Thursday, May 22, 2008

Elusive Morel Mushrooms are at their Peak

Wild about mushrooms and looking for a special ingredient to take an ordinary dish to the next level?

Intense earthy, smoky and nutty flavors characterize the taste of morel mushrooms. Just coming into season, the wild mushrooms are available fresh, hand-picked from the Pacific Northwest for overnight delivery from Morels can add a very distinct flavor profile to almost any meal ranging from simple breakfast egg dishes to elegant multi-course dinners.

From the same family as truffles, morels are a delicacy packed with flavor and need little, if any, embellishment. They are also visually stunning and will add the “wow” factor to any dish.

“Morels alone can be the star of a meal,” said Justin Marx, CEO of “One of my favorite ways to cook them is roasted whole with heirloom potatoes and onions. Seasonal items like this are available for such a short time, and they’re so flavorful, that they make a truly special wild ingredient that will stimulate any meal. I really look forward to this time of year.”

Morels from are #1 grade, meaning each mushroom is a whole, young specimen with white stems, and free of blemishes. They are pristine and beautiful.

Making appearances in famous restaurant cookbook’s, such as French Laundry’s recipe for scallops with morel and asparagus puree, to being a common ingredient in soups and sauces, wild morel mushrooms are extraordinary enough for special meals or celebrations, but are addictive, yet simple enough to incorporate into every day dishes.

Morels stand out with their unique coral or brain-like, honeycomb shaped caps and smooth stems. The entire fungus, including the stem, is edible and can be cooked whole. The mushrooms vary in size from one to four inches.

“Being that this is a wild plant, the yield can really fluctuate depending on several variables including growing cycles, temperature and rain. Therefore the availability and price can rise and fall throughout the season. Morels are a very special product and it’s worth it to keep an eye on prices and jump on any opportunity when they’re most widely available,” said Marx. “We expect prices to continue falling as availability increases.”

Although morels are traditionally used in French cooking, they have a wide range of applications. Perfect as a side dish roasted or combined with other vegetables or as an ingredient to top steak, poultry, seafood, or a variety of meats, the smoky and earthy flavor will completely change the profile of any meal. Morels are also an ideal ingredient in pasta, risotto, pizza, stuffing, stew, soup, stock, sauces or salad. They made an exotic appetizer and can be stuffed, wrapped in puff pastry, sautéed or fried.

Morel mushrooms will stay fresh for up to ten days if stored correctly, refrigerated in a paper bag. If not cooked fresh, the mushrooms can be dried, frozen, par sautéed in oil and frozen, or canned and will maintain their intense flavor for months to come.

Before cooking, soak or heat the mushrooms in a 140 degree Fahrenheit oven to ensure they’re completely rid of bugs. If bugs aren’t an issue, the whole mushroom can be gently cleaned by using a mushroom or un-used paint brush to remove dirt.

Morels grow abundantly in the few years following a forest fire and can grow in small batches year after year. Pacific Northwest morels can be blonde or grey in color depending on the specific habitat in which they are discovered.

Below is a winning recipe from the mushroom recipe contest. The recipe is simple, yet delicious and the morels really shine. To view all the recipe entries, visit our index.

Morels with Scallops and Asparagus
By Albert J. Casciero
8 large fresh Scallops
36 Morels (this number depends on their size)
(Dry morels, reconstituted in water could also be used)
12 Asparagus
1 tsp of minced Shallot,
6oz heavy cream
4oz of unsalted butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Brush clean the morels, and slice them length wise or leave whole depending on their size. Clean the asparagus and peel or snap the lower part. Dust the scallops lightly with flour.
Steam or boil the asparagus to an “al dente” consistency. You may wish to sauté them slightly in butter before serving.
On a sautéing pan, melt the butter, put in the shallot and sauté for about 1 min. Add the morels and toss to coat them well with butter, (depending on the freshness of the mushroom, you may want to add some more butter, now or at the end, to have sufficient sauce for the asparagus).
Add the scallops and sauté about a minute on each side (Make sure not to overcook them). Then add the cream, cover the pan and cook for about 4 minutes, turning the scallops once. Watch carefully not to overcook the scallops and if necessary add more cream and butter.
Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve on a hot plate, napping the asparagus with sauce.

Wild morel mushrooms are currently in season along with fiddlehead ferns, ramps, Pacific Halibut, and wild Alaskan Salmon.

Individual consumers can purchase fresh morel mushrooms and other seasonal mountain-picked wild produce, online at

Marx, headquartered in Seattle, Wash. is an online specialty food company dedicated to bringing the highest quality epicurean products directly to the consumer’s doorstep. For a decade, it has been selling to white tablecloth restaurants nationwide. Items now available to consumers include a variety of truffles, truffle products, fresh wild mushrooms, Artisanal ravioli, game meat, grass-fed beef & veal, sausage, game birds, seafood, sea vegetables, wild produce, farmstead cheese, oils, grains, seeds, and eco-friendly palm leaf dinnerware. To ensure freshness, most products are shipped via Federal Express overnight.

If you don’t see what you’re looking for, special requests are welcome by calling (866) 588-MARX. Not sure what to buy the food lover in your life? Gift certificates are available.

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