About six weeks after the thaw, the woods of Northern Michigan quietly start sprouting our wild gourmet delights: peculiar, honeycomb-capped morel mushrooms.

Up North shroomers have all kinds of hunting tricks—sandy soil, near old orchards, by poplar groves, but we’ve even found morels in a field of long, soft grass. Have a leg up on the hunting competition by getting out early and always after a warm rain.

We like to store unwashed morels in a closed brown paper bag (which absorbs moisture) in the refrigerator, but don’t hoard fresh ones too long—after five days they’ll start to break down. To preserve morels beyond the five-day window, it’s best to air-dry them unwashed on string, until dried crisp, then store them in a jar. They reconstitute to full size and flavor in hot broth, water or white wine. Just be sure to strain the liquid with a fine sieve to remove any grit. Go here for even more comprehensive advice on how to care for and store your precious morels once you have them home.

The most pure and irresistible way to eat morels is pan fried, fresh from the forage. First rinse in a bowl filled with water, swishing well to remove sand and insects. Dip mushrooms in one beaten egg, roll in 1/2 cup flour that’s seasoned with salt and pepper and cook in butter and olive oil that’s heated to sizzling so the spongelike mushrooms fry up crisp.

Here, we let the smoky, woodsy fragrance and flavor of the morel be the star ingredient in a rich risotto dish, well-deserved after a long hike in the woods.

Make this delicious dish yourself! Here’s the recipe!