Now I know why they are called mushroom hunters – for something that is rooted in the earth and doesn’t have legs to run away on they are incredibly elusive. If you want to find truly edible mushrooms growing in the wild, as opposed to just stumbling upon various amazing looking fungi once in a while, it appears you have to have a sharp eye and an intuitive (if not knowledgeable!) grasp of the forest they like to grow in. Since I haven’t ever seen a morel growing in the wild my eye can only imagine what it is supposed to be seeing. After a few hours of searching in an idyllic and unusually still forest in the most perfect weather possible – what a morel growing in the wild looks like is still a mystery. But I didn’t come home empty handed: black birch twigs to make tea, knot-weed and mustard garlic for lunch, wild ramps for dinner, and watercress and a couple of bites of cattail for tomorrow.
Gathering, cooking and eating plants from the forest has a slightly dangerous feel to it, even though I have foraged on and off for years since my Mom showed me how to eat sheep’s sorrel when I was little. No one planted this stuff, tilled the soil, got rid of the weeds, tested the product……no one even knows that it is there. It just grows, uncontrolled, unmonitored, in the unruly and seeming chaos of the wild. It is completely outside the realm of our food “system”. When I am searching for food, out in the open, in the fields and the woods, not knowing if I will find it or if it will have grown enough to be picked, it’s a completely different mind space than going out to buy it. I don’t pay money for it, I pay with time spent walking in nature, paying attention to the whole amazingly intricate ecosystem I am a part of, and sharing gratefully in the bounty. In one way I am just doing my job.