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Hunting morels: Thanks to the small number of us who feed the rest, there’s more time for noble pursuits

By Rebecca French Smith

I have worn glasses since the sixth grade. That said, even with corrected sight I find the Missouri morel an extremely elusive variety of mushroom to hunt. Everything blends together in monochromatic tones of brown on the forest floor to me, and finding that spongy texture is more difficult for some than others.
I didn’t grow up eating fried morels, but in my husband’s family the tasty treat was almost a staple each spring – breaded, fried and served up hot.
To this day, his brother is still the king of finding morels, and he delivers plastic grocery sacks full to family members – when he has extra, of course.
Feeling guilty for taking his stock, we have offered to help him hunt, if he’d but show us where to go. He smiles, points vaguely in the air and indicates somewhere “over there.”
Serious mushroom hunters have hunting grounds in the woods and rural areas, and they guard the knowledge of the fertile spots like buried treasure.
That’s okay. I’m perfectly content with whatever we get because time constraints are an issue and mushroom hunting doesn’t usually make it to the top of my to-do list. I am thankful that grocery stores and farmers’ markets are open to fill my needs. But that convenience means more than putting food on my family’s table.
It’s hard to imagine what the world would be like without farmers growing food for us. Much time is spent criticizing or building up one growing method over another or pointing out that something could be done better, and we take for granted the luxury that we can have those conversations. Our ancestors spent a great deal of their time, if not the majority, finding or growing food.
On Daddy’s Tractor (www.daddystractor.com), a blog about family farming in DeKalb County, the blogger recently wrote a post entitled “If You Have a Career, Thank a Farmer”.
The post was one in which she focused on the fact that “once upon a time you had two career choices – hunter or gatherer.”
Indeed. Today, the fact that 2 percent of the U.S. population grows the food, fiber and fuel for the other 98 percent is astonishing and frees up food-finding schedules for other noble pursuits, like learning the art of mushroom hunting.
It’s a good thing my family doesn’t depend on my ability to hunt and gather morels to feed them. They might starve. They are grateful for farmers and generous uncles, as am I.

Rebecca French Smith, of Columbia, is a multimedia specialist for the Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.

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