No matter how many morels one has found, the first find of the season is always a revelation. I’m making a pilgrimage to an old favorite ramp patch, following a trickling streambed up a craggy hillside of hickory, yellow birch, ash and beech. It still feels early for morels in northern Vermont’s hills and I’ve learned to pace myself, saving the epic hunts for peak conditions. But with the sweet smell of springtime in the air and the temperature pushing 80, I can’t help but slow down beneath a hefty ash tree that somehow feels just right for Morchella.

My instincts do not let me down. The familiar feeling of disbelief and awe hits me as I spot an unmistakable black, honeycombed pattern just barely poking up above the leaf litter. I bend down to find a pristine pair of black morels, humble creatures of the earth that somehow never fail to capture a certain timeless reverie and glee.

I am alone in the woods, pondering what would have been the 60th birthday of my mother, who passed away in 2013. The early morel find cuts through everything, and suddenly every inch of the forest floor bursts open with potential and wild richness, a transformed interior and exterior landscape. It’s an ineffable feeling every seasoned hunter knows, and any new mycophile can experience for themselves with enough patience and prudence. When the morels find you, all you can do is graciously accept the gift, harvesting humbly and returning the delight in an act of reciprocity.

That is what I did, picking one and sharing it among the three of us that evening. By sharing, I mean our almost four-year-old Eliana pretty much ate the whole thing, Jenna got a tiny bite, and this papa was left to soak up the morel-infused butter in the cast iron pan!

Now that my eyes are on, morels are everywhere. I even spotted two yellows curbside in Montpelier today as I walked over to pick up my car from an oil change. I prefer my morels to be growing in a forest rather than along a freeway, but these coveted mushrooms can be found just about anywhere. Of course, that does not mean finding them will be easy. Morel hunting is hard work – more than any other species, it can demand profound patience and practice, and an intuitive sense of ecological patterns and landscape that can take thousands of hours in the woods to develop.

Still, even for new hunters, there’s always the chance of a serendipitous surprise. With the temperature, timing and moisture finally just right throughout New England, now is the time to try your luck!

Northeastern ForageCast for the month of May