Morels (Virginia, USA)

Creed Taylor ctaylor at
Thu Apr 29 14:04:42 EST 1999

Regarding the timing of morchella fruiting, BUDDY K WRITES:

>Either they are really coming in slowly in Northern VA, they don't feel
>like coming out this year, or most of the patches I have visited were
>picked over before I got there, because I've only picked about a pound in
>5 trips.

Here in southwestern Virginia (USA), the black morels (Morchella elata) are
about gone I think, and the yellows (M. esculenta) have come up in some of
the lower areas (near springs, creeks, etc.), and should show up in greater
numbers during the next few days, after recent/ongoing rains. I found a
bunch last Friday, very few on Sunday (left for the Mycogods), and hope to
bring home a supper's worth this Thursday or Friday. I'm not sure enough
about positive ID of the half-free morels (M. semilibera) to collect any,
though a friend says that he culled several from a very large, scattered
group yesterday.

Incidentally, this should be one of those years where some folks make a
claim for the existence of at least one more locally found species (M.
deliciosa--I think?). When conditions are favorable there are two fruitings
of M. esculenta--one in the lower, moister areas, and another in the
higher, cooler zone. When the first set have been out for a little while
and are a nice, warm shade of pale yellow (and occasionaly quite large),
the second fruiting occurs and the less mature, smaller mushrooms are a
lighter, brighter, almost white color.

I have heard some people call these "White Merkels" (a local name, derived
perhaps from "Miracle"). They distinguish them from the earlier found
"Yellow Merkels"--which by the time of a second fruiting, own enough
dissimilarities to make an argument that still holds among some groups of
southern Appalachian mycophiles. As far as I can tell they are the same
species--although they may actually possess some tangible physical and
gastronomic differences due to environmental peculiarities present during
the two fruiting periods.

Since Morels are a relatively "young" member of the biological community,
perhaps this is a point where evolutional forces will split the species in
two. Perhaps not. For the answer, check back in say, ten thousand years.

In the mean time, sauté in extra-virgin olive oil, with some crushed
garlic, salt and corsely ground black pepper and serve over very good
French sourdough bread with your beverage of choice.


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