The morel of the story? It’s time to start foraging Irish mushrooms

Morels, with their unique honeycomb-like appearance, are one of nature’s true beauties

The structure of morels reminds me of a Gothic church. Photograph: Getty Images

The structure of morels reminds me of a Gothic church. Photograph: Getty Images

 

The only mushrooms I knew growing up were the little button ones you got in the supermarket or the even smaller ones that grew in the fields behind our house that made you feel like you just joined Alice down the rabbit hole.

I was unaware of the beautiful bounty that occupied our native woodlands, the wild edibles that had a long culinary tradition in Ireland. It seems the Vikings loved to make soup with them. The Celts before them probably added them to stews of rabbit or hare. Before that we can only guess how ancient immigrants choose to cook their mushrooms.

Most mushrooms grow in the autumn, except for a few prize ones that pop up in the spring. While it’s still a bit early for St George’s mushrooms, morels have started to appear in the last few weeks. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some at the many farmers markets that are dotted around the country. I see on Instagram that Ballyhoura mountain mushrooms have been selling in Mahon farmer’s market.

Surprise

Last week, a forager dropped some into Aniar. He had found them in Mayo. If you’ve never seen a morel, you’re in for a surprise. It truly is one of nature’s beauties. Its structure reminds me of a Gothic church. I’m always fascinated how nature produces these shapes. Morels have a distinctive honeycomb appearance, due to the network of ridges with pits composing its wonderful fruit body.

A classic combination of morels is either in a thick creamy tagliatelle or with chicken. Both have white wine in their base. For a nice Irish twist, I think a dry cider is a suitable alternative.

Fry your morels in a little oil. Then add equal parts chicken stock and cider, say about 300ml in total. Reduce by half and then add a good 150ml of cream. Bring to the boil and then season with sea salt.

This sauce goes well with pan-fried chicken or even to accompany a whole roast chicken. Of course, morels are wonderful by themselves, fried in duck fat and fresh thyme.

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