“These are really good,” my coworker spoke quietly, “Don’t tell anyone I gave them to you,” he added as he glanced around nervously. He pressed a brown bag into my hands and backed out of my office.
At home I opened the bag and golden morels spilled out on to the counter. The spores were aliens; scary creatures of mystery but not intrigue. In my early years, mushrooms represented the dark, dank unknown. I stored the fungi in the refrigerator until I was able to forget their existence, and eventually they were pitched.
My past action, 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.
I attempt to atone for my past morel sins by adding plenty of fresh local mushrooms to my market tote. There is a mushroom for every season, and my redemption comes in the flavors of spring morels, summer chanterelles, and autumn trumpets and porcinis.
Mushrooms are loaded with energizing B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid) as well as antioxidants that protect cells and boost immunity. They are a natural vegan source of vitamin D which promotes bone health. They provide potassium which helps regulate blood pressure, and beta-glucans that aid in immunity and resistance to allergies. Best, mushrooms are a tasty, low-calorie, and filling addition to any meal.
Being gifted a chubby bag of morels still makes me feel like I am involved in an illicit drug exchange, but I finally understand the lore of the mushroom. With reverence and respect I carry my parcel home and gently unload the lacey caps into a pan of butter and herbs. Repast becomes a communion with my senses, although impatience has me foregoing a plate. Instead I lick my fingers and eat right out of the frying pan. And I don't share.
For more information how how to prepare morels:
For more mushroom recipes: