Monday, March 23, 2009

Merkels and Such

It coming up rapidly on the season for local morels, I am getting ready for the annual phone calls asking, "Do you buy merkels?" In my experience, merkel is a somewhat local term for morels and clearly a corruption of the Latin genus Morchella, despite all kinds of amusing apocryphal tales about the name.

In Virginia, I know the term merkel to be used in the hills around the northern terminus of the Skyline Drive, where a lot of our morels come from. We also get a lot out of the local apple orchards.

My mother, who is from tobacco country on the Virginia side of the North Carolina border, and her family, always called them hickory chickens. Perhaps they grew in close proximity to hickory trees in that part of the state. I was too young, just a toddler, when my grandfather and his brother would lead a posse out into the woods to return with grocery sacks of the prized mushrooms, too young to remember anything about where they grew.

Out in Southwestern Virginia towards coal country, the hillfolk call morels Molly Moochers. Why? I've no clue.

I've also heard certain oldtimers refer to them as fish or fish mushrooms, though why I don't know.

I'm interested in what others call these mushrooms. What are they called in your neck of the woods?


  1. Hey Chef, the "merkel" that's also used around here, on the east side of the blue ridge, could also be a corruption of the German name. There were a lot of German immigrants in our neck of the woods.

    As far as "fish mushroom", my guess would be because of its shape.

    No matter the name, we all love them, don't we?

  2. I spent many summers in VA as a child with my grandparents. I wish someone would call me asking me to buy some lol I loved them and wish I could find a place online that would sell them.