Morel Mushrooms
Polski: Smardz stożkowaty
Kingdom: Fungi / Family: Morchellaceae / Genus: Morchella
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Mushrooms (asocarps of cap fungi) in the genus Morchella are commonly known as Morels or sponge mushrooms. They are highly prized by mushroom hunters, who sometimes jealously guard their favorite spots. The morels are famously used in French cuisine, and thousands of people take to the woods every year seeking these delicacies. The most sought-after is the aptly-named Morchella deliciosa, commonly known as 'the' morel. Other types may be referred to as gray, black, or yellow morels.

Morels typically grow abundantly in areas damaged by forest fire. These bumper crops may continue for two or three years after a fire, and commercial gatherers sometimes flock to the smoldering ashes in hopes of a cash crop. Morels also grow in the same locales year after year. Many afficianados claim a symbiotic relationship between certain trees (perhaps this is overflow from the Oak tree - Truffle relationship), most often ash, apple, and poplar. It will be interesting to note, in the coming years, whether the Emerald Ash Borer Beetle will have a negative effect on morel populations, as the beetle spreads and kills our ash trees by the millions. (Sadly, I have no doubt this will happen).

Although Fungi were once considered to be part of the plant kingdom, most experts now consider them to be a separate Kingdom or phylum. There are estimated to be over 100,000 different fungi, most of which form only tiny threads (Hypha) that can only be seen through a microscope. Of these, about 20,000 are considered to be high fungi or macro fungi, i.e. those that produce visible fruiting bodies. Only these are of any interest to the fungi enthusiast and covered in any detail, mostly of which belong to the subdivision Ascomycotina and Basidiomycotina.

CREAM OF CHICKEN WITH WILD MUSHROOM SOUP

1 1/2 gal. chicken stock and meat from chicken legs
1/2 c. (8 tbsp.) butter
1/2 c. flour
1/4 c. sherry
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
Sliced wild mushrooms (i.e. shitakes, chanterelles, morels)
1 c. sliced leeks (optional)
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/2 tsp. chopped thyme
1 pt. heavy cream (optional)


Melt butter in a stock pot, add flour and whisk to form a roux. Cook 5 minutes on low to medium heat. Slowly whisk in chicken stock. Simmer 10 minutes, stir in sherry (this is called a chicken veloute). In a separate pan, saute garlic leeks and mushrooms in fortified butter (oil and butter). Do not stir mushrooms until they are slightly browned on first side. Shake pan and saute until browned all around. Drain and add with cooked chicken meat to the creamed soup. Season to taste and add the chopped parsley last. (Cream may be added to produce a richer soup).

MOREL MUSHROOM SOUP 

 

4 c. morels, fresh
1 med. onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 c. asparagus, cooked
4 c. milk
4 tbsp. whole wheat flour

Salt & pepper to taste. Saute morels, onion and celery in a small amount of oil until barely tender. Stir in flour gradually, add milk, salt and pepper. Add cooked asparagus. Simmer until slightly thickened.

Mycorrhizal
Mycorrhizal fungi form a partnership mainly with trees but also with some plants, but rather then harming the tree, their presence significantly increases the roots' effectiveness. Fungi send their hyphae in and about the little rootlets of the tree until its difficult to tell them apart. The tree supplies the mycelium with moisture and carbohydrates, and the mycelium returns the favour with minerals and other nutrients from the surrounding soil. Mycorrhiza fungi are beneficial both in nature and agriculture; plants with them tend to grow better than those without.

Parasitic
Parasitic fungi are the second largest group, of whose members do a lot of serious damage. Rather than obtaining their food from dead animals or plants, they prefer a living host, often attacking and killing, it then living on as a saprophytic fungi.

Saprophytic
Saprophytic fungi are the largest group of fungi, they growing on dead organic matter such as fallen trees, cow patties, dead leaves, and even dead insects and animals. These fungi have enzymes that work to "rot" or "digest" the cellulose and lignin found in the organic matter, with the lignin being an important source of carbon for many organisms. Without their digestive activities, organic material would continue to accumulate until the forest became a huge rubbish dump of dead leaves and trees.

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