Tuesday, May 18, 2010


May brings the illusive morel mushroom to southern Wisconsin. Muscoda, the self-proclaimed morel capitol of Wisconsin, hosts a festival in honor of the ‘shroom each year. Our afternoon’s mission: a festival, a taste, and a quest.

Muscoda (pronounced Musk-a-day) lies along the Wisconsin River. Following the gently curving Lower Wisconsin River Road to the festival brought glimpses of the slow-moving river through floodplain forest and a string of small towns. Festival booths lined several blocks of Main Street, a wide thoroughfare with ample parking for cars and low-slung Harleys. Leather-clad bikers shared picnic tables with fresh-faced tikes; Mennonite women served home-made pastries to passer-bys. The latest energy-balancing iTouch technology sat next to the best Kettle corn in the county.

The highlight for everyone, though, was the mushrooms. We queued up along the sidewalk outside of City Hall in anticipation of a taste. Enthusiastic chefs manned three industrial-size cast-iron skillets, sautéing the fungi to perfection in butter. Mushrooms, no matter how they are cooked, are chewy; these were no different. Each dripping forkful, though, held a nutty flavor on the tongue, earning “yums” from everyone.

Secret number one: cook with lots of butter.

Magicians rarely reveal the secrets of their trade. Neither do experienced mushroom hunters. They all have their “spots”, nothing but generalities for us novices and certainly no maps. Look for dead elms (but not too dead), south-facing slopes, and get your “eyes on”. We picked close-by Governor Dodge State Park for our quest. I was glad we hit the festival first because we came up empty handed. What we did find was: four different kinds of fungi, a field of purple lupines, waterfalls, and best of all, easy camaraderie on a picture-perfect Wisconsin spring day.

Secret number two: Butter up an expert before you go hunting.

Images: CartoGeek, Muscoda, Wisconsin and Governor Dodge State Park, 2010

No comments:

Nature Blog Network