The Morel of the Story

By Robert J. Korpella

First posted on 04-08-2009

Last weekend I took a trip to Arkansas with the good intention of getting in a little rainbow fishing. But you never quite know how the river will be and last weekend it was up high, boiling and murky, plus the wind was so strong coming through the valley that whitecaps were evident.

I use an eighteen foot jon boat with a 25 horse motor so the river and weather conditions didn’t seem ideal for that kind of fishing. So, we – Damion, my son-in-law was with me – decided to try casting from the bank. The river was moving swiftly and our bait either got washed into shore quickly or it just wrapped up around the limbs and drifts that had accumulated around other snags in the water.

We tried a couple of other places but without any luck except for a lone sucker I managed to hook but which, thankfully, got loose so I would not have to deal with him. So, we gave up on the fishing and started to explore the woods. There were a number of maple trees along the bank and, since Damion is growing several varieties in his backyard, we decided to go after some seed pods.

While we were in the process of picking up maple seeds that had fallen to the ground, I happened to spot something I had always heard about but never come across – a morel mushroom. I knew this was the time of year to find them and I remembered being told they grew on certain moist slopes in grassy areas on the first warm, sunny day after a rain and that little morel I stumbled across fit the bill perfectly.

I also recall hearing that, if you find one, there are usually many more nearby.

All the advice I had gotten was right on the mark. Damion and I found nine good-sized morels in that little patch of grass, but expanding our hunting ended up nothing. We decided to try again the next day.

Although we brought the fishing poles Sunday, I think that neither Damion nor I really anticipated using them. It didn’t matter anyway as the river was still way up and with the greenish murkiness it gets sometimes in the spring. So morel hunting we went instead.

Even the five foot long black snake or the 12-inch long copperhead or the rattling sound that may or may not have belonged to a snake (I never saw it and may have heard a dry seed pod but I was not going to wait around too long just to satisfy my curiosity) stopped us from the hunt.

Although the original plot of ground was played out, we ended up finding another 25 morels during our Sunday hike.

Since I had never seen a morel “in the wild” and had only heard about them, I thought it prudent to Google the subject and we sent a picture of one to Sydnee, who is the source of my information on morels. I asked Syd if what we found was the real deal. Her response, “It’s as real as it gets.”

Sydnee did tell me, and I found this online too, that the only thing that resembles a morel is a false morel, which can be poisonous. Luckily, slicing the mushroom in half and finding out it was hollow all the way inside instead of having a hollow stem with a morel-like cap over it proved we really did have the real deal.

I fried up the mushrooms last night and, while their taste was not the delicacy I expected, I will be looking forward to visiting that same patch again next year. I think that with morels, it’s as much the hunt, the discovery, the chance to eat something grown in the wild as it is the flavor.