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The morel is more than just a mushroom in Yeşilüzümlü
1.       tunci
7149 posts
 18 Apr 2011 Mon 09:24 am

The morel is more than just a mushroom in Yeşilüzümlü

JANE AKATAY

 

Life is never too short to stuff a mushroom in Yeşilüzümlü. Fungi experts, wine buffs, and Slow Food connoisseurs, among others, ensured success for the third Yeşilüzümlü Morel Mushroom Festival
The morel is more than just a mushroom in Yeşilüzümlü

A popular contemporary idiom, “Life is too short to stuff a mushroom,” by English writer Shirley Conran, is but one that has been disproved in southwest Turkey. A three-day festival has just been held to celebrate the well-loved and extremely tasty wild mushroom, stuffed or otherwise, called the morel or Morchella, (Kuzugöbeği in Turkish) which grows in abundance at this time of year on the mist-draped forests of the mountain slopes around Yeşilüzümlü, a small town on the outskirts of Fethiye in Muğla.

During this short but highly treasured season, this small and usually sleepy municipality adopted an almost Bacchanalian energy: three days of experts, enthusiasts and aficionados coming together to share their passions, from hunting and identifying wild fungi, cooking with them in different ways and certainly eating as many of them as possible in different locations around the center of the town. In addition, other gastronomic demonstrations, exhibitions, wine and food stalls filled the narrow streets and the market square.

The third Yeşilüzümlü Morel Mushroom Festival started on April 8, with dancing from the children of Üzümlü Primary School and ended on April 10 with lively concerts by Selda Bağcan, Hannah White and Blues & Shadow. In between, there were cultural events, concerts, parties and lively get-togethers with dancing, laughter and face painting.

The Erdoğan family from Fethiye was delighted by the range of activities and the parents were happy to wander around for hours looking at all the stalls while the children had their faces painted.

“Having something like this happening at the weekend is a different way to spend time with the family. It really makes a change from shopping,” said the mother of the family.

For Dutch mother and daughter Thyn Westermann and Margriet Versteeg, who just happened to be on a walking holiday in the area, it was a wonderful surprise to come across the festival.

“It was so exciting to find a really authentic Turkish town, full of atmosphere and people enjoying themselves,” Versteeg said.

“We’ve eaten some wonderful dishes, some made with the morels, bought some to take home with us and even gone hunting for them in the forests that surround Yeşilüzümlü. We’ll definitely make a point of coming back here next year," Westermann said.

The huge increase in the scale of organization since the first small festival was held had worried the organizing committee members, including Seyran Sucu, Ayşe Genç and Cengiz Genç. This year, until the day before the event began, the weather had been wet and misty and it was generally agreed that spring was a little late this year. But thankfully, that was of little concern to the organizers as this is the kind of weather that ensures a plentiful crop of the delicious wild mushroom.

Morels are the very essence of the festival and experts in every aspect of this delicious natural phenomenon gathered in the town to share their enthusiasm with the crowds of like-minded people.

Anyone who is interested in wild mushrooms and fungi must learn of the dangers associated with them – as eating the wrong kind of mushroom could be your last meal. As such, knowledge is paramount in such a culinary exercise. The committee, organizers and participants, distinguished by their black T-shirts, emblazoned with official badges, worked behind the scenes to ensure that the multi-faceted event ran with as few hitches as possible.

Experts invited to discuss mushrooms

Throughout the winter months, the festival committee worked together to benefit from the best of the short morel season. Some of Turkey’s best-known experts in the field were invited to the festival this year to share their wisdom.

Professor Mustafa Işıloğlu, who has a Ph.D. from the Science Institute of İnönü University in the eastern province of Malatya and has had a position at Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens, was one of the specialists who came to the festival. With more than 70 publications in national and international journals, Işıloğlu currently lectures at Muğla University.

Işıloğlu, together with Associate Professor Hakan Allı, have broken new ground in the field of biological diversity with the discovery of “Morchella Anatolica,” which is named after Anatolia. The discovery was first published in Mycologia, an international scientific journal, and has attracted attention from international science organizations and the Turkish academic world.

Also in attendance was Professor Fahrettin Gücin, who has a Ph.D. from İzmir’s Ege University and whose research focuses on poisonous and edible mushrooms. The festival also welcomed Kudret Gezer, who has a Ph.D. from İzmir’s Dokuz Eylül University and is presently the head of Pamukkale University’s Mushroom Research and Application Center.

TV chef Arda Türkmen came to the festival to share his love of cooking with the crowd at Yeşilüzümlü. He cooked a very delicious morel and bulgur wheat dish while being filmed for a future television program. The audience found his use of flavors irresistible and he explained how he liked to introduce new ideas to the world of Turkish cuisine.

For Daniel Butler, mushroom science is very important. The self-taught expert lives in the middle of Wales, where he found a staggering 31 different kinds of edible mushrooms on one morning’s walk. But as Butler explained, one of the most exciting things about a trip to Üzümlü is the morels themselves, which do not grow in the acidic soil of his Welsh home. The recipes he shares are from France and the western edge of the morel’s natural habitat.

Bill O’Dea described himself as “a dedicated mycophagist,” someone who likes to gather and eat mushrooms. O’Dea, who studied fungi at University College Dublin, is well-known in Ireland for the legendary mushroom hunts he runs in the mountains south of Dublin. He is also a member of a government-funded workgroup to promote edible fungi as a woodland resource in Ireland and is an active member of the Slow Food movement.

Butler and O’Dea were at the festival not only to explain about wild mushrooms but also to demonstrate their culinary skills. They were joined by an expert on the indigenous mushrooms in the region, Frank Marciano, who has lived on the Bodrum peninsula for many years and is instrumental in the flourishing Slow Food movement.

Assisted by Kadriye Çaycı, he prepared a massive morel pide (Turkish pizza), which was cooked by the Üzümlü Pide Restaurant, as well as stuffed morels with lor (ricotta) curd cheese, dipped them in egg and bread crumbs and fried in olive oil. At 71 years old, he is particularly proud of the fact that he recently became a father, something he attributes to his love of good, slow food, particularly wild mushrooms.

Pottery, wine and more

Local naturalist and historian Orhan Çelen and author Birol Ganioğlu were accompanied by Peter Watson, and with the benefit of an excellent PowerPoint presentation, explained to those present the ancient roots of Lycian history from the earliest settlements of prehistory to the decline of Lycia in the early centuries of the current era. Çelen lives near Fethiye in the village of Arsaköy, where he discovered a cave with examples of exceptionally early rock paintings.

Potter Ata Öztürk brought with him some of his wonderful examples of his pottery, some of which follows the Avanos (in Central Anatolia) tradition. His studio is in Göcek, in southwest Turkey. “My particular interest is in glazes and the geometric designs taken from ancient Avanos pottery of which examples have been found in Central Anatolia,” he said.

Yeşilüzümlü, along with many other towns in Anatolia, has a tradition of wine making dating back to antiquity. Large barrels of the young red wine are tapped and served with cheeses and fruits in order to provide small tasters. This proved to be very popular with many of the visitors to Yeşilüzümlü over the weekend, as did the traditional pancake-like food gözleme.

The unleavened pancake bread, filled with cheese, herbs and of course morels, were the order of the day and many of the side streets were full of the smell of street food. Every table and seating platform was full of hungry visitors tucking in to piping hot pancakes and cool glasses of ayran, a Turkish yogurt drink, or freshly squeezed orange and pomegranate juice.

Local culture is not all about food and drink, however, and the organizers of the festival invited local historian, poet and specialist, Ünal Şöhret Dirlik, who, since his retirement, has made it his life’s work to record local history. He also shared his poetry and writing about the area with an appreciative audience.

Yeşilüzümlü is famous for its weaving called “dastar.” This year, the town invited Associate Professor Feriha Akpınarlı, who originally graduated from the Handicrafts Department of the Technical Teachers’ College for Women.

In 2003, she took part in a Foreign Language Education program at Hope University in Liverpool and became an associate professor in 2008. She has spoken at national and international conferences and published journal articles on various handicrafts. At the same time, Akpınarlı has organized national and international joint exhibitions and fashion shows. 

Akpınarlı has been a member, project manager and researcher in national and international scientific and civil society organizations and has served as an independent evaluation expert on various projects supported by the European Union. She is currently a member of the Textile Weaving and Knitting Section of the Handicraft Education Department and is head of Gazi University Applied Research Center for Turkish Handicrafts. She has published nine books, is fluent in English, and is married with two children.

Music Flautist Şefik Vural entranced a small but enthusiastic audience in the Grape Garden, a restaurant and bar tucked away on a side street. He played both European and Turkish music and while the former allowed those listening to daydream, the latter encouraged those present to dance.

A jolly time was had by all, said Susan Tekin, who was present at the concert with her husband, Türkay Tekin.

In the center of the town, opposite the mosque, was an exhibition of photographs taken of Turkish woodlands through the seasons by the well-known Faruk Akbaş. This was adjacent to another series of pictures showing damage caused to the same forests and the indigenous wildlife in a fire.

Both of the sets of photographs were organized by Fethiye Forestry Department Director Reşat Tunç.

“So much of the local economy depends on the forests and the products that grow in them. If there are fires, these people lose their livelihood. We have to be aware of this danger,” Tunç said.

But not everything was for the grown-ups. Children could have their faces painted and record their memories of the weekend’s events in an empty shop that was turned into a children’s center for the duration of the festival. Seyran Sucu was particularly pleased with the success of this event, which many of the older school students helped to organize.

Sometimes the wine and the general al fresco party atmosphere led to some spontaneous outbursts of dancing and it was great to see men, women, young and old having a wonderful time to traditional Turkish music. The dancing continued through into the evening and as the sound of the music filled the night air, some serious entertainment got underway.

By now, however, the town of Yeşilüzümlü will have returned to the quiet town it always was, apart from the tapping of the backgammon counters and dice on the wooden boards.

For more information please visit:

www.fungiforays.co.uk

www.mushroomstuff.com

www.yesiluzumlu.com

Stuffing a mushroom with Frank Marciano

Freshly picked morels

Lor or ricotta (curd cheese)

Chopped parsley

Pepper and salt to taste

Beaten egg

Cornmeal (corn flour)

Forcing bag with nozzle

Clean the mushrooms to remove any grit or dirt. Pat dry with kitchen paper and make a slit down one side.

Mix the cheese with chopped parsley, pepper and salt to taste.

Put a dollop of the cheese mixture in the forcing bag and squeeze a little of the mixture inside each morel.

Squeeze the mushroom to contain the stuffing and dip it first in the egg and then in the flour.

Carefully drop the stuffed mushrooms in to a pan with a few centimeters of hot olive oil and fry until golden. Drain and eat.

Enjoy!

This recipe was cooked by Daniel Butler and Bill O’Dea at the Morel Festival in Yeşilüzümlü.

Morel Stroganoff

50g butter

2 shallots

1 clove garlic

1 tspn Dijon mustard

100g fresh morels

150ml dry white wine

200g strained yogurt,

Salt and pepper

Lightly sauté the shallots and garlic for two or three minutes until they begin to soften. Stir in the shredded mushrooms and cook for another two minutes. Add the wine/stock (if using dried, chop these finely). Simmer for five minutes (morels should always be cooked – although this need not take long). As the sauce thickens to the consistency of cream, stir in the yogurt. Garnish with chopped parsley for color (optional) and serve with steamed rice and a crisp green side salad.


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