Farmer's Markets: Consider the Morel and a Blueberry or two (recipe included)


"The Morel" - a drawing by von Albin Schmalfuß, 1897

With all do respect to those like my fellow garden blogger, the English Gardener, I prefer to leave the growing of vegetables to the experts. Aside from a rosemary or a few basil plants I prefer to focus my gardening time on ornamentals. And yet nothing temps me more than a tomato picked at the peak of ripeness or a potato so fresh that it juices when you slice it. And this is why I've been frequenting local farmer's markets since I first encountered them in the early 90's.

This coming Mother's Day marks the start of our local outdoor farmer's market scene with the return of the Wicker Park Farmer's Market. It will be joined by the Outdoor Logan Square Farmer's Market on the following Sunday. This is the first year the Wicker Park/Bucktown Chamber of Commerce will run the market.


A small fortune of Morels

Although it may be a little early for natures copious bounty, Sunday's market may have a few cold weather crops and hot house veggies for sale along with the usual preserves, meats, cheeses, flowers, baked goods and prepared meals. And maybe mushrooms, specifically my favorite, morels. 

The conditions of this past winter may yield a bumper crop of wild morel mushrooms this spring. The deep ground freeze is beneficial to the underground mycelium as is the heavy snow cover which adds plenty of moisture to the soil. A wet spring would help but what's also needed to produce the morel "fruit" are warmer temperatures (above 50 degrees) which may be slow in coming because the chilly Great Lakes are still 1/3rd covered in ice! 

Wild Rice with Blueberries and Morels
It's rare when even a late local morel harvest overlaps with the Midwest blueberry crop but even if it doesn't, this recipe works well with dried morels and/or frozen blueberries. This sweet and savory side dish goes best with venison or any aged steak but also works as a substitute for fries alongside a hamburger.

For a nice contrast add a tangy slaw to the menu. This recipe is based on one I found back in the 80s' in Betty Fussell's book I Hear America Cooking

1/2cup dried morels or 1 cup fresh morels

1 cup wild rice

1 small onion, minced

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup blueberries, fresh if you can get them else use frozen

3 cups vegetable or chicken broth 

If using dried morels, soak them over night or until tender. Drain and rinse. If using frozen blueberries, thaw and drain. Bring broth to simmer. Using a colander, clean the wild rice under a running faucet until the water runs clear.

Over medium heat, soften the minced onion in the butter or fat. Add the rice, morels, broth and blueberries. Season. Cover and simmer until rice has absorbed the liquid, 40 to 45 minutes. Serves 4. 


Wicker Park Farmer's Market
Located along Damen Ave., between Schiller St. & Wicker Park Ave. May 11th to October 26th, 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  

Outdoor Logan Square Farmer's Market
On Logan Boulevard from Milwaukee Avenue to Whipple Street. May 18th to October 26th, 10a.m. to 3 p.m. 



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