Cooking Fresh Spring 2012 Issue

Wild Mushrooms: Join the Hunt

By Dani Lind | Photo By Jim Klousia 0

Don’t have the morel bug yet but want to catch it? The Morchella genus has many different species, but the most common ones in Southern Wisconsin are the black morel and the common yellow morel (also called tan). Both feature a hollow stem with their classic honeycomb cap. Learn to identify them by watching one of hundreds of morel hunting videos online, go to your local library or bookstore, or go to Muscoda’s 30th annual Morel Mushroom Festival this May 19th and 20th. In addition to a market where you can buy and sell morels (one year they sold 2,000 pounds!), there’s morel art and crafts, an antique tractor pull and carnival rides, a parade, helicopter rides and fireworks.

If you want to skip all the morel hysteria, save some cash or avoid getting bit and scratched in the woods, try shiitakes or oysters. Both can be found at farmers markets. There are several varieties of early shiitakes you can grow on logs in a shady spot in your backyard or in a shed.

Oysters can be cultivated on logs at home or easily (at least compared to morels) found in the wild in late spring through fall—just look for bright white patches of them on dead wood on an overcast day. Whether you prefer tromping through the woods or “farming” in your backyard, or prefer your ‘shrooms with wine or beer, fried crispy or gently simmered in butter and placed delicately atop an arugula and watercress salad, mushrooms are at the heart of a Southern Wisconsin springtime.

Important Note: Wild-harvesting mushrooms can be dangerous—toxic mushrooms are out there. Learn how to identify what you’re picking and always eat with caution. In addition, always treat the land you’re wildharvesting on with respect. Don’t disturb the soil. Always cut mushrooms with a knife or scissors rather than pulling, and never pick more than you will eat. Leave some behind to repopulate.

Try Dani's recipe for Galette with Wild Mushrooms and Ramps.

Dani Lind spent 10 years as the produce manager/buyer at the Viroqua Food Co-op and now owns and operates Rooted Spoon Culinary, a catering business that focuses on local, seasonal foods. Dani loves to grow and preserve her own vegetables, herbs and fruits and help her husband raise grass-fed steers on their farm near Soldiers Grove.

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