Morel mushrooms a tasty treat

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Every spring my fiancé and I look forward to scavenging in the woods for our favorite Michigan delicacy, morel mushrooms. Although Michiganders experienced a lengthy winter and late spring this year, the morel mushrooms have come through and can be found throughout the state.

Morel mushrooms are a unique fungus with a distinctive cap that resembles honeycomb. When cleaned and cooked properly, this mushroom ignites the taste buds with its savory, umami flavor and sponge-like texture. This fungus is prized by chefs around the world and is commonly eaten fried or paired with butter and meat. In addition to their remarkable taste, morel mushrooms are low in calories and are an excellent source of vitamin D and iron. Five morel mushrooms rank at only 20 calories and provide 2g protein, 2g fiber, and 8mg iron.

In addition to its unique flavor and nutritional properties, this fungus is also considered a rarity due to its unique growing conditions. This is made evident by morel mushrooms’ staggering retail prices, which range from $200 to $900 per dried pound depending on the variety, origin, and availability. For this reason, these extravagantly priced fungi are often hunted for throughout the world.

Morel mushrooms are traditionally found during the spring months in Michigan They are found along forest floors near fallen bark or the decaying roots of elm trees. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, areas with previous wildfires and prescribed burns typically present large crops of morel mushrooms the following year.

Like all wild mushrooms, gatherers must be cautious of poisonous mushrooms. “False morels” are mushrooms very similar in appearance to edible morels and can cause illness or death. Before eating any wild morel mushrooms be sure to clean them thoroughly and identify if they are “false morels” with the Michigan State University Extension’s poisonous mushroom guide, “Don’t Pick Poison!”

Smoked Asparagus & Morel Mushroom Sauté

Makes 4 Servings

Ingredients:
2 slices applewood smoked bacon
6 oz fresh morel mushrooms, quartered
1 Tbsp salted butter
1 lb asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ cup green onion, thinly sliced

Directions:
1. In a large skillet, cook applewood smoked bacon over medium-high heat until crisp.
2. Remove bacon from pan and let cool. Reserve bacon grease.
3. Add butter to bacon grease and evenly coat pan.
4. Add quartered morel mushrooms to bacon grease and sauté for 4 minutes.
5. Add asparagus, salt, and pepper and sauté for an additional 5 minutes.
6. Remove skillet from heat and transfer ingredients to a serving dish.
7. Crumble applewood smoked bacon on top and garnish with green onion.

Nutrition (per 2/3 cup serving): 73 Calories, 5g fat, 11mg cholesterol, 5g carbohydrates, 3g fiber, 4g protein, 234mg sodium.

Recipe Modified from: http://www.myrecipes.com.


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