Editor’s note: Tomorrow I will be busy kayaking north from the LIC Community Boathouse to honor the Amazing Bronx River Flotilla and the great work of the Bronx River Alliance and then hopping around free arts and entertainment events in LIC after that, so Nature Calendar won’t have a Saturday post. So here’s a second Friday entry. I hope you enjoy it.
Where is NYC’s Morel Minority?
By Erik Baard
One extremely rare sighting in New York City is that of Wildman Steve Brill being humbled by a hunt for a wild vegan edible. Let’s make that occurrence even rarer by helping out one of the best friends populist urban ecology will ever find.
While reading through Steve’s always fun and educational website, I was a little dismayed to come across this passage:
Living in NYC, I find large quantities of a variety of mushrooms in our many parks, but morels are rare here, or I don’t have the eye for them. We find them only rarely on my tours, and people who know where they grow don’t give away the locations.
At very least we know that morels are to be found in Central Park, as reported by Gary Lincoff, author of National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. They can thrive on path edges, especially in the presence of soil with limestone. One reason morels might be rare in New York City is that they aggressively colonize areas of wet ash after forest fires, and particularly love dead elm trees. Our city does all it can to prevent both circumstances. But in other regions they are so common that farming can’t yet compete with foraging even for supplying the commercial market.
If sympathy for Steve doesn’t move your hard cityslicker heart, let enlightened self interest kick in: sautéed morels are famously delicious (scroll down Steve’s page to the edible wild mushroom section), adding a deep and rich flavor to soups, casseroles, stir fries, and stews. Just make sure you cook them for at least 15 minutes, Steve warns, to avoid getting “quite ill.”
As always, please consult with an experienced naturalist before you eat wild finds. So, here’s a fair deal: hunt for morels, and share a sample (or at least a good digital photo) with Steve. If he spares you a terrible, regrettable inedible (or simply gives you the peace of mind of a “bon appetit!), you might return the kindness by not leaving him to stew in the shame of his immorelity.