In Our Own Backyard...You are what you eatThe object in the plastic sandwich bag was long and slender, with a tall, honeycombed cap resting over a thick stem. My sister had picked it along a woods trail near her house just outside Minneapolis, and she decided to bring it when they came to our house for Mother’s Day weekend.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The object in the plastic sandwich bag was long and slender, with a tall, honeycombed cap resting over a thick stem. My sister had picked it along a woods trail near her house just outside Minneapolis, and she decided to bring it when they came to our house for Mother’s Day weekend.
She said she was “pretty sure” that the object was a much-coveted morel mushroom, but she wasn’t absolutely, 100 percent sure enough to actually eat it.
All of us examined it as we hovered over a book about mushrooms that my dad had gotten through the Extension service years ago. We all agreed it sure looked like a morel mushroom, but.....well, you just never know.
“That’s gotta be what it is,” I finally deduced as I compared it to the photo in the book once again. “I think we should eat it!”
“Do you have your will in order?” joked my brother-in-law.
“I’m not eating that thing,” protested my husband, Ken.
We all agreed to think about it for a while before we took any drastic action.
If we missed our bet and it wasn’t a morel mushroom, it could very well make us extremely ill with symptoms like dizziness, cramping and upset stomach.
If, indeed, it was a morel mushroom, it was a gourmet delicacy greatly to be treasured. Morel mushrooms are often hard to find and prized by gourmet cooks, particularly for preparing French cuisine. A quick check on the Internet yielded the information that the going price for morel mushrooms on Amazon.com is $46 for a 4-ounce package!
“How many of them did you see on your walk?” my brother-in-law inquired.
My sister told him she’d seen four but only picked one of them.
“Why in the world didn’t you pick all four of them?” he asked.
She said she thought, if they were indeed morels, maybe she should leave a few for others to pick.
“Well, look at it this way,” I reasoned. “If we’re wrong and this isn’t a morel, eating just one of them will probably only make us sick. Eating all four of them might just kill us!”
My mom was paging through a magazine later on in the morning and came across a recipe for a pasta dish calling for fresh tomatoes, bacon and spinach. We all thought it sounded pretty good so I decided to make it for lunch.
“And I’m going to add the mushroom to it!” I declared.
“Um, I have to go in to work for a while.....” my husband muttered.
I found that when I diced up the “mystery” mushroom it didn’t go very far, and when I added it to the pasta it just kind of blended in with everything else and sadly, we couldn’t really taste it. Everyone gamely forked down the pasta, and when my mom decided to “take five” after lunch, she kidded us about whether she’d ever wake up again after eating that mushroom.
And when we suddenly realized my brother-in-law hadn’t been heard from in a while, we discovered him lying prone on the sofa on the sun porch with his mouth hanging open.
“Is he breathing?” my sister giggled.
We joked about it all afternoon, but none of us felt any ill effects whatsoever. When my husband arrived home from work, we were full of bravado.
Ken and I decided to go out for a little walk before dinner, and along the way I spotted the first tender ferns of the season unfurling through the forest floor in the May sunshine.
“I know!” I cried. “Let’s cook fiddlehead ferns for dinner tonight!”
A long, sideways glance persuaded me otherwise…