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Registered: 07/26/04
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The hunt is on for the Morel
    #4121578 - 05/02/05 02:02 AM (13 years, 1 month ago)

The hunt is on for the Morel
By Connie Parish
May 1, 2005 leavenworthtimes.com

Some people call it "Morel Madness" or "Mushroom Mania," but whatever you call it, it's officially here now.

The moisture this winter, along with warm days and nights and spring rains, have made this a prime picking time for Morel mushrooms.

At least that's what one veteran picker, Roger Eagle of Leavenworth, has found this season.

About a two-hour foray into Leavenworth County timber land last weekend was enough to net him two decent-sized bags full.

"They're not the biggest ones I've ever had," Eagle said, "but they're up there, as far as Morels go. They're a little bigger than normal."

Some he found this time were about 5 inches tall. According to www.wild-harvest.com, the honeycombed, hollow cone-shaped caps usually range from 2 to 4 inches.

"Usually the bigger they are, you'll have more fleshy meat, and you'll get a better taste of them," Eagle said.

For the uninitiated, that's the major reason most people hunt for the elusive Morels.

At least that's Eagle's reason.

"It's not so much the hunt," he said. "I just like the flavor, the taste. They only happen once a year for about a month, and then it's done. It's like a delicacy."

Eagle has plenty of experience hunting.

"My dad started taking me mushroom hunting when I was 3 years old, and I've been hunting ever since," he said. "I go out every year. I don't miss a year.

"The last couple of years weren't real good, but I was able to satisfy my needs."

Mother Nature cooperated more this year than the last few.

"You have to have warm weather, and the best time, the weather gets around 70 and stays in the low 50s at night and then gets back to the 70s after a rain," Eagle said.

Like most mushroom hunters, Eagle doesn't want to divulge his favorite spots, but he does advise would-be hunters that the best place is around dead elm or cottonwood trees.

"You can also find them around live sycamore trees every other year," he said. "I try to find timber that has a lot of good elms in it."

Though experienced mushroom hunters don't have much trouble eyeing the Morels, that isn't the case for all would-be hunters.

"They stand out like a sore thumb," Eagle said, "but people do walk by them."

In fact, on a recent search himself, he said, "I stood and talked to somebody in the woods who was looking. He was complaining he couldn't find any, but he was standing right in a patch of them."

Eagle didn't tell him, though.

"He walked off and I picked them," he said with a chuckle. "I followed right behind him and I picked up a couple of bags that day."

Eagle's recent treasure hunt almost doubled the amount of Morels he's ferreted out this season, which he said usually runs from about April 12 to mid-May.

"I had probably about that many in the icebox in the house," he said. "They'll last about two weeks, if the refrigerator is cold. I usually try to keep it about 33 degrees, in that range, not freezing, but on the verge.

"They keep longest if you don't wash them. Just put them in the icebox. They keep longer that way than if you'd just wash them off. When you're ready to eat them, just take them out, clean them and let them soak for a while."

Eagle said he's tried cooking them "different ways, but I keep coming back to this one. I just like rolling them in flour, adding salt and pepper and frying them, and that's it."

While some people like to roll them in cracker crumbs and egg, Eagle thinks that "sort of hides the flavor."

While he's not sure just how to describe that taste -- except "good" -- Eagle said there's no comparison with "button mushroom or any mushrooms you buy in stores."

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