Every spring I look forward to our trips up to the Cascade Mountains of Southern Oregon to hunt mushrooms. Usually during the month of May, for only a few short weeks, you can find wild morel mushrooms. Morel mushrooms are one of my favorite fungi to prepare and what’s so cool about them is that we can find them close to our home in the mountains that surround the Rogue Valley.
Early one Sunday afternoon, Bruce and I hopped in the truck to visit some friends who live up on the Greensprings about 15 miles east of Ashland. The Greensprings is right in the heart of morel mushroom country here in Southern Oregon. That afternoon, Bruce and I were invited to a potluck barbecue with family and friends. Before the barbecue dinner, the entire group of us planned on hunting for morel mushrooms deep in the forests of Southern Oregon.
A view on the way up to the summit of the Cascades. Every time we drive up the mountains, I can’t help but look for the elk herds in the meadows above the road. Spring and fall seem to be the best time of year to see them. During the summer months they are found at higher elevations deep in the forests and during the winter, they prefer lower, warmer elevations. Unfortunately, we did not see any elk today.
A view below the summit on Highway 66. We are just a few miles away from the Pacific Crest Trail in the Southern Oregon Cascades and about 5 miles from some of the best mushroom picking spots that I know.
We finally reached our destination. These mountain forests contain an abundance of wild mushrooms. Today we focused only on Morels… Morel mushrooms are an amazing delicacy that most people see only in fine restaurants or specialty markets. When picking wild mushrooms, be so very careful to properly identify them before taking them home. If you are not 100% positively sure of what you are looking at, DON”T PICK IT. EVER… Some species of mushrooms look so very much alike and are difficult to identify. I don’t want to frighten you but picking mushrooms is serious business. It’s potentially dangerous if you pick the wrong one. You pick the wrong one and you may run the risk of getting terribly sick, or losing your liver or worse, losing your life.
I found one! Morels have a distinctive shape and color. They look like little brown pine cones on the forest floor. When hunting for morel mushrooms, be mindful of where you walk, you just might step on one!
A bowl of fresh picked morels… I just now need to trim up the stems and briefly soak them in salt water to eliminate little bugs or debris. I will dry or freeze what we will not use within the next few days.
With some of our fresh picked morels I made a lovely Wild Morel Mushroom Risotto. My Morel Mushroom Risotto is a deliciously creamy blend of arborio rice, morel mushrooms, onion, garlic, thyme, chicken stock, white wine and fresh shaved Parmesan cheese. Enjoy! Tessa
- 1 cup arborio rice
- 1 Tbs olive oil
- 1 onion (chopped)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 4 to 5 cups chicken stock (hot)
- 1 cup morel mushrooms (chopped)
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
- 2 – 3 cups morels (sliced)
- 1 1/2 tsp olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
Begin by heating the olive oil in a thick bottomed pot on medium heat. Saute the onion in the olive oil until cooked through or transparent. Add arborio rice and cook for a few minutes. Add white wine and stir constantly until wine has been absorbed by the rice. Add 1 cup of the hot chicken stock stirring until the liquid has been absorbed. Cook for at least 20 minutes adding remaining chicken stock one cup at a time. Add chopped morel mushrooms after about 15 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and add Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. The goal is for the arborio rice to make a thick and creamy sauce.
In a separate pan, quickly saute the 2 – 3 cups of sliced morel mushrooms in 1 1/2 tsp olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for a few short minutes. Remove from heat and ladle the sauteed morel mushrooms over the risotto mixture. Makes 4 servings.