Field Notes: a Northwest nature blog
One of the reasons many of us live in the Pacific Northwest is the natural wonders that amaze us all. On this blog Seattle Times writers and photographers will share their explorations of the natural world from snowcaps to whitecaps. Write us at email@example.com with your own sightings, questions and wonders to share.
Cool weather means a late season for morel mushroom hunting
Posted by Matt Ironside
This post is a bit more for the experienced than for the beginner, but if you're a mushroom hunter who enjoys a spring forage for morels, the cool spring weather means you've got plenty of time left to get out there and look. But those of you who are waiting for the spring porcini to pop are going to have to be patient.
I went out last weekend and found a couple of pounds of morels and a lot of moisture available for mushrooms to fruit, but also found conditions that may confound some experienced hunters who are used to associating their favorite fruiting spots with dates on the calendar. In general, I found conditions in the forest that looked a week to two weeks earlier than the actual calendar date.
All the morels I found were on the east side of the Cascades in altitudes 2400 feet and below. There were locations in the 2100-foot range that still had patches of snow on the ground. Other hunters I've talked to are saying similar things about the cool weather holding back fruiting. Still, people are finding morels and the baskets fed by commercial hunters selling in stores and at farmers' market are full — likely due to the plentiful moisture still available this spring.
And for any foodies out there who may be reading, I stayed simple with this batch of morels. I sauteed them with a bit of pancetta and fresh greens. I tossed the combo with some thin spaghetti and topped it with shaved Trugole cheese. I love Trugole and a mild nutty mushroom like morels. They both manage to be wonderfully rich without stepping on the flavor of the other.
For porcini lovers, the moist conditions point toward a good spring, but I've still not heard any reports of spring finds for mountain porcini.
And for those of you who might be newer to the idea of foraging for wild mushrooms and want to know more about how a walk in the woods can suddenly merge with your dinner plans, send any questions you have my way, and I'll do my best to answer them in future posts.
UPDATE - I got a note from a reader this morning saying that he found morels last weekend not far from the I-5 corridor in Seattle. While that seems very low in altitude to find them this time of year, I've hunted morels long enough to know better than to try to say where morels will be found. Morels fruit when and where they want to fruit.
I've also got lots of response from less experienced hunters wondering where to hunt — some wanting to go out this weekend. While I plan to attempt to tackle that complicated question in later posts, I'd give you this general piece of starting advice. Start with what I call "natural morels."
The best place to look for them is on east slopes of the Cascades. Look for a spot where the trees mix. Maybe a place where Douglas Fir is starting to mix in with Ponderosa Pine. Maybe it's where fir is going into cottonwoods along a stream. And remember, if they were easy to find they wouldn't be charging $30 a pound for these.
Good luck to everyone and thanks to all the readers responding to the post.
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