Two weekends ago my fiance and I drove westward 3 hours to visit his family's land in Richland County, WI. It was a remote and beautiful place, full of springtime air and plenty of room to think and breathe. Our primary purpose for the journey was to forage some wild foodstuffs - particularly a male turkey (tom) and the infamous morel mushroom. I had never been to the land before, and Brandon wanted me to see it - so I could better understand a part of his life I hadn't previously been a part of: hunting. To hear Brandon describe his hunting experiences is an adventure of its own. He "gets" the woods; he has insight on animal behaviors and nature's way of doing things because he has spent time - in silence and stillness - observing the patterns and happenings on this expansive land and he knows it well. I relished being able to accompany him through those woods, though the weather could have been kinder and I have an unnatural fear of ticks, because he was able to pass on to me some of the knowledge he's been gaining in the forest over the years. And he was able to do it first hand - I smelled the sweetness of the pines, heard the gobbles from the trees, and saw the signs of life that my untrained eyes would have otherwise missed. And there it is: teaching the one you love, learning from the one you love: this is it. This is where memories are made and relationships are bolstered.
We never got our tom, though we did spend a good amount of our hunt stalking what ended up being hens (the lady turkeys): creeping around trees and crawling through brush, trying to stay under the radar of the birds' impressive hearing abilities, attempting to blend in and sit still to avoid the gaze of theirzoom-like monocular vision. Halfway into our second day's venture I began focusing my eyes on the forest floor, entrusting Brandon with the animal kingdom while I sought edibles of a more fungal variety.
The first one came to me as if dropped from the heavens, perfectly formed and alone in its grace. I plucked it eagerly and combed the area for more to no avail. A few hours later, heading toward the cabin for the night, I said to Brandon, "I can't believe we only found one." Literally seconds later he pointed out a huge morel and from there, our "mushroom eyes" kicked in and it was as though they were popping up just for us. They grew in a circle around a fallen tree whose bark had sloughed off and been scattered across the ground. In all we found 13 very good-sized morel mushroom. We cleaned them well, brought them home the next day and had a fungi feast with Brandon's brother and another friend.
I've never had such delicious 'shrooms, maybe it's because they were so fresh or perhaps because they were free and found in such a wonderful, adventurous way. I can't wait for next Spring to return to our new "spot" and gather more treats. Thank you mother nature.
Morel mushroom recipe to come!