When the blue violets bloom and the dandelions go to seed, morels, an edible spring mushroom, are in season. A warm rain spurs their growth. In parts of West Virginia morels are known as ‘‘molly moochers’’ and ‘‘dry-land fish.’’ Other common names include hickory chickens, pine cones, and honey combs, and indeed the mushroom top is shaped like a pine cone and textured like honey comb. Both yellow and black morels grow in West Virginia, as do other varieties inferior in taste. Morels differ from many other mushrooms in that they are hollow and their stem and cap are a single joined piece. Yellow morels range in height from an inch or two to a foot, and the cap is about half of the total.
The common name, dry-land fish, comes from the fact that West Virginians traditionally batter the mushrooms and fry them like fish or chicken or even fried green tomatoes. But morels are as popular in the rest of the United States and in Europe as they are in West Virginia. Writing in 1903 the famous French chef, Auguste Escoffier, offered six morel recipes.
Even though morels are widely collected, the novice must be careful. The morel has a poisonous look-alike, the wrinkled thimble cap. Morels themselves are poisonous if eaten uncooked. However, when morels are purchased in markets or collected by experts and properly prepared, they are as safe as any other food. They enjoy a fine reputation for woodsy flavor and robust mushroom texture.
This Article was written by Mark F. Sohn
Last Revised on October 20, 2010
Fisher, David W. & Alan E. Bessette. Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.
Kluger, Marilyn. The Wild Flavor. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1973.
Cite This Article
Sohn, Mark F. "Morel." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 20 October 2010. Web. 21 January 2017.