The Spring mushroom

Delicious, expensive and rare, aptly describe this mushroom. It is traded like a global commodity with spot prices set weekly based on supply. I notice that today’s price for 1kg in London is £100. We have brought groups as far as Turkey to find, eat and celebrate it at an annual festival in the beautiful village of Uzumlu.

I am, of course talking about the Morel. It is harvested commercially throughout the world from Europe to Asia to the USA where it is picked by groups of migrant foragers who travel to the best regions for the season with a view to making small fortunes. Stories abound of people making over $1,000/day. Temporary buyer stations are established in villages throughout the western mountain ranges. If you’re interested in getting  involved take a look at this morel forum where the pickers and buyers meet. But be warned it is very hard physical work

Morels from Cavan cropped

Black Morels on mulch

covering difficult terrain and can sometimes involve armed conflict with rival morel hunting groups.

Morels seem to be widespread throughout Ireland. The most common morel finds that I hear about are on mulch. Mulching and spreading infected wood seems to prompt a flush of morels and therefore quite a few people first encounter them on managed beds. However this is usually the  “Black Morel “(Morchella elata) which is not as good an eater as the ironically elusive “Common Morel“(Morchella esculenta).

Of course, the other important point to make about

morel in wicklow

Common Morel

the Morel is that it is one of the very few Spring season eaters. This is possibly one of the reasons that we don’t see it very often, as most  of our mushroom hunting is done in the late-summer/Autumn season.

The passionate new wave of wild food chefs are already out there and finding morels for their seasonal/local menus. This photo is of a Common Morel found in Wicklow. You can expect to see morels on their current seasonal menu.

So get out there and find some morels. But  beware the false morel “Gyromitra Esculenta” which is toxic. Tip – Gyromitra has a solid stem whereas true morels have hollow stems.

The above is for general guidance only. Never eat any wild mushroom unless it is identified as safe to eat by an expert.

3 Winter Fungi

This is a quite time of the year for Fungi, however there are still a few treats to be found in the woodlands. Specifically the Velvet Shank the Scarlet Elf Cup and the Oyster Mushroom. All three are tasty and relatively easy to identify. The oyster can vary significantly in colour from grey to yellow.

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Velvet Shank – Flammulina Velutipes

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Scarlet Elf Cup

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Oyster Mushroom

So keep an eye out for these wild mushrooms, also for wild garlic which is starting to sprout a lot earlier than usual. I like to use it to flavour my homemade vinegar and even add to my kimchi pot.