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When the dogwood flower is as big as a mouse ear, it's morel season.

It's spring in Kentucky.

When I was little, we didn't have Easter egg hunts like most children. On the way to Grandma's on Easter morning, my Dad would pull the minivan off the side of the road in Brown County, Indiana to search for another sort of hidden treasure- morel mushrooms.

In Kentucky, people call them hickory chickens or merkles (Kentucky vernacular for "miracle"), based on a story of how a mountain family was saved from starvation by eating morels.

I remember my Dad feverishly scouring the forest ground, pushing back dead leaves and inspecting the warm dirt below fallen trees. I was dumb and impatient, eyes rolling, pacing the tree line in my Easter dress, thinking BIG WHOOP about a mushroom. But today, we're just alike. There's nothing like a morel. They are delicious.

Even if my Dad found only one mushroom, he'd take it home and carefully fry it in a pat of butter with the same attention he'd pay to a Thanksgiving turkey. I remember one year, he obsessively tore through a whole forest, sure he would find something - it was the height of morel season and the ground was just warm enough. A layer of light mist breathed over the ground, pooling in the pockets of the forest's valleys and sink holes. He didn't find one morel.

We returned home, and while mowing the lawn of our tiny trailer park lot, he found three golden morels, tall as the length of his hand. They were growing along the chain-link fence next to a deflated basketball. A merkle!

Kurt, Jon and I went on a morel hunt a couple of weeks ago. My dad says that they start to pop up when the dogwood flower is the size of a mouse ear. Tipped off by Jon's uncle, we searched the woods of Hardin County. It wasn't quite warm enough, but we found two.

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Tiny Merkle

Morel season lasts until mid-May around these parts. I think we might look for them again this weekend, if the weather permits.

Here's a good website about morel hunting, if you are interested.

1 comment:

  1. Are there any merkle mushrooms around the Atlanta area?


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