Other Edibles: Wild Leeks Fiddleheads
Black Trumpets Porcini
Hen of the Woods
The Genera Gyromitra and
The False Morels
Beware of mushrooms that do not
have true pits or cavities and are smooth, brain-like and shiny. These
spring mushrooms, often called "False Morels" or "Early Morels" are from
either the genera Verpa or Gyromitra and though there
are people who eat these mushrooms without incident, there have been
fatalities from them as well. Clearly, consumption of any mushrooms from
these genera can be a very dangerous practice.
In older texts Verpa bohemica and V.
conica are listed as edible but new evidence is contradictory. Newer
texts list Verpa bohemica (the Wrinkled Thimble Cap) as
poisonous and best avoided. Symptoms include severe stomach cramps
and a loss of muscle coordination.
The other so-called "Early Morels" of the genus
G. esculenta and G. infula contain the toxin
Gyromitrin, AKA: monomethylhydrazine. Related species including G.
gigas, G. korfii and the genera Verpa and Helvella may also contain
traces of hydrazines. Believe it or not, monomethylhydrazine is a
key component of rocket fuel. Eating mushrooms containing hydrazines
raw has caused many documented fatalities (mostly in Europe.)
Cooking and/or drying can remove the volatile Gyromitrin poison,
hence people have eaten these mushrooms for years with no ill
effects. BUT... cooking Gyromitra esculenta (pictured at left) can
release enough toxin into the air that simply sampling the aroma of
your saut pan can lead to severe poisoning or even death.
BEST BET WITH GYROMITRA, VERPA AND HELVELLA:
Don't bother with any of them!
Cooking may not remove all of the toxin and this could result in
liver damage over a period of years.
Get a good field guide and stick to the genus Morchella (the "real
Morels"!) ...very safe, and very delicious.
Notes: Field Guide Recommendations - David
Fischer's Edible Wild
Mushrooms of North America is an excellent "field
to kitchen guide," including recipes and storage techniques.
- by David Arora provides identification keys, photos and
descriptions of a wide variety of edible and non-edible mushroom
The Audubon Society field guide to North American Mushrooms
is "the old standard" of mushroom field guides.
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