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Identifying The Morel Mushroom. How to tell the true from the false
Six simple words to always keep in mind while mushroom hunting.
Certain types of poisonous mushrooms actually contain a deadly chemical called monomethylhydrazine. Monomethylhydrazine is a substance used in rocket fuel. Eating mushrooms containing thissubstance has caused many fatalities. Some mushrooms that contain this deadly chemical are Gyromitra korfi" and Gyromitra esculenta and the "Verpa bohemica" just to name a few fromthe morel family. Some people have eaten these false morels for years with no ill symptoms then one day they become sicker than a dog resulting in death. These false morels are listed below. The beefsteak morel or "Gyromitra esculenta" is one of those mushrooms that many people still eat today but are known to cause very ill effects such as vomiting, stomach cramps, highfever rash and even death. Like I said, some people can eat these types of mushrooms for years and never get sick. Then one day they croak after one bite... It is said that the small traces of toxins in the mushroom build up in the liver over time. So please, dont take a chance, it's not worth it. There are so many choice edibles in the woods.
So remember...If it's NOT hollow...Don't swallow!
Notice that the stem is filled with a white cottony fiber substance as where a true morel will always be hollow. Also take note how the cap is barely attached to the stem. It just sort of hangs like a skirt. The stem is vey long. A lot longer than a true morel. The Verpa tends to fruit very early while the weather is still cool before the true morels. Common trees where they tend to fruit are the White Ash, Poplars and aspens but they can fruit just about anywhere.
Notice that this Morel has a hollow stem. There is no cotton like substance present and it is completly hallow. Also notice that the cap is attached to the stem about half way down the cap. It does not hang like a skirt like on a verpa. That is why it is known as the half-free Morel. You can usually find these right before the blacks start fruiting and all throughout the black season. They are commonly found near White Ash and Poplars.
Morchella elata: the "black morel"
The Black morel kicks off the start of the morel season. These are the first of the true morels to fruit. Normally shortly after or during the fruiting season of the verpas ("False Morels") The black morel can be anywhere from half an inch high to over a foot tall. Some are very dark in color almost like a charcoal color while others may appear more of a dark brown to a light tan or honey color. The color depends a lot on which specie of black morel you are dealing with. Other scientific names are Morchella angusticeps and morchella conica. As with all true morels the inside of the stem is hollow throughout the cap. The cap is attached to the stem. This is possibly the best eating of all morels because they are thick and hearty and seem to have more of a nutty woodsy flavor but everyone has their own preference. You be the judge. Typically black morels can be found near Ash, Apens, poplars, pines and silver maples just to name a few of the most popular areas where black morels are found.
Grey Morel "(Morchella esculenta
The Grey morel is the next morel of the season just as the blacks are winding down. Grey morels can grow in big flushes but as with any morel you wont always find them tht way. The grey morel will usually mark the middle point of the morels season. They can appear anywhere from a light to dark gray. Some grey morels will start out as a grayish color but as they mature they can change from grey to yellow and certain species will remain grey throughout their life cycle. Also with grey morels the pits in the cap are more dense than that of other morels. The Grey morel can grow up to over a foot tall given the right conditions. Some people believe that the Grey morel is actually a yellow morel and is all a part of the same species. There are actually two main types of greys. We have the (morchella esculenta wich is really a "yellow" morel in disguise. They start out grey and then turn yellow with maturity. Then we have the morchella craasipes which remins grey throught thier life cycle. Some can become a very dark grey. Typically Grey morels can be found near ash, apens, apple trees dead elms and cherry.
Yellow Morel (Morchella esculenta)
The yellow morels are the last of the morels to fruit for the season and sadly indicates that the end of another morel seaon is near. The yellow morel is perhaps the most sought after because of their aboundace and size. The yellow morel can grow to very large sizes. There have been yellows as big as two litre bottles. Yellows as well as greys are known for coming up in large flushes. Yellows are also reffered to as Blonds or Whites. The walls of the cap are more thin than the black and greys. Typically yellows are found near dead elms, ash, poplars, apple trees and aspens but as with any morel they can come up just about anywhere.
Morchella Semilibera: (Half-Free)
The half-free morel will traditionally fruit just after the blacks, sometimes continuing into the yellow season. Certain years it is quite common, while in other years you may not find any at all. I myself have not seen very may in my years but one year I found a mother load of them growing on a hillside of heavy foliage. I return to this spot every year for the past 3 years and have only found blacks. A half-free morel usually has a long skinny stem and is hollow throughout and so is the cap. The cap is attached to the stem about halfway down, creating a skirt like appearance. The half-free morel is good and edible. These morels crumble easily and usually fall apart at the bottom of your bag by the time you get home. The half-free morel has a look-alike can be confused with another mushroom called the verpa bohemica. The verpa is not considered all out poisonous, like the Beefsteak morels, but it has been known to affect some people negatively (stomach upsets, loss of coordination and diarrhea). The verpa does however contain a very small ammount of a deadly toxins that can build up in the body after a wile and could end up causing a sudden death. The verpa's cap is not like the half-free morel; it is nearly completely free. The cap hangs down from the top of the stem like a skirt; but the most obvious detection of the verpa is that when you cut it open lengthwise they have little wisps of cottony fibers inside them, whereas half-free morels are hollow like all true morels.
Gyromitra esculenta (Beefsteak Morel)
The Gyromitra esculenta commonly known as the "Beefsteak Morel" Fruiting usually takes place early in the season before and/or during the blacks. This mushroom has a wavy brainy like cap and is fleshy and brittle. Unlike the true morel which consists of a pitted cap more like a sponge. The beefsteak colors range from a reddish brown cap to a dark purple color and the stem is a creamy off white or yellowish color. When cut open they are fleshy inside and contain air pockets. These are not fully hollow like the true morel. These mushrooms contain toxins and are considered poisonous. Some people choose to eat these and have no ill effects after eating them but to some they tend to make very ill side effects such as vomiting, diareha, stomach cramps and dizziness. There have been reported fatalities from consuming these mushrooms.
Verpa bohemica (False Morel)
The Verpa bohemica is probably the most mistaken mushroom and the probably the most difficult to distinguish from the true morel Morchella Semilibera (the Hal-free morel) but if you know what to look for is pretty obvious. The verpa is considered an early morel but will continue fruiting throughout the morel season. The verpa's cap is barely attached to the stem and bears a skirt-like appearance whereas the half-free cap is attached somewhere in the middle. Another obvious sign is that the verpa when cut open lengthwise the stem contains cottony like wisps of fibers. The half free is hollow. Also the cap of the verpa has more of a wrinkled appearance whereas the half-free is more like pitted. The verpa is considered poisonous and should not be eaten; there are many reports of ill effects and poisoning as well as allergic reactions to consuming these mushrooms.
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