In Search Of: Morel Mushrooms

IMG_6237Ask a fisherman around here where he pulled in the latest big catch he’s been bragging about, and he’ll quickly turn vague on you.  “At an area lake,” he might reply, with a twinkle in his eye.

Ask the neighbor lady where she found the wild blueberries in that luscious pie that fetched $75 dollars at a local pie auction charity, and she’d reply with a smile, “Oh, just around, you know.”

Favorite fishing holes and wild berry patches can be pretty closely guarded secrets in our neck of the woods.  But I don’t think I’ve ever encountered secret-ism as great as those of mushroom pickers.  If someone really likes you they might offer a few tips on the kind of habitat to look for, but that’s about it.  If you want to go hunting for wild mushrooms, it’s a commonly accepted fact that you’re mostly on your own.morel mushroom / rejoicing hillsThe thing is—they’re not exactly easy to find, even if you’re fortunate enough to happen upon the right spot.  Check out the photo above, taken from a very short distance away.  Now imagine standing up and stepping back several feet, add in a generous tangle of thick forest, brush, foliage and sticks, and you might begin to understand what I’m talking about.  It takes patience and practice to learn how to spot them, and a lot of time spent crouching low, scanning the forest floor.  They don’t grow in rows or clumps (the pair above is unusual) but pop up from the forest floor at complete random.  Sometimes you’ll only find one, sometimes you’ll find a lot.  You never know.

But—it’s so worth it.

Morels are a delicacy in the world of mushrooms, and not just because they’re elusive to harvest.  They are also the most delicious mushrooms I’ve ever tasted. Granted, this statement is coming from a mushroom lover.  But I’ve even known firmly avowed mushroom haters to go back for seconds of morels.

Recently we spent the good part of a rainy afternoon crawling around the woods with some fellow mushroom lovers and empty ice cream buckets—and came home with these beauties:bowl of morels mushrooms / rejoicing hillsWe rolled them in a simple breading of flour, salt and pepper, with just a hint of parsley and cayenne, and sauteed them in butter.  The members of our mushroom picking expedition gathered around the platter with forks and you should’ve heard the exclamations of satisfaction as we savored the reward of our labors!  They were gone in no time, and plans were already being made to go in search of more.IMG_6286Some things in life are worth every bit of time, energy—and, yes, even the scratched ankles, sore backs and wood ticks—required to secure them.

Kind of like the Kingdom of Heaven.

Of course, morel mushrooms don’t even hold a candle to the kingdom of heaven in terms of value.  But as I scrambled over fallen trees, listened to the periodic triumphant cries of “Found one!” echoing from various parts of the woods, and scanned the forest floor with such intense scrutiny that my eyes hurt by the time the day was over, something occurred to me.  What if I put this much time, energy, enthusiasm, and even sacrifice into seeking the kingdom of God?  This man did:

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up.  Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”  (Matthew 13:44)

We’d do well to take a lesson from him.  Maybe you wouldn’t consider wild mushrooms worth your time;  if not, fill in the blank with anything you’d give a great deal to find or secure.  The bottom line is, earthly treasure, of any sort, is temporal and fleeting;  heavenly treasure is of infinite, eternal value.

Jesus said: And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried.  For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them.  Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.  Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom…Provide yourselves…with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroysFor where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”  (Luke 12:34)

What kind of treasure are you seeking?morel mushroom / rejoicing hills

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