What's in Season

What’s In Season: Morels

Morels add truffle-like richness to everything from grits to veggies

Illustration: John Burgoyne

Every April, chef Kelly English forgoes meat. “For a month, I go vegetarian—one, because it’s good for me, but also because I get to connect with what’s coming out of the ground,” says the owner of Restaurant Iris and the Second Line in Memphis. “Some people get jacked up for ramps this time of year,” he adds, “but me? I’m jacked up for morels.” Morels peak in the South in April and May and grow well in the Appalachian foothills around elm and poplar trees. A bright side to this year’s snowy winter: The damp conditions are ideal for a big morel season. To maximize the mushroom’s earthy depth, keep the prep simple—sauté in butter and salt to taste. English likes to pair them with grits and peas or chop them up as a pasta topper. When buying morels, pick ones that are springy to the touch and without dry spots. To remove grit and, yep, insects, slice the ’shrooms in half lengthwise, rinse in cool water, and scrub the nooks and crannies with a toothbrush. The housekeeping is well worth it. “The first time I taste morels each year I hear George Clinton and P-Funk playing in my head,” English says. “They are just the coolest, funkiest things on earth.”