Morels are spring mushrooms. They pop as early as January or February and Greece has an excellent early season.
Morels need high temperatures somewhere around 60 degrees, and lows somewhere around 40 degrees to pop. They tend to hang around trees, but a flush can spread from a particular tree for a long way. Where we hunt them, morels like to live with a pretty orange cup fungus; it’s some species of peziza.
- 4-6 ounces fresh morel mushrooms
- 8 ounces fiddleheads or asparagus tips
- 1 cup farro or barley
- 1 quart vegetable broth
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 cup peas
- 2 tablespoons minced green garlic, or 1 large clove of regular garlic
- 1/2 cup pickled ramp bulbs, or the white parts of spring onions
- 1 cup miner’s lettuce, or baby spinach
Slice the morels in half lengthwise and drop them into a bowl of cool water. Swish them around a little, then let them float while the debris trapped in them sinks. Some debris will also float, however, so carefully pick out the mushrooms and put them on a tea towel to dry.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add enough salt to make it taste like the sea. Clean your fiddleheads and boil them 5 minutes, then drop them into a bowl of clean ice water. Once they are cool, move them to the tea towel next to the morels to dry. Don’t mix them because you will cook each ingredient separately.
Bring the broth to a boil and add the farro. Add salt to taste and simmer this gently — you want the broth to just barely be bubbling — until the farro is tender. Drain the farro and put it into a large bowl with the peas, which will cook with the residual heat of the grain. Mix in 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Heat a large saute pan over high heat for 2 minutes. Add the morels and shake the pan so they don’t all stick immediately. Shaking the pan, let the morels sizzle and give up their water, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining olive oil and toss to combine. Saute the morels for 2 minutes. Add the fiddleheads and sprinkle salt over everything in the pan. Saute 2 more minutes.
Add the morels and fiddleheads to the bowl with the farro, then add the pickled ramps and green garlic. Stir in the miner’s lettuce or baby spinach. Serve hot or at room temperature.