There is something in all of us that loves the thrill of the hunt. Whether it is scoping a deer in the fall or finding the best offseason special, the excitement of the chase makes the reward all that much sweeter. Other than aforementioned hunting expeditions, sourcing your own food can be challenging at best in the Tetons. Backyard gardens provide an abundance of certain veggies come August, but before then it is slim pickings at best. That is, except, for the couple weeks in May when the weather is the right mix of sunny, wet, and cool and the stars perfectly align, for Morel season.
Fleeting is the best word that I can think of to describe the brief window to forage for these tasty morsels. As mushrooms thrive in moderate, humide climates, The drastic temperature swings marked by below freezing temps one day to 80+ degrees the next, does not bode well for the delicate fungus. That being said, there are plenty of fruitful places around the region that you can explore often resulting in untold bounties and secret stashes for years to come.
The world of morel hunting however, is not one to be taken lightly. There are certain unspoken rules to adhere to when searching out your bounty.
First Rule of Morel Hunting, don’t talk about Morel hunting: If you are new to the Morel hunting game, you might of noticed it’s a little hard to nail down a spot to go. This, obviously, is not an error in communication but rather a play in conservation. If you find a patch of mushrooms, do yourself and everyone else a favor and keep it too yourself. This will ensure you a bounty in the years to come.
Go with someone experienced: Although Morels are a pretty unique looking mushroom, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go without someone experienced in finding the fungi. It always helps to tag along with a person adapt at spotting the camouflaged fungus as they can be tricky to find and not something you don’t want to mess up.
Treat them with respect: While the vast majority of people that go out of their way to forage for mushrooms have the natural landscape in mind, Morels require a little extra attention. The biggest error of novice scvangers is not bringing the right tools. Morels should be harvested with a small knife and not ripped out of the ground to allow for next years crop to flourish. If you want to get real technical, Use a cloth bag when harvesting as to make sure the mushroom spores drop out and propagate the area.
Treat them with respect (in the kitchen): If you search mushroom recipes when deciding how to cook your Morels you are doing it wrong. A gentle hand is the best approach to accentuate their delicate and earthy flavor. Butter, garlic, and shallots are all good places to start but make sure the focus is on the mushroom and not the accompanying flavors.
Enjoy the experience: If you keep this one statement in mind “I will not find any Morels today” you are bound to come away satisfied. Sometimes you hit the Motherlode and sometimes you get skunked. Either way, you should base you hunting around the beautiful landscape, the fact that everything isn’t covered in snow, and the occasional tasty mushroom. If you loose sight of this, the whole allure of foraging is lost; it is just as much about appreciating the landscape around you as it is finding the prize.
If cooking morels at home isn’t your thing don’t fret, few places prepare them better than the Snake River Grill. They offer fresh morels on a couple of their spring menu dishes. Try their “First of the Season” Morel Mushrooms as a shared plate. The dish comes with Amotillado Sherry, Tarragon, and cream. Their petite roast pork tenderloin is accompanied by morels as well as their house made “Handkerchief” pasta as a tasty main.