Morels, a mysterious gourmet fungus, popping up in Windsor

Morels, mysterious, fungal, gourmet delight is popping up in backyards and woodlots all over Windsor and Essex County.
Morels only grow in the wild and look different than the traditional mushroom. (Michael Evans/CBC News)

A mysterious, gourmet delight is popping up in backyards and woodlots all over Windsor and Essex County.

Morels are a fungus but not a traditional mushroom at all.

Unlike mushrooms, which have separate gilled caps, morels look much like a honeycomb.

It's worth the work once you taste it.- Lee Rabideau

They're not new, but they're rare.

Scientists and farmers haven't been able to figure out to cultivate morels in an agricultural setting. So in the wild is the only place to find them - if you can.

Lucky for fans of morels, there is a bumper crop of morels this spring, due to all of the rain and moisture.

Lee Rabideau is a local morel hunter.

When Rabideau first moved into his place in 1997, he had no idea what he stumbled upon.

"We were walking around and I saw this mushroom growing and it was the strangest looking mushroom," Rabideau said.

Not knowing what he stumbled across, he showed it to a colleague at the University of Windsor, to find out.

Now that he knows what to look for, Rabideau has been getting his fair share of morels this year, many of them growing in his own backyard.

"It's worth the hunt. It's worth the work, once you taste it," he said.

Rabideau describes morels as having a nutty, earthy flavour.

"You generally can't make anything huge or elaborate with them so you use them as little tastes and bites or morsels. you use them in a sauce or maybe some scrambled eggs or ... with a little bit of butter and some salt and pepper on some melba toast," Rabideau said.

Morels can be cooked up in butter in a frying pan. (Michael Evans/CBC News)

It's important to note, morels should never be eaten raw. They contain small amounts of hydrazine toxins, which are removed by cooking them thoroughly.

"I've gobbled them down in mounds and I've never had any problems," Rabideau said.

Because they can't be grown on a large scale, morels are not cheap. Rabideau figures they go for about $60 to $70 dollars a pound.

A 1999 report by the Ministry of Natural Resources found wild morels selling for $176 per kilogram.

"I think part of it is the mystique of them; the unavailability of them," Rabideau said.


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