This evening my friend Jim and I drove out to a forest preserve on the outskirts of Chicago to go on a morel hunt with a local mushrooming group.
I have been obsessed with the idea of mushroom hunting for a while, so when we arrived a few minutes late to the forest preserve parking lot, I freaked out because no one was there. I was so worried that we had missed the event altogether. Luckily, a few somewhat experienced people from the group showed up a few minutes after we got there and stopped any chance of me hyperventilating or crying from disappointment.
With the two people that had arrived, Jim and I set out into the forest to find some fungus. At first we didn't see anything—just the beautiful spring flowers, lush undergrowth, and bright green color of the forest—but eventually Jim found something. Don, one of the people with us, confirmed that what he found was indeed a small morel. More specifically, as we later learned, it was a half-free morel.
How amazing! And just a few seconds later Jim found another little morel right nearby. I was determined to find one of my own so I circled the elm tree we were near, and found, much to my great happiness, a big half-free morel, about four inches in length.
Just as we found these mushrooms some of the other club members found us and came over to greet us. I shared that my morel was the first one I had ever found, and a grey-haired fellow also named Jim, the seeming leader of the group, said that I needed to start singing the corresponding song, which was, of course, "The First Morel" as sung to the tune of the similarly named Christmas tune. Ah, mushroom people are nerds. I love it.
Anyways, about 20 minutes after our first proud discoveries it started to rain. No, I should say it started to rain heavy drenching sheets so we had to make a mad dash to our car.
But that was okay. We had four half-free morels in our possession, which we brought home and cooked up. Just as the older Jim had promised, they weren't the best tasting mushrooms in the world—sort of flowery tasting, not strongly flavored—but that was okay. We found something edible in the forest, and that was certainly cool enough.