Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays noon to 1 p.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

Saturdays, noon to 1 p.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
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April 11 show

Morel mushrooms, ramps and other foraging foods

In addition to the brainlike exterior, a defining feature of morel mushrooms is that the stem and top are all one piece. Photo by Jolene Ketzenberger.Not only do foodies salivate about morel mushrooms, those who forage for them across Indiana treasure the delicacies so much they often keep their locations top-secret.

At the dawn of peak morel hunting season, Hoosier History Live will delve into the sponge-like mushrooms, as well as other food that involves foraging. On this radio roadtrip (or woods excursion), we will explore the hunts for morels, an annual tradition undertaken by generations of families and friends.

Our guests also will share insights about how to avoid the unpleasant (even poisonous) varieties of wild mushrooms; how to prepare morels, and just why on earth there is so much frenzy about them.

Nelson will be joined by two well-known experts in the central Indiana dining world:

  • Becky Hostetter, chef and founder of Duos, which began its journey with food trucks and has expanded to include Duos Kitchen and Duos @ Eskenazi Health. Heralded for her vegetarian cuisine, Becky has led morel-hunting expeditions for decades.
  • And food journalist Jolene Ketzenberger, who covers the landscape of the Hoosier culinary scene at EatDrinkIndy. Jolene has accompanied Hoosier chefs as they forage in the great outdoors, including hunts for edible flowers.

Becky Hostetter.A front-page story last spring in The Indianapolis Star reported on some "morel maniacs" who faced criminal charges for trespassing on private property in Hamilton County. The rare mushrooms sometimes can be sold for $50 per pound.

Jolene Ketzenberger.With their distinctive, honeycomb-shaped tops, morels even have achieved their own celebratory festival in Indiana. The third annual Brown County Morel Festival will be April 23-25. Featuring guided hunts, mushroom auctions, classes, live music and crafts, the festival is based at Bill Monroe Music Park and Campgrounds.

In addition to morels, Nelson and his guests will explore ramps, which are wild leeks, and chanterelles, another type of mushroom cherished by foodies.

Like other mushrooms, morels sometimes are served sautéed and buttered, sometimes battered and fried.

Although morels enjoy most of the hype, more than 2,000 species of mushrooms grow in Indiana, according to several sources. There even are several species of morels. In Indiana, most morels are black or yellow.

A serving of fun facts:

  • Hunting season for morels only lasts about one month. Morels are among the first mushrooms to come up when winter ends.
  • Morel mushroom hunters often keep their locations a secret. Man is shown looking under a fallen tree.According to The Indianapolis Star account about the "morel maniacs" who trespassed on private property, mushrooms that are discovered in state parks, recreational areas and other state-owned land may be picked by hunters. (Ditto for berries, nuts, fruits and greens.) In a state park, Hoosiers also can leave an official trail to forage.
  • The flavor of ramps typically is likened to onions or garlic.

Our guest Becky Hostetter grew up near Bloomington and began her morel-hunting adventures with her mother. Before launching Duos, Becky owned Essential Edibles, a vegetarian restaurant, with her husband, David, for 10 years.

Our guest Jolene Ketzenberger has covered the Hoosier culinary scene for more than 20 years. Her food journalism has appeared in Indianapolis Monthly, NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis Business Journal and the Indianapolis Star. Last August, she joined Nelson for a Hoosier History Live show about pork tenderloins, persimmon pudding, sugar cream pie and other Hoosier heritage food.

Learn more:

Roadtrip: New Deal murals in Covington

Detail from The Disbursement of Tax Dollars, a 1937 mural by Covington native Eugene Savage that made a dark political statement about government spending. Photo by Terri Gorney.

Guest Roadtripper Terri Gorney of Fort Wayne, who also volunteers at several conservation organizations, including ACRES, DNR and Limberlost, suggests a Roadtrip to Covington in Fountain County in the central western part of the state.

The Art Deco Fountain County Courthouse and its interior art collection of New Deal murals once were described by the by Indianapolis Star as "the most significant example of a New Deal art and architecture in Indiana." The courthouse was constructed during 1936-1937 with Indiana limestone, and its architects were Louis R. Johnson of Covington and Walter Scholer of Lafayette.

And the impressive array of New Deal murals the inside of the courthouse make it seem more like an art museum than a government building. Much of the work is by Covington native Eugene Savage, who created the first murals under the Works Projects Administration in 1937. Savage was also strongly influenced by Thomas Hart Benton, and as he became well-known he directed other local artists in the painting of additional murals for the courthouse that reflect the county's history from the early 1800s to 1940. The murals cover more than 2,500 square feet of wall.

Terri also points out that Covington has ties to Lew Wallace. Wallace's mother is buried in the local cemetery, and the Fountain County clerk's building served as his first law office. And the Lew Wallace Museum and Study is a short 30 minutes away in Crawfordsville.

Learn more:

History Mystery

Tree flowers.An unusual type of fruit has been nicknamed the "Indiana banana." The fruit, which is light green and ripens in the fall, grows wild on trees that have the same name as the fruit.

Its flavor has been compared to a cross between a banana and a mango. Although the trees can be found in many Eastern, Midwestern and Southern states, several varieties are thought to have originated in Indiana, accounting for the "Indiana banana" nickname. Even so, the trees - which have maroon-colored flowers - are not as common as persimmon trees, which bear fruit also identified with the Hoosier state.

Question: What is the unusual fruit known as the "Indiana banana"? Note: our "foodie" guests are not eligible to answer this one!

The call-in phone number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not try to win the prize if you have won any prize from WICR during the past two months. Please do not call in to the show until Nelson has posed the question on the air.
The prize pack is two tickets to the Indiana Wine Fair in Brown County on April 25, courtesy of Story Inn, and a pair of tickets to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, courtesy of Visit Indy.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, media+development director


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April 18 show

Ask Nelson - and gardener Jo Ellen, too

Nelson Price.To celebrate spring, Hoosier History Live will open the phone lines throughout this show for listeners to call in and ask our host, author/historian Nelson Price, questions about our Hoosier heritage.

As a spring bonus, Nelson will be joined by our favorite gardening guru. Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp, an author who writes the popular Hoosier Gardener column featured in The Indianapolis Star, will co-host the show with Nelson.

That means listeners are invited to pose any questions under the sun about flowers, plants and other gardening issues to Jo Ellen, who is secretary of the Garden Writers Association and co-author of The Indiana Gardener's Guide.

In between fielding calls from our listeners - the WICR-FM (88.7) studio number is (317)-788-3314 - Nelson and Jo Ellen will interview each other.

Indiana Gardener's Guide book cover by Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp and Tom Tyler.Jo Ellen plans to ask Nelson about his brand new book, The Quiet Hero: A Life of Ryan White (Indiana Historical Society Press). It's a biography of the Kokomo teenager, a hemophilic who was infected with the virus that causes AIDS during the 1980s. Ryan became the focus of national attention because of his crusade to attend Western Middle School in nearby Russiaville.

As a newspaper reporter, Nelson covered Ryan's crusade; he was among the media horde on the lawn of the White family's home in Cicero (where they eventually had moved) on April 8, 1990, the day Ryan died. This month's publication of The Quiet Hero coincides with the 25th anniversary of Ryan's death.

Ryan and his mother, Jeanne White-Ginder, also are among the contemporary and historic notables profiled in another book by Nelson, Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (Hawthorne Publishing). Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp.So our listeners are welcome to call in with questions about famous Hoosiers ranging from Letterman (who will retire next month as host of NBC-TV's long-running late-night talk show) to Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, the former president of the University of Notre Dame who died earlier this year.

Nelson interviewed Letterman, Rev. Hesburgh, former Indiana Pacer Reggie Miller, TV newswoman Jane Pauley and other famous Hoosiers featured in his book, which is in its 4th edition.

Several of the notables - such as basketball icon Bobby Plump, Hoosiers screenwriter Angelo Pizzo and jazz great David Baker - also have been Hoosier History Live guests. So has Jo Ellen, who most recently joined Nelson for a show last spring about flowers and plants that are native to Indiana.

She has been writing and speaking about gardening for more than 25 years. Jo Ellen also is a garden coach and a landscape consultant. Her expertise makes for an ideal pairing with Nelson as we put out the welcome mat for listener phone calls.

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Hoosier History Live!
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