With only a few weeks left up here on the Kenai Peninsula, Tom and I decided to stretch our legs and explore the Swan Lake fire scar in search of some tasty little mushrooms.
The long weekend for Memorial Day is a special time of year to me and my husband. Since our arrival in Wrangell half a dozen years ago, we have used this weekend to visit our favorite off island cabin. It symbolizes the first bounty of the land in our house and we use our get away to collect spruce tips for drinks and jams, fish for Kings (when it's allowed), hunt bear and set our pots for the first time. This year, we were forced to miss this yearly trip while on assignment away from home. To make up for it, we went out in search of another Alaskan bounty.
As many of you know, the Kenai experienced a large fire in 2019, the Swan Lake fire. Morels, a commonly harvested edible mushroom was already common in the area. Following fire, morels respond, popping out of the ground by the bushel. Morels are known to grow well in areas with a birch overstory so that is where we went looking. Using a public vegetation map and public maps of the burn area we found a road accessible patch of birch that was burnt in 2015 and again in 2019, hoping this double burn would mean more morels. We made sure to hike through the slash several hundred feet from the road to get away from where most of the mushroom pickers were, dozens of cars were already lining the road when we arrived! The hike proved worthwhile, though our timing was still a bit early with most of the morels still too small to harvest.
Our day was cut short by an unexpected rainstorm that drenched us and drove us back to the car before we had filled our pails but we still harvested close to a gallon in about an hour of work. We got home with enough mushrooms to dry some to take back to Wrangell with us. It is important to know your mushrooms and know how to prepare them. Morels need to be cooked prior to consumption to remove a compound that can be damaging to your kidneys. We utilized a method from "The Spruce" to dry our mushrooms: https://www.thespruceeats.com/how-to-dry-morel-mushrooms-4138300
It was a wonderful experience, if not our usual Memorial Day trip, and it served to remind us that no matter where we are, it is important to take some time to be outside. Rain or shine, go look at the nature around you and enjoy its bounty. If you don't know what or how to harvest ask your friends, local experts or look online. If you do know what is in season, grab a friend or stranger and head outside.
We find it important, especially this time of year, to get outside and set the tone for the summer, and spend time in nature and with family and friends. We hope you all are taking advantage of our spring favorites in Wrangell. In late May and Early June we like to gather: Spruce tips, fiddlehead ferns, devil's club and bounty from the sea (Salmon, Crab, Shrimp, Halibut).
Rowan enjoying a drenched romp in the slash.
Morels soaking prior to drying.
Is it time to go to the car yet?
Washed morels prior to drying.