There are those activities like fishing for trout that one can devote a morning, an afternoon, even a full day to and never capture as much as a glimpse of the bespeckled fish. That is of no consequence to the devote practitioner who gains as much – if not more – from the activity as he does from the physical prize that might be hers on any given day. The joy of adventure is in the doing.
Last week, our friend Bonnie introduced us to mushroom hunting, specifically for morels. After three outings, I consider it like trout fishing. As you can spend hours on the river and never get a bite, you can spend hours walking the woods and never see a morel, yet the activity is always worth the effort. Time in the woods – like time on the river – brings a peace and solitude one can experience nowhere else.
Trout have their favorite resting places in the river, just like morels traditionally grow year after year in specific locales, most often near the base of dead elm trees. Like trout fishing, it takes patience and a keen eye to hunt the morel, but the physical reward is great if you are skilled and/or lucky enough to end the day with mushrooms in your bag. Mrs. tVM and I ventured into the woods four times last week in search of the prize and returned with an empty bag only once.
- Low in Calories and Fat – A 1-cup serving of raw morel mushrooms only contains 20 calories and provides 2 grams of protein, 0.4 grams of fat and 3.4 grams of carbohydrates, including 1.8 grams of fiber.
- High in Iron and Phosphorus – Morels provide a significant amount of iron and phosphorus. Eat a cup of morels, and you will have consumed 8 milligrams of iron — the recommended dietary allowance for adult men. (Women under 55 still need another 10 milligrams in their diet.) Getting enough iron in your diet will help prevent anemia, as iron is essential to form the red blood cells that transport oxygen throughout your body. Phosphorus also helps deliver oxygen and plays a role in forming strong bones and DNA.
- Rich in Vitamin D – Although not many foods are natural sources of vitamin D, you get about 100 international units of vitamin D in each cup of morel mushrooms you eat. You need vitamin D for proper immune function as well as for absorbing calcium to form strong bones. Getting plenty of vitamin D in your diet may help lower your risk for osteoporosis, cancer, type-2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and high blood pressure.
- Antioxidant All-Star – Morel mushrooms provide a significant amount of antioxidants. Consuming foods high in antioxidants may help prevent some health problems, including heart disease and cancer, as these substances help keep other substances called free radicals from damaging your cells.
In addition to all of those positive health benefits, morels are easy to cook and delicious! I cook them in a cast iron skillet with no butter or oil at medium-high heat. After browning them in their own natural juice that comes out with the heat, I add a pat of butter, a bit of minced garlic and – my secret ingredient – a few healthy shots of soy sauce. The morels will complement any meal.
Years ago when we lived in Tucson, Mrs. tVM and I made weekly forays into the desert to collect and harvest prickly pear fruit, jojoba nuts, wolfberries and – my favorite – hackberries. We even collected interesting stones we found in the washes, horseshoes, barbed wire, and even javelina skulls. Truth be told, our countless hours in the desert brought inner peace, overall contentment, and solace unachievable through any other activity. Regardless of where you live, there is a nearby treasure waiting to be found. Seek it and remember, the joy of adventure is in the doing. Can’t wait for the summer to hunt wild berries in the Wisconsin woods!