Morels are finished for the year, but these dandy coral mushrooms are coming up now!
While morels are very desirable and lots of folks hunt for them, corals are more abundant, larger, and not too well known among most foragers. Corals are much easier to spot than morels and their flavor is mild and delicious.
Coral mushrooms remind me of cauliflower as they have a thick central stalk like the vegetable. The stalk is tender and tasty just like the rest of the mushroom.
Corals often grow in groups and are usually as large as a softball although smaller and larger specimens are found and they can appear singly, as well.
They seem to be most often found in shallow depressions in the forest floor. To harvest corals slice an inch or two below the soil level (morels are sliced just above soil level so as to not destroy the mycelium from which they sprout).
A paint brush is a handy tool to carry for brushing off excess clumps of soil - not necessary with morels.
A sink full of delicious coral mushrooms that will be cleaned and frozen for use all Winter.
To prepare corals for freezing, I use an old clean toothbrush and sometimes trim away an eighth-inch of the branching tips if soil is resistant to removal. I also pull the clump apart into more manageable pieces for easier cleaning. The spray attachment on my kitchen faucet is invaluable for washing hard-to-reach areas.
After a good washing, I lay the mushrooms on a clean towel to drain for an hour or so. Packed into snack-size Ziploc's, they're then packed into gallon-size Ziploc's for freezing. To use, simply remove a snack bag or two, thaw, drain, and cook to perfection!
This year I gathered two gallons of corals! There are more out there but I have enough for my needs until next Spring.
One of my favorite ways to enjoy corals, besides as an accompaniment to meat and veggies, and in omelets and quiches, is to saute them in butter or olive oil along with sliced shallots, thyme, a little salt and pepper, and if desired, a wee "de-glaze" with a little dry white vermouth. I like the vermouth because it has a subtle sherry flavor that doesn't overwhelm the mushrooms' delicate taste. Any mild, dry wine will work, but just a little is all that's needed. Then, allow the wine to cook off until all moisture is gone.
Then, brush a little olive oil or melted butter onto a slice of artisan bread - French or sourdough are great - and toast until golden. Top with your cooked mushrooms! A Caesar salad is a nice accompaniment, and of course a chilled beverage of your choice - champagne or a chilled, crisp white wine are traditional.
Coral crostini is a quick, easy, tasty repast for one or two with salad, or as an appetizer for several dinner guests. If you don't have coral mushrooms, use whatever type you like.
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Apple blossom endings
The feast of apple blossoms outside my balcony is over along with morel mushrooms until next Spring. The morels have dried and withered to forest mulch. The apple blossoms have yellowed and dried and are falling with each breath of wind. Bees search fruitlessly now for hints of pollen and nectar, disappointed that this banquet is gone.
The tree is now a soothing sea of green hosting birds and hiding the twiggy and tatty nests inhabited by eggs and the newly hatched.
Beginnings and endings. Change of seasons and self. Transformation is the rule of Nature and of ourselves. If you don't like something - or if you do - wait a bit and it will change, evolve, transform. Thus, is life forever interesting, entertaining and engaging!