Live from the 2009 Boyne City Morel Festival

Editor’s Note: We originally planned for this to be a post-event feature, but Cherie was having so much fun that she wanted to give folks a chance to check out the rest of the festival today!

morel spring 2008 by baldo1man
morel spring 2008 by baldo1man

When an avid morel mushroom hunter stands before 250 people recounting a time when he walked out of the woods wearing only his underwear, socks and shoes, giggles burst but people listen. Finding the elusive morel is no laughing matter, but to the attendees of the morel hunting lecture at the 49th National Annual Morel Mushroom Festival in Boyne City, the entertainment was as delicious as the soup – seasoned with laughter and emboldened with rich enthusiasm.

After watching culinary guru John Sheets prepare a mouth-watering array of wild edibles, the crowd listened as native Anthony Williams recounted tales of his morel hunting lineage, sharing tricks and tips passed down through generations. Afterward, he shared a morel song accompanied by his wife, Robin Lee Berry. No one would walk away from Friday’s festivities empty-handed.

Boyne City Sunset by rickrjw
Boyne City Sunset by rickrjw

What Boyne City offers this weekend is more than just words. Yesterday organizers and volunteers from the community accompanied four bus loads of hungry hunters, through private land, to search and pick as they will again today. Experts offered suggestions and visitors shared in the excitement of discovering their first morel. Not everyone walked away with something in their sack, but each person had the opportunity to inspect this elusive mushroom–some place other than their dinner plate or produce aisle. Immediately following, attendees were invited to celebrate at the Morelfest Wine and Dine, which featured an elegant five course morel-themed dinner with wine pairings. The evening ended with live music from blues artist Larry McCray on Lake Charlevoix.

Weekend events remain and there is still time to join in the fun! Saturday (May 16) offers another full day of activities, beginning with a morel breakfast, followed by a hunting competition; there will be a cooking demonstration by an award-winning chef; a craft-fair, where you can purchase morel inspired walking sticks, wood carvings, mesh morel-picking bags, jams, jellies and many other treats; a carnival to entertain the children or satisfy the inner-child, and another chance to experience great music with Twisted Finster. If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Boyne City, grab your family and friends and join in the fun!

…and just why was a morel hunter walking out of the woods in his underwear?

Apparently Tony had discovered “the mother lode” and, rather than leave them, utilized the remainder of his clothing to carry home the all the morels. Although he made no promises, with generous spirit and good humor he offered some of his secrets and instilled hope in a new generation of mushroom hunters.

Click for the all the details of the Boyne City Morel Festival or grab your Michigan map and head to Boyne City.

Michigan Morel Hunting Season

Article courtesy Leelanau.com…

The Mighty Morel by Pine Photography
The Mighty Morel by Pine Photography

It’s springtime once again in Michigan, and not only have daffodils broken through, confirmations of morel mushrooms are arriving daily. For a few short weeks, folks flock to the woods in search of this elusive, edible mushroom.

Morel mushroom taste delicious, this is no secret, but the season itself is a sort of cultural absurdity. The “hunters” protect the whereabouts of their source as if it were the location of the Holy Grail. If you have ever wondered who your true friends are or just how well you have transferred your status from “down-stater” to “local” you find out pretty quickly during morel season.

Unfortunately, the toughest part about morel season is not deciding how to prepare this earthy delicious fungi; nor is the greatest challenge identifying them from other common mushrooms. The most difficult part of morel hunting is locating and claiming your own special spot, relatively secure from open-mouthed paper sacks and the hungry claws of hunters. Once you find one and finally sink your teeth in, you won’t regret a single moment spent in pursuit of this earthly goodness–morels are divine!

Hunt Michigan Morels !!!!! by cedarkayak
Hunt Michigan Morels !!!!! by cedarkayak

As eager as you may be to fry up a fresh pick, consider a few pointers from avid hunters in our region:

1. KNOW YOUR SHROOMS. Learn to identify the “true morel” before you head in to the woods, or at least make certain you have the real deal before you serve them for dinner.

2. PROPER COLLECTING RECEPTACLE. Avid hunters insist on using a potato or orange bag–something netted, with holes–for collecting. A paper bag is fashionable, too, but purist prefer that pickers leave a trail of spores falling through the holes in the bag. (I recently read that the mushrooms begin to decompose almost immediately if they cannot “breathe,” so collecting them in a plastic bag is poor practice, but would suffice in pinch.)

3. LEARN THE LOCATIONS. An oak forest will probably never produce a morel, so say the experts; be sure to look for ash, maple, elm, poplar, and apple trees, commonly referred to as “host trees.” Morels may be found in surprisingly varied soil conditions, near sandy dune or swamp. Returning to the exact location year after year may or may not produce satisfying results. Generally a successful location one year will breed abundance the next, but one never knows. That is why they call this little bugger–elusive–one just never knows exactly where to look.

4. GET PERSONAL. One of the most successful hunters I know spends a significant amount of time on bent knee. Once you discover one morel, there are bound to be others, so staying calm and surveying the surroundings often proves the most productive tactic. When a morel is spotted, hunt around, but tread lightly. Many morel have been overlooked, or worse yet–squashed–in hasty anticipation of potential finds.

5. LEAVE A TRACE. Besides stealing someone’s favorite spot, the greatest mushrooming faux pas one can commit is to pick the mushroom–root and all–from the ground. Instead of this method, break the mushrooms stem and leave the remaining stem and root in the ground. The idea, I think, is to leave a few spores for the next year, but other hunters gauge the abundance of the area by what remains, and there is still a strange satisfaction in knowing that you missed them by only a moment or two. (Do not leave garbage in the woods, however.)

6. BE SAFE! This applies to ALL aspects of the hunt: searching, finding, identifying and eating. Use a compass in the woods if you have no sense of direction (or even if you do.) Take friends or tell someone your plans. Have a snack and water handy, and a jacket never hurt.

7. BE CONSIDERATE.

8. HAVE FUN! Most important facet of all.

Michigan Morel Events!
The 50th annual Mesick Mushroom Festival happens this weekend (May 8-10, 2009) and the Boyne City National Morel Mushroom Festival takes place May 14-17, 2009.

Salmon Fillets With Morel Mushrooms

Ingredients:

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 5 shallots, minced
  • 18 ounces morels, trimmed, cleaned and sliced
  • 3/4 cup bottled clam juice
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3 Tbsp. whipped cream
  • 2 tsp. chopped fresh tarragon or 1/2 tsp. dried
  • 6 8-ounce salmon fillets
  • fresh lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. butter, melted

Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté 2 minutes. Increase heat to medium-high. Add Morels; sauté until beginning to brown, about 8 minutes. Add clam juice and wine; boil until liquids have almost evaporated, about 20 minutes.

Add cream to mushrooms; boil until thickened, about 1 minute. Mix in chopped tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Arrange salmon skin side down on broiler pan. Brush with lemon juice, then butter. Broil until just cooked through, without turning, about 6 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Transfer to plates. Spoon Morels over.

Serves 6

Explore many more Michigan morel features and links from Absolute Michigan!