In Relentless Pursuit of Morels

It’s not like we lay about on our sofas all winter eating bon-bons. The island is a bustling little community all year long, with residents busy in their endeavors. But as soon as the snow melts and sunshine invades ourSand in My Sheets by Elaine West homes (and hearts) earlier each morning, we go into what I term full fledged egg-beater mode. That is, we attached that kitchen implement to our posteriors and start moving faster and faster toward the summer ahead.
There are a number of “rites of Spring” that propel us toward the season of visitors and a calendar packed with activities. Community members gather in large numbers for the Road Rally, the Citizen of the Year Banquet and the Easter Brunch at the Christian Church. One springtime ritual is the relentless search for morels, which happens each May.
Now, I’m talking morel mushrooms here. A year or so ago, someone not familiar with the island read that islanders were not finding many morels. This individual thought the word in question was “morals,” and wondered what kind of God forsaken place this was if the residents were having a hard time finding examples of “good and proper conduct.” They were greatly relieved to find out it was just edible fungus that was lacking in our community.
This year, in spite of the lack of springtime rain, morels raised their bumpy little heads in a population boom. Those who live and die for the few weeks of consuming the delicacy were happy campers, to say the least. They also have a tendency to be downright hostile if asked where they found a patch of the mushrooms. The successful morel hunter guards the location of their find as though it were a national treasure.
My hubby was taken aback when a normally nice person refused to even discuss the terrain a morel might thrive in. He came home from the encounter determined to go hunting himself. Armed with a little sack, he headed out into the woods near our house.
To my surprise, he was quite successful in his search. For a man who has difficulty locating our vacuum and can never find the stash of toilet paper to put on the roll, he did quite well in spotting the fungus in the brown/brown color scheme of spring. He returned in an hour with enough morels to make a nice side dish for a night or two. At dinner, he ate more than his share of the little buggers, but boy, did he pay for it.
Apparently, some people can have a rare but unpleasant reaction to the mushrooms. After about 24 hours of an intense flu-like condition, he was feeling pretty bad. And I, not exactly Florence Nightingale when it comes to dealing with an ill husband, tried to stencil DNR on his arm while he napped. (In this case DNR does not stand for Department of Natural Resources, but rather Do Not Resuscitate).
I was not totally unfeeling about his condition, however. Not wanting to have a repeat performance, I decided to take the remaining mushrooms back to the wild where they belong.
Armed with my walking stick and escorted by my canine clan, we searched the woods for a perfect spot. I felt a little like Mother Nature in that old margarine commercial; skipping through the forest and ready to scatter the spores of the morels in a likely location.
We won’t know of my success until next spring. But if I were a morel, I’d love the place and would thrive there in great and multiplying numbers. It’s not that I want to EAT the rubbery mushrooms. I just want poor hubby to be able to glare back triumphantly at another fungus hunter while he clutches a cloth bag full of the gnarly little things.
And if hubby DOES try to consume them again (he’s stubborn and I bet he will) just please remember what DNR really stands for. That’s it for morels…or morals, as the case may be!

Elaine West’s “Sand in My Sheets” – a humorous look at life on Beaver Island – appears each month in NorthernIslander.