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Grim's Tales: No morels, but plenty of oysters

This spring came late, and with it came a late morel season.

I have a favorite morel hunting place deep in the woods that is marked by GPS so I can walk right to it every year.

I waited for rain and warm weather to correspond so I could hunt morels, and I wandered out to my mushroom spot. I was mosquito and tick bit. I found a baby porcupine, and I found tons of “half-free” morels, but I found only two tiny young morels. I left them and decided to come back later.

I returned a few weeks later, and the only morel I found was one of the ones I had found on my previous trip. This time, a deer had trampled it, so I picked it. I had similar luck when I went on a trip with the Paul Bunyan Mushroom Club. I guess it just wasn’t the year for morels.

I was given ample mushrooms on a day I wasn’t looking for them.

I was doing my weekly lawn mowing for a friend when her neighbor, a local santa, asked me to help identify some mushrooms growing on a poplar tree that broke in half a year or two ago.

There stood a colony of shelf fungi stretching from the ground to nearly 10 feet up the tree. I knew what the mushroom was from five feet away when the wind blew the scent of anise toward me.

I cut one of the mushrooms from the tree. I examined the way the gills extended from the tree all the way to the tip of the mushroom. I looked closely to see insects crawling in the gills, and I sniffed it again to check for the smell of black licorice.

Yup, these were oyster mushrooms.

I took three bags. I filled one with mushrooms that were pocked and full of white worms; I filled the other two with the cleanest mushrooms. There were still dozens of mushrooms when I stopped harvesting.

By the time I got home the smell of the mushrooms had shifted from licorice to fish. I cut the tough parts off of the mushroom, and discarded any pieces with tiny white worms crawling in them.

The rest were cut into pieces and soaked in saltwater brine like broccoli. I moved them to the dehydrator.