You know Spring has truly arrived when the local gourmet butcher is proudly showing off a big basket of  this little honeycomb-textured delicacy!  As a nutritionist my idea of a “splurge” isn’t a new pair of shoes or a new lippy. It almost always revolves around food—a cooking mag, some amazing fresh seafood or a prime piece of organic eye fillet. Today is probably one of the most special treats—a handful of morel mushrooms. The elusive little morel  was once a grand price that only those who spent hours foraging the forest floor were able to experience. How lucky we are that they can now be found at markets and specialty grocers!

Because morels are difficult to cultivate and are very fragile, they tend to carry a hefty price tag. But because they are so full of flavour, a little goes a long way. A small handful is likely to cost you around $10…which is still a lot less that that new pair of shoes!  Morels are also highly perishable, so if possible, purchase on the day you’re going to use them. If you need to store them, it’s best to keep them in a paper bag so they don’t get moist and spoil. Some say morels are “naturally clean” but I prefer to do it properly. The key to keeping the flavour is to clean them just before use by giving them a bit of a shake, then swish them quickly in cold water and quickly dry them off—very carefully!

Morels have a wonderful nutty flavour and while not a nutritional powerhouse like some (the shiitake for instance) they do provide B vitamins, Vitamin D, potassium, magnesium and iron!

Morels pair well with many things—asparagus, white fish, pastas. These will be prepared simply by sautéing in garlic and stock,  served with an organic beef eye fillet, blanched green beans and  a rocket salad. Yummo!

Special note on foraging: I’m not a mushroom forager—I leave that to the experts. There are too many mushrooms that have toxic look-a-likes and the morel is no exception. Unless you are very experienced, it’s best to buy from a reputable source. The price you pay for the mushroom is much smaller than the price you pay for accidentally picking and eating one that’s poisonous.