The Fat of the Land, and…

These are LAST YEAR'S morels. Too hungry to foto this year's.

I imagine that, if more Morels did finally push their way up above ground the past couple of days, the 29 degree temps at night zapped them. But not before we found enough to add to the potatoes and carrots simmering in the gravy of the roast from Sweet Providence served with our “Goose Beans” from last year’s garden.

And here, another edible, since I had the realization after my two hikes along Rock Castle Creek last week, that a hungry person lost in the woods this time of year, need not starve. Ramps, morels, giant chickweed, greenbrier shoots, garlic mustard, watercress, branch lettuce…just to name some safe edibles we saw over less than two miles along the creek, where…

…we were stopped by a Patrick County Sheriff on the way out last Saturday. Seems a 66 year old man from out of state was missing, and we came to learn the next day that some of his possessions had been found along the trail AND that his wife had died the year before. I speculated he saw the gorge as a good place to just lay down and die. Seems that might indeed have been the case. He was found yesterday by search dogs in a very rough part of the gorge, dead of apparently self-inflicted wounds.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Fred,
    We’ve only found two morels on our farm, ever, having owned it since 1975. And though I’ve searched the same place where the two appeared, have never found one again. Nor elsewhere. Could you, generally speaking, give a description of the likely habitat for morels? Also, there is some indication in a field guide I read, that a “poisonous” morel exists…is that true?