No less an authority than The Forager Press has pronounced the morel mushroom “May’s wild food of the month,” noting that “The true morels – morchella esculenta, elata and semilibera – are not only some of the most delicious wild mushrooms in North America, but they are also some of the easiest to safely identify.
“They can be found for a few weeks each spring, fruiting just after the first spring flowers appear,” according to Forager Press.
Well. Morels are tasty. (Of course, even corks might be delicious after dipping them in egg whites, covering them in cracker crumbs and sautéing them in butter.) However, “they can be found” is technically true but quite misleading, as anyone can attest who’s tramped through the woods fighting off sticker bushes only to end up with an empty, forlorn paper sack from Kroger and a tick crawling on an ankle.
Besides foragers who may mimic Euell Gibbons (“Stalk the Wild Asparagus” and Grape-Nuts huckster), there also are scholarly musings, such as “Mushrooms and Macrofungi of Ohio and the Midwestern States,” a 166-page book published in 2013 by Ohio State University Extension. But in describing toxic as well as scrumptious mushrooms, the plant pathologist authors might discourage mushroom aficionados from foraging much past the produce section at a nice, clean and tick-free market.
So I prefer a literary appreciation that these Fungal Friends have spawned (or spored).
Here are a handful of excerpts from poems that have celebrated ’shrooms:
“After rain, after weather,/ they emerge, flesh-colored/ and naked as throats:/ milky as the caps they’re/ named for. They loll,/ slouch-brimmed and sprawling/ upon their stalks,/ pale slips swelling upward/ almost visibly/ through the grainy loam.” – Robert Gibb
“These morels, smelling of wet graham crackers mixed with maple leaves;/ and, reaching down by the pale green fern shoots, I nipped their pulpy stems at the base/ and dropped them into a paper bag – a damp brown bag (their color) — and carried/ them (weighing absolutely nothing) down the hill and into the house; you held them/ under cold bubbling water and sliced them with a surgeon’s stroke clean through,/ and sauteed them over a low flame, butter-brown; and we ate them then and there —/ tasting of the sweet damp woods and of the rain one inch above the meadow:/ It was like feasting upon air.” – William Jay Smith
“Overnight, very/ whitely, discreetly,/ very quietly/ our toes, our noses/ take hold on the loam,/ acquire the air./ Nobody sees us,/ stops us, betrays us;/ the small grains make room.” – Sylvia Plath
“Mushroom, soft ear, old memory,/ root come to tell the air:/ Bring the forest floor along/ the valley: Bring all that comes/ blue into passes, long shores/ around a lake, talk, talk, talk,/ miles then deep. Bring that story.” – William Stafford
“I am a mushroom/ on whom the dew of heaven drops now and then.” – John Ford
So celebrate, and feast!
“O, the month of May, the merry month of May,/ so frolic, so gay, and so green, so green, so green!” – Thomas Dekke