Eat Local! Morels

Delicious black morel mushrooms in skillet on rustic wooden table top view. Diet vegetarian food.

The mushroom – this seemingly simple and easily overlooked food is far from ordinary. Bursting with nutrients and a rich history, mushrooms can offer a tasty and “meaty” addition to your diet. Although we consider mushrooms to be part of the vegetable food group, they are technically classified as fungi. Cultures around the world have used mushrooms for their anti-aging and healing powers throughout history. 

Packed with nutrients and very few calories, mushrooms offer up a tasty umami-like flavor to many dishes. Rich in B vitamins, the minerals selenium, potassium, and iron, and bursting with antioxidants, mushrooms offer up a nutrient-dense package that can keep your immune system thriving and your skin glowing. They are also an excellent source of vitamin D, which many of us living in North Idaho do not get enough of in the winter. 

Of the thousands of wild mushroom varieties, only 2-5% are safe to eat, so take care and go with an experienced mushroom hunter when foraging. Spring is a great time to take to the woods and forage for morel mushrooms. Morels and their characteristic honeycomb-like heads can be found in the spring and summer. Drying morels intensifies their woodsy flavor. Try sautéing morels in a little butter, garlic, and sprinkling with fresh thyme for a tasty topper to pasta or rice dishes, or simply as an accompaniment to meat.

Check out this tasty and easy spring pasta recipe from NYT Cooking:

Pasta with Morels, Peas, and Parmesan 

Yield: 2 servings Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • Salt and ground black pepper
  • ½ cup fresh shelled peas
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ¼ pound morels, about 8 medium
  • 8 ounces pasta
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan

PREPARATION

  1. Bring to a boil 2 pots of water, one small and one large, and salt both. Cook the peas for 1 minute in the small pot; drain and cool quickly by submerging in ice water.
  2. Meanwhile, melt half the butter in a skillet. Cut the morels into 4 pieces each, the long way, and brown them lightly in the butter, seasoning them with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook the pasta in the large pot until it is nearly done. Just before draining, toss the peas and remaining butter with the morels and turn the heat to medium. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water. Toss the pasta with the morels and peas, adding a little water if necessary to make the mixture saucy. Toss with the Parmesan and lots of black pepper and serve immediately.
Tagliatelle with morel mushrooms

Article by Natalie Colla, CDE, RDN, LDN. Natalie is a Registered Dietitian, Certified Diabetes Educator, and food and health blogger. Follow her foodie adventures at www.plantasticeating.com