The alarm was set for 8am, but we awoke at 5:45 to the gentle pitter-patter of rain. I rolled over and tried to fall back asleep, but Jenna was already riled up and rearing to go. The morels were summoning us. We listened.
I poured hot water over fresh coffee grounds, grabbed a to-go mug, and threw on my raincoat. The car thermometer read 61 degrees, prime morel range, as we sped off towards a yellow patch just outside city limits. I slugged down the rest of my coffee, and by the time we parked the car I was already in a frenzy. Only 36 hours had passed since the first rain shower that had disrupted the dry spell, and I feared we might be too early.
Morel hunting is not for the faint of heart. It is a high stakes enterprise, requiring an immense investment of time and energy. And of course, there is never any guarantee that you will find a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, even when the conditions seem most favorable.
I grew dizzy as we approached our spot. A quick scan of the ground revealed no obvious lumps or protrusions. I reassured myself that if there were morels, they would still be in their infancy, and would not be readily visible. I hunched over and began closely inspecting the ground, and suddenly a minute flash of pale yellow caught my eye. My stomach lurched, but before I could cry out triumphantly I noticed my find had tentacles. It turns out snails enjoy a nice spring rain just as much as morels do.
I started questioning my sanity, wondering why I struggle and strive so relentlessly only to find garden snails pathetically nibbling on grass. I thought of the mediocre 2012 foraging season, and wondered if this year would be any better. Jenna was off in the distance, gaze fixed on the ground, but the wide-eyed eagerness that had launched us out of bed this morning was gone. I wished we had waited another day.
“Ari. Ari? Ari!” The familiar sound of my name interrupted my brooding, and I figured Jenna was ready to head back home. Her tone was casual but confident, her voice hushed yet firm as I started walking in her direction. And then came the loudest whisper I have ever heard: “Morel!”
In Jenna’s hand lay the most dainty, pristine yellow morel I have ever seen. She had out-foraged me once again, but this was no time for petty competition. More mini-morels lurked just steps away, barely poking up above the blades of grass. Before I could even get a full head-count, Jenna had yanked me away from the spot. It was tempting to harvest them today, but we knew we had to wait at least another 24 hours to allow the bite-sized morsels to fatten up.
Hoping to watch the NBA playoff games this weekend? Or perhaps you fancy a few rounds of bowling to escape the rain? Drop all your plans and start hunting – the time is now.