In Central Oregon, not far from Eugene, and not far from Oakridge, but in a location that mushroomers like to keep secret, we headed to a loyal mushrooming spot to see what we could harvest. On the way up the long, winding road, we stopped with a start as a black bear cub bounded across the road in front of us. A surreal moment that made the rest of the drive up to the burnout spot a blur.
The Morel mushroom appears after a burnout, a forest fire that may have started from the dry heat, lightening, or arson. The fire may have destroyed areas of forest, but at times can encroach on nearby towns with the worst-case scenario they destroy family homes. The fact that the majority of mushroomers have no idea why they appear after a burnout, does not detract from the enthusiasm for Morel harvesting
Their honeycomb shape, either caramel or brown, make them distinctly hard to spot. My eyes played tricks on me thinking I had found one. Only to blink again and see it was just a pinecone.
After a while wandering through a tree cemetery, the reward of spotting a hidden morel is well worth the wait. You must “clean them in the field” as mushroomers say, a.k.a, just brush the dirt off them. Then transport them safely home in a little mesh bag.
Cleaned, sliced and then mixed into scrambled eggs the subtle flavour of the morel is somewhat smoky, I guess from its roots.
They say something good always comes out of something bad. The mystery of the Morel mushrooms is one of those things.
Please note, the time it takes to harvest Morel Mushrooms is well worth it considering they sell for $15.99 a pound in the supermarket in Oregon.
Images // Nickie Hursthouse