We wait for it every year. A great excuse to get outside after a long winter, breathe some fresh air, spend some time together, experience the thrill of the hunt and the gastronomical rewards. Morel Mushroom hunting.
Last year our first score was on April 14th, which was relatively early in mushroom time. The unseasonable weather pattern that I am sure has thrown Mother Nature into a spin (I know I would be spinning if I was her!), has prodded the fungus up even earlier. The markers were there, a couple of days of rain, followed by just the right temperature of warm days, dandelions blooming. Anticipatory chatter began on the Morel-forum communities last week, crescendoing this weekend with reports from hunters from our area of little greys, usually the first to make an appearance.
My husband was convinced that our search on Sunday morning would yield plenty of the year-long anticipated amazing morsel; enough to serve with the t-bone steaks he planned to grill for dinner.
The ONLY bad thing I can think of when it comes to Morel mushroom hunting, is that the season also corresponds to prime tick season. I deplore ticks. They give me the heebie jeebies and I have recurring bad dreams about them. As such, I have developed my own (not) foolproof methods of deterrence. You would laugh if you saw me, or anyone like me in the woods, thankfully, we don’t run across many people there. My husband refuses to abide by my over-the-top techniques, but my son is still young enough to listen to his mamma. My daughter doesn’t like mushrooms, and doesn’t like ticks so she refuses to come out mushroom hunting with us anymore. I missed her out there with us this weekend, but truth be told, I didn’t miss the search for ticks through her long hair after the hunt. Much to my husband’s aghast, when I asked her, she was kind enough to let her brother wear her hiking boots because he had outgrown his. He and I were quite the sight!
Following is my tick averting technique:
Step 1: Tuck your pant legs into your tall socks
Step 2: Tie a bandana over your head. Top with a ballcap (which is necessary to keep branches out of your eyes)
Step 3: Take masking tape, and seal the open edges; the tops of your socks, your wrists, where your shirt meets your pants at your waist, and even at your neck.
Step 4: When you get home, change in the garage, throw all the clothes into a hot washer (this is important- last year we put them in a laundry basket in the bathroom closet, only to find a tick crawling up the wall in the closet two days later!), and jump into the shower.
I added another trick I read about to my repertoire last weekend by cutting dryer sheets into strips and tucking them into the tops of my socks. This really didn’t do much though.
The verdict? Well, during the hunt we stopped plenty of times and picked ticks off our clothing. We do a “tick-check” before we get into the car, I am sure we look like monkeys checking each other for bugs. Even still, my son found another two climbing on him on the ride home. I found one climbing on me, and when I set my hair free and ran my fingers through it, I found another (thankfully before he attached!). Later at home, I surgically removed a tick from my husband’s right leg, the naysayer and non-adapter to my crazy methods.
If anyone has any tick aversion techniques, I would love to hear them! I have thought about a spacesuit, but that probably isn’t too practical.
It’s all worth it though. I can almost hear the butter splattering in the pan, smell the complex mushroom fragrance as they saute, and taste the amazing deep, down-to-earthy goodness. Alas, I’m sad to report that we did not find any morel’s this time to savor with our t-bones. BUT, I am hoping that summer will slow down, and that perhaps the extremely short-lived morel season may stick around a bit longer. This would give us lots more opportunities to finally find the motherlode and make some more eight-legged friends.