By Roberta Jasina
Do you have a little gold mine growing in your backyard? It’s possible.
It’s morel mushroom season. And that little fungus among us — is valuable.
Local chef (and morel hunter) Ruth Mossock Johnston tells WWJ, a 1 lb. bag of dried morels sells for about $180. They might be as small as a thimble, or as big as your hand.
Why are these mushrooms so valuable?
Johnston says “The flavor is incredible. They just have this earthy, woodsy, wonderful flavor. Because of the way they’re shaped, with that almost honeycomb kind of texture, sauces adhere to it so beautifully: butter, or olive oil or anything will really penetrate those crevices.”
The morels are popping up early this year: some bumper crops have already been reported in Holland, Kalamazoo, Jackson, and the Lansing area.
How do you know where to look?
Johnston says a rule of thumb is to look UP, not down. She says look for certain trees.
“Morels are such a master of camouflage, that they’re very hard to see. Where you DO expect them is by hardwood trees. Especially Ash and sometimes fruit trees. Sometimes you’ll find them in your backyard here in the Detroit area.”
She says Morels have kind of a cult following here in Michigan. There are websites galore, and Boyne City has hosted the National Morel Mushroom Festival for over 50 years. (May 17-20 this year: www.morelfest.com).
If you decide to hunt Morels, Johnston suggests putting your shrooms in a paper or mesh bag. (Never plastic.) She says they taste great fresh or dried. (You can dry them in the oven, at a low temperature, or you can put them on an old window screen in the sunlight, or use a dehydrator.)
Johnston loves Morels so much she’s written a book about them, “The Art of Cooking Morels.”
You can meet her and learn more about Morels this weekend:
Saturday, April 14 — Hiller’s (5 Mile and Haggerty) 12 – 4 p.m.
Sunday, April 15 — Hiller’s (In Northville on Center Street) 12 – 4 p.m.