‘Tis the season of morels in Minnesota, a brief but beautiful time of year. The first time I met these guys they were handed to me discretely in a brown paper bag. It felt like a drug deal. “These are really good,” the guy told me. “Don’t tell anyone I gave them to you.” He flashed me what I assumed was a secret morel mushroom smile.
At home in my kitchen I opened the bag and gagged from the smell of dirt. In my early years the lure of the morel was lost on me. I stored the fungi in the refrigerator until I was able to forget their existence, and eventually they were pitched.
My past actions, while horrifying to mushroom aficionados, came from a fear of the wild. Foraging seemed a little too “natural” to a girl who loved all things processed. Even as a kid I so feared the bugs and slugs that lived on my mom’s expansive raspberry and strawberry gardens that I refused to eat fresh fruit for two summers. I was the poster child of a Monsanto-philosophy: chemicals good, nature bad.
Fast forward to the adult who swoons at pesticide-free produce. I still mourn the loss of that baggy of mushrooms, tossed so carelessly, so nonchalantly, so coldly. To atone for the sins of my youth, my weekend market tote overflows with every mushroom I can get my hands on. We’ve had Tom Peterson’s wild Italians, oysters from Back Forty Farms, and morels from Heartland.
Although I appreciate the hunters and foragers among us, I am not yet ready to head into the woods to seek my fortune. For now it is enough to embrace sustainability and support those who provide it. Today, when I breath deep into my baggy of morels I will smile the secret morel mushroom smile.
Fried Morels would be a tasty crouton for salad, but my impatience doesn’t let me wait long enough to find out. Instead I eat these babies right out of the frying pan. And I don’t share.
Fried Morels, Spring Onions, and Sage
Adapted from John Brewer’s Crunchy Morels recipe in the Pioneer Press.
For each serving:
6 morel mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size
1 spring onion with flower
3 sage leaves
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons each butter and olive oil
Toss the vegetables and sage in enough spelt flour to coat.
In small saucepan melt butter and add oil to pan. In batches fry vegetables about 3 minutes each side. Drain on paper towel and season with salt and pepper. Fry sage about 30 seconds each side. Drain and season with salt.