Traverse City Record-Eagle

May 16, 2013

Morels bring three generations together

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — If you’re one of those people who couldn’t spot a morel if it walked up and tapped you on the shoulder, this will make you eat your heart out.

It seems Joanne Nolff, husband William, granddaughter Julie Knoop, her husband Sam and their daughter Cailin, 7, have been foraging the past couple of weekends at a secret location. And they have found it to be a very good year for morels. In a two-hour span this past weekend alone, they found 283 of the mushrooms.

Joanne, 79, has long been an avid morel hunter. Recent heart problems threatened to sideline her. But her family would have none of that.

“It’s something I do every year and I just don’t want to give it up,” Joanne said. “They take me into the woods on a four-wheeler. They stop and I get off and start

looking. My great-granddaughter will say, ‘I see one, don’t bend over grandma.’ Then she’ll come and pick it up and put it in my bag. She’ll say, ‘Be careful, there’s a big stick there, grandma.’ She doesn’t want me to fall in the woods.

“This little girl and I have got something special going.”

Joanne loves cooking with morels. She doesn’t use recipes, but has favorite ways of preparing them.

“You can just add them to almost anything that you like mushrooms in,” she said. “We love them with onions and mushrooms and put them on steak.

“And we love them in scrambled eggs.”

The Nolffs enjoy them plain, too. In that event, Joanne cuts them in half, puts them in a pan and cooks them until there’s no juice left and the pan starts to brown a bit. Then she adds butter and a little bit of Spice Supreme roast beef seasoning that she buys at the Townline Unlimited Bargain Barn in Manistee. The end result is good on its own, or tossed with spaghetti, she said.

“It just brings out the flavor — it tastes more like meat, like steak,” she said.

But as Nolff tells it, the picking is more about family than the mushrooms themselves.

“It’s a special relationship with my granddaughter and her little girl,” she said. “They all pick for grandma.”

“They make life complete.”