right now. I've not been out yet, being occupied with a long trip to Spain, but reports are that the grays are almost finished, and the first of the big yellows are starting to turn up. So, over the next few weeks hunting will get better and better, this after each rain followed by a few days of warm weather, then taper off abruptly, ending it all for the season.
You can be scientific about the business of hunting these elusive plants, starting on hilltops where the ground warms fastest, then working down the hillsides on successive trips, but the tried and true method for most hunters is simply to hunt. You walk and walk, uphill and down, through valleys, along those fencerows, little woodlots and big, old apple orchards, around fallen timber (especially elms), through deep woods filled with trilliums, spring beauties, May apples, and other flowers. And sooner or later you're likely to find some.
Finds might turn up immediately. I've had it happen. Or you might search for long hours, using that "walk a few steps, then stop and look around." But if you walk enough there they are. Most hunters know to use mesh bags, so any ripe spawn can fall through the mesh as you hike, and they know to leave at least a couple from each little bonanza to produce spawn for next year. Finally, most know to split the morels lengthwise, and soak them for a few hours in salt water to remove bugs and forest debris. Then it's time to eat them.
Frying some up in a good batter is obvious, and placing a few on steaks nearly grilled is, too. But did you ever try some in an omlette? I keep it simple, mixing eggs and milk as usual, then adding a few chopped up mushrooms before frying. It's a delicate, subtle and flavorsome way to enjoy morels.
If you think we Americans have a corner on the market, know that the first morel recipes came from the ancient Romans, and one of these called for cooking them in salt water, oil, and pure wine, and serving with chopped coriander. And a French recipe from 1793 called for placing them in a saucepan with pepper, salt, and parsley, adding a piece of ham, stew for an hour in a little water, then bind with the yolks of two or three eggs and serve on buttered toast. If none of the above strike your fancy, just fry them in a little butter, and enjoy. Hard to go wrong with that recipe.
Dick Martin is a free-lance writer from Shelby. Reach him at email@example.com
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Anglers who like to fish the Vermilion River for steelhead trout are going to find some good fishing in the river this fall. The Division of Wildlife released 55,000 yearling trout at the Vermilion City Boat Launch recently, all year old fish of 6 to 8 inches. They will grow to a length of eighteen inches by the end of this year, and to 6 to 10 pounds, even more, in future years.
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