Celebrating the State Mushroom!

Perhaps the most anticipated spring crop event in Minnesota is morel season. It’s our state mushroom (officially named so in 1984)! A reminder of morel season made me take a break from enjoying the spring azalea blossoms in Washington, DC this week to sneak a peek of the morel goings-on back home.

The 29th Annual Morel Mushroom Festival is taking place in Muscoda, Wisconsin, Saturday and Sunday, May 14-15, 2011. In addition to eating morels, attendees can participate in activities such as a mushroom contest and a morel mushroom art fair.

You can also attend a morel dinner at Kitchen Window on May 12 at 6 p.m. Kitchen Window instructor Ben McCallum will share a morel-based menu while teaching preparations designed to highlight the umami of Minnesota’s state mushroom. Tickets are $70 each.

For a limited time, you’ll soon be able to find fresh morels at your local market or co-op, but they can cost as much as $50/lb. Splitting with others can soften the blow.

You might get lucky and find morels in your own backyard. In early spring, when the temperature is higher than 70 degrees and it has rained in the past week, keep your eyes peeled, especially around dead elm trees. I’ve never been so lucky, but I know a few people who have found morels growing around dead elm trees in their backyards—right in the heart of Minneapolis.

Foraging for morels can be fun and fascinating, but beware of impostors. Be sure to educate yourself by attending a class with the Minnesota Mycological Society or reading more about morels.

Take some time to enjoy our state mushroom this spring, whether you attend a morel event, split a pound with some friends, or hunt for some in your own backyard.