If you live in the Charlotte, N.C. area, it’s time to be watching the green edges of the woods or fields for morels, Morchella esculenta, the prince of wild mushrooms.
Morels are so precious some mushroom hunters won’t even tell their own families where they nabbed their finds.
For the novices, this is not a tricky mushrom to identify. There are false morels, but you will know the real deal by the pitted cap and the completely hollow interior. Slice it longways and you’ll see nothing but empty space. They are unpredictable in their growth pattern — one year you’ll find a feast, another year in the same spot, nothing — but they may be found near old ash, oak or apple trees or by dying elms. Carry them home in a basket or mesh bag so any spores that drop find their way to the forest floor. Submerge in several changes of water and swish to remove soil and insects. Drain thoroughly. You can cook them as you do other mushrooms but a favorite method is to dredge in flour with salt and pepper sprinkled in and fry in butter. Rich, steak-like indulgence. And remember, shhhhh! Don’t tell anyone about your special spot.