Morel Mushrooms – What’s False and what’s Edible?

These guys have an annual ritual of going hunting for delicious Morel mushrooms. They’re delicious. Watch how they know the best places to harvest them and what fun they have on the hunt!

These guys know what they’re doing. They’re looking for real morels not false morels which are toxic. But how do you tell?

Why do false morel mushrooms make you sick?

These mushrooms contain the toxin gyromitrin which is toxic to the liver.

How quickly will you get sick from eating false morel mushrooms?

Onset of illness is usually 6 to 48 hours after eating.

What are the symptoms of illness from eating false morels?

Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, dizziness, headache, muscle cramps, bloating, and fatigue. Untreated, people may go on to develop confusion, delirium, seizures and coma. The gyromitrin toxin can lead to right side abdominal pain, hepatitis and jaundice (yellow skin) within 48 hours, and in serious cases, increased bruising and bleeding due to loss of blood clotting factors.

What does a false morel look like?

Beefsteaks (Gyromitra esculenta) have wrinkled caps that are brain‐like in appearance when mature. When immature, they may be smooth or saddle‐shaped. They are never pitted or ridged. The stem may be narrow, pith‐filled or one or two vertical chambers or hollow. The stem may also be thick with many chambers as if the flesh were folded vertically.

Beefsteaks (Gyromitra esculenta) 

The early morel (Verpa bohemica) looks like the true morel, but unlike the true morel it has a cap that hangs around the stem (“thimble cap”), and is joined to the stem at the top of the cap. The entire fruiting body is a single hollow cavity.Verpa bohemica also contains the toxin gyromitrin.

Should you be concerned about eating true morels?

True morels are normally edible but if a large amount is eaten, or they are undercooked or eaten raw or eaten with alcoholic beverages, one may become ill. One can become sensitized to the mushroom over time; you might have eaten them without problems in the past, but now they make you ill. There is no warning that your body has changed its response to the morel.

What does a true morel look like?

True morels (Morchella species)

True morels (Morchella species) are pitted and ridged; but they are not wrinkled or brain‐like. The cap and stem is joined at the base of the stem or no more than halfway into the cap.

  • True morels have a cap covered in pits and ridges, while a false morel cap appears more wavy and lobed.
  • The true morel has a more uniformly shaped cap that is often longer than the stem. The cap of a false morel typically has a irregular shape and almost appears “squashed.”
  • The cap of the true morel is attached directly to the stem. The false morels cap hangs freely off the stem.
  • The inside the stem of a true morel is hollow. The stem of a false morel will be filled with fibers or chunks of tissue.

What should you do if you’ve eaten wild mushrooms?

If you have eaten wild mushrooms and develop any of the symptoms described, see a physician immediately. If you have any of the mushrooms left, take a picture of the mushroom with your camera or cell phone, or bring the mushroom with you to the doctor (place mushroom in a paper bag, they will fall apart in plastic).