Friday, May 02, 2008

Reprise on Morels!

April showers bring May flowers. And May morels.

Sam Consylman called last night to say the heavy rains earlier this week in Lancaster County caused an explosion of morels. Indeed, Sam quipped that he "ate $10,000 worth" over the last few days. At $85/pound, that's a lot of mushrooms (more than 117 pounds' worth). Okay, so maybe Sam was indulging in a bit of hyperbole, at least in terms of his personal mushroom consumption. But I have no doubt of his account of the dramatic increase in morel availability.

Sam said most of what he's picking now are white morels, morella deliciosa (the scientific name says it all), which is the immature version of the yellow morel, morella esculenta. Expect to find them at Earl Livengood's center court stall at the Reading Terminal Market Saturday. You can find my recipe for morel cream sauce at the end of this post.

The Fair Food Farmstand does lots of good works, but it loses a gazillion points for murdering the English language when it insists on calling fiddlehead ferns "wildcrafted," just as it labeled dandelions last week. What's wrong with "wild-harvested" or "foraged" or "gathered"? Does everything have to be made? Can't we just have a eureka moment and "find" things? I want to know what, precisely Vollmecke Orchards (the Coatesville CSA which sold the ferns to Fair Food) did to "craft" these lovely spring veggies?

In any event, you can obtain some nice, freshly harvested fiddleheads there. (At least you could Thursday afternoon. Last week the stand sold out its 10-pound allotment in a few hours.) If Fair Food sells out, walk over to Iovine Brothers. Jim Iovine expected to have them on hand this week, although they will be pricey. Fair Foods was selling them for $17/pound. Jim Iovine hadn't received his when we spoke yesterday, so he couldn't quote a firm price, but figured Fair Food's price isn't far off the mark. I serve them steamed or, after parboiling, sautéed, usually with garlic, though combining them with ramps can't be a bad thing. Just go easy on the ramps so as not to overpower the fiddleheads. To prep the fiddleheads, just remove any papery feathers you might find by rubbing them off and rinse.

Iovine also expected more deliveries of ramps for this weekend, which have been selling for $3.99 a bunch. That's enough to sauté in bacon fat for home fries with a couple of medium-sized potatoes, though two bunches would be better. Be sure to use the leaves as well as the bulbs.

Headhouse Opens

Reminder: The farmers' market at Head House Square opens for the season this Sunday. Hours are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Morels In Cream Sauce

Serve this over your favorite pasta (I think it works better with vermicelli or linguine rather than thicker ones such as penne). It also works over toast points. A good, crispy Riesling pairs wonderfully with a cream sauce. I enjoyed a Hermann Wiemer 2007 Dry Riesling (Finger Lakes) with this sauce over vermicelli. It's not a cheap dish to make, since the morels for a single serving will set you back $10 or more per person. You can trim the costs by cutting back on morels and adding other mushrooms, fresh or dried. If dried, use the strained reconstituting liquid to provide a flavor boost. (You might be tempted to add some grated cheese to the cream sauce as it finishes; I restrained myself because I think it interferes with the morels' flavor. A little bit of thyme, salt and pepper are all the sauce needs.)

To produce enough for one serving (the recipe scales up easily), I halved three or four ounces of Sam's morels lengthwise and let them sit in some well-salted cold water for a couple of hours, then removed to paper towels to let them air dry a bit. (The soaking helps rid the morels of any tiny litter critters that might linger, though I've yet to see any in Sam's harvest.) Start cooking by sweating a minced shallot in butter over medium-low head, then adding the morels to sauté over a medium-high heat. After four of five minutes, when the morels are just starting to brown, remove them (morels tend to discolor cream when cooked together). To the pan add about four or five ounces of heavy cream with some thyme and reduce over medium-low heat by half, adding salt and pepper to taste toward the end. Return the morels to the pan to reheat, then add drained pasta to the pan and toss, or serve over toast points.


Sarah said...

Hi Bob! Though Wildcrafted at first sounded a little 'precious,' to me, it is in fact a program regulated by The Organic Food Production Act of 1991. Indulge me: Wikipedia says, "Wildcrafting is the practice of harvesting plants from their natural, or "wild" habitat, for food, medicinal, or other purposes. It applies to uncultivated plants wherever they may be found, and is not necessarily limited to wilderness areas. Ethical considerations are often involved, such as protecting endangered species.
When wildcrafting is done sustainably with proper respect, generally only the branches or flowers from plants are taken and the living plant is left, or if it is necessary to take the whole plant, seeds of the plant are placed in the empty hole from which the plant was taken. Care is taken to only remove a few plants, flowers, or branches, so plenty remains to continue the supply.
Wildcrafted plants are regulated by The Organic Food Production Act of 1991. Harvesters must designate the area they are harvesting and provide a three-year history of the area that shows no prohibited substances have been applied there. A plan for harvesting must show that the harvest will sustain the wild crop. No prohibited substances can be added by processors."

So, I hope you will give us back those 'gazillion' points you took from us for all the hard work our organization does - come on!!!

See you tomorrow morning! Sarah Cain, Fair Food Farmstand

Bob Libkind said...

Thanks for the research,
Sarah. I tried to find the OFPA online to read what it says, but couldn't. Nor did a search of the USDA web site turn up much: there were a few references to "wildcrafted" but no definitions.

I'm glad to know "wildcrafted" wasn't invented by the Fair Food Farmstand or its supplier, so my critique was obviously misdirected.

But you only get back half a gazillion points. Just because the term is government sanctioned doesn't mean you have to use it. Especially when that encompasses linguistic deceits.

The intention behind "wildcrafted" may be laudable, but the language remains deplorable. It really doesn't matter who or what organization "crafted" this nomenclature, it remains an abuse of language and meaning.

What's wrong with "sustainably-gathered" or "sustainably-harvested"? Such a construction takes advantage of the established usage of "sustainable" in the food-agriculture context. Using "craft" clearly means it was made by human hands, but neither fiddleheads nor dandelions nor ramps are made by human hands.

"Wildcrafted" remains an oxymoron only a bureaucrat or marketing could love.

Bob Libkind said...

The last line of my response should have read: ""Wildcrafted" remains an oxymoron only a bureaucrat or marketer could love."

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