It was a dark and stormy night... Tuesday, that is ... and Wednesday I stumbled upon this rain-spattered horror show: Frankenmorel! Not to mention the Bride of Frankenmorel. And Son of Frankenmorel—even Young Frankenmorel. The whole mutant family of Frankenmorels was rampaging across a hillside of Abies grandis.
Fatty morels like this one at left are fun to find—they're just so over the top and self-important. "Look at me!" they beg. "Pick me!!" (The Hillary Clintons of the mushroom world?) This one was several inches tall and, as you can see, nearly as wide. It practically weighed a pound by itself, and though I did harvest it, you can see from the picture that the stem is dark, indicating a waterlogged morel. Your only recourse is to eat such specimens immediately.
A good method is the dry saute: get a cast-iron skillet blazing hot, then toss in your soggy mushrooms (chopping them first) without any oil or butter and start stirring frantically. The mushrooms will expel their water without becoming too slimy. Then you can do what you want with them. In this case, I added them to diced sweet onions sauteed in butter, cooked a little longer, seasoned, and stirred in heavy cream and a splash of sherry for a delicious Cream of Frankenmorel Canape.
Here's a video taken from the Frankenmorel patch:
After marveling at these mutants for a while, I skedaddled to higher ground in hopes of locating fresher specimens. A coralroot orchid told me I was heading in the right direction. After climbing another 500 feet in elevation through an area of selective timber harvest and ORV abuse, I found a patch of prime morels, about thirty in all, clustered in an area no more than 20 x 20 feet. Score!
It's amazing what a difference a little elevation can mean when you're hunting morels. The key—and I feel like I'm just starting to learn this—is in understanding the micro-habitats. I just knew I was going to find morels in this spot. The tree composition was right; the amount of filtered, dappled light was right; the duff looked good, as did the slope aspect, with its steep pitches alternating with flat benches. The kicker was the logging activity. I'm not sure what happened here exactly. The area might have been thinned, and slash piles burned. Evidence of spot-fires was all around. In the West, morels thrive on just this sort of disturbance.
Unlike the Frankenmorels, these were firm and just pushing through the duff. Here's a short video of what a patch of Washington's Cascade Mountain blacks looks like: