Poisonous Morels?

Roy Reehil reehil at servtech.com
Mon Nov 4 15:07:58 EST 1996


The "early Morels" you describe other then any in the genus Morchella are mushrooms of the 
genus Verpa and Gyromitra.
Though you and your family have eaten some of these mushrooms for many years without 
incident, you may want to reconsider future consumption.

In older texts Verpa bohemica and V. conica are listed as edible. Newer texts however 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" are of the genus Gyromitra.
Gyromitra esculenta and G. infula contain the toxin Gyromitrin, AKA: monomethylhydrazine. 
Other 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 can release enough toxin into the air that sampling the 
aroma of your saute pan can also lead to severe poisoning or even death.

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.

Your identification of Morchella augusticeps leads me to believe that any field guides you 
may have are out of date. To be safe, get some newer field guides on American mushrooms 
(see note below.) Then, get to know all of these easy to identify spring fungi. In 
the future you may want to stick to the genus Morchella (the "real Morels"!) ...very safe, 
and very delicious.
Happy hunting and stay healthy!

I recommend "Mushrooms Demystified" - by David Arora as the one guide to have. 
Also: The "Audubon Society field guide to North American Mushrooms" for color plates of 
all above listed species.
The Central NY Mycological Society Web pages have two photos of Gyromitra esculenta 
contained in the story "Amatuer Hour" address below

<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>
Roy Reehil
Mayor, Village of Cleveland, NY
Editor, Central NY Mycological Society Newsletter
reehil at servtech.com
<> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <> <>

Rich Martin wrote:
> I live in Northcentral Washington state, and have collected "Early Morels"
> ("Verpa's"), the "Edible Morel" (Morchella esculenta's), and the
> "Narrow-capped Morel" (Morchella augusticeps), for years and years...with
> my parents and brothers and sister.  I have a book called: "The Savory
> Wild Mushroom" by Margaret McKenny copyrighted 1962, that refers to most
> of the edible mushrooms of this area.  The other day at work, a coworker
> and I were talking about gathering morels, and she mentioned being told by
> another source, to be careful not to get any "False Morels" mixed in with
> her collection, because they were deadly poison, and looked very mush like
> the "good" ones.  Well, I commented that I have never heard of a
> "poisonous morel" or a correctly-identified "False morel". BTW, our family
> has ate these morels for years, as I stated, with no ill effects...love
> them.. Are there any of these "poisonous morels, or false morels" anywhere
> to be found? If so are there any good "Color Photos" of them on the web or
> any books on such?
> Thank You...
> -=Rich Martin=-
> Wenatchee, Wa.
> richm at televar.com

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