Gyromitra esculenta, a false morel

Sibling Rivalry

    True and false morels are constantly compared.  The true morel is usually more beloved than the false, simply due to the fact that the false can kill you.  They are like siblings, or more accurately distant cousins, and the false morel is constantly judged and has to suffer hurtful utterances like "why can't you be less toxic like your cousin?" or "your cousin is a widely consumed mushroom, what have you done with your life?"  Well, just because the false morel happens to be poisonous, doesn't mean it isn't important!  Visit the interactions page to find out how it helps continue the circle of life.
    False morels may not directly interact with true morels (Morchella esculentoides) other than as competition for nutrients, but it is worth comparing them.  GyromitraA true morel esculenta lacks ribs and pits on its brain-shaped cap.  Morchella esculenta (left) has a honeycombed cap on whitish stalk. 
    The fruiting season and distribution of these mushroom species can sometimes overlap.  This could cause uninformed mushroom hunters to have problems.  It is analogous to a deer hunter sitting in the woods for hours so eager to see a deer that every squirrel and bird starts to look like a trophy buck.  The same thing can happen to morel hunters when they are searching for true morels.  

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     Just remember that false morels will be more red, won’t have pits, and if you still aren’t sure, they are chambered inside, unlike true morels.  This photo (below), from, shows that.  Mycologist Michael Kuo, author of Morels, has developed a set of rhymes that are helpful in distinguishing the false morel from the true:  
                 Cross sections of a true and false morel showing how true morels aren't chambered, and false morels are
    1. If it aint hollow, don’t swallow  
    2. If it’s wavy, don’t make it gravy  
    3. If it’s reddish, you could be deaddish
And, if you still aren’t sure,   
    4. When in doubt, throw it out. It may hurt to have to throw away mushrooms you fought brambles and thorns for, but it’s not worth dying over.     
    I have hunted and enjoyed eating morels on several occasions.  My family always coats the mushroom in egg and flour and fries them.  This recipe, from, is for morels with cream.  It sounds just as delicious! 
    15-20 fresh morels or reconstituted dried, cut in half if large
    1 large shallot chopped fine
    1 large clove garlic chopped fine
    2 TBS butter (best with unsalted)
    2 TBS olive oil
    3/4 cup chicken stock
    1 cup heavy cream
    salt & fresh ground pepper to taste

    Put olive oil in heated pan over medium heat. Add garlic and shallots, stir and sauté until softened but not brown. Add butter until melted then add morels. Stir and cook until mushrooms start to brown, about 4 min. Add chicken stock and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add cream and cook on low until reduced and thickened. Classically served on toast, but is best on grilled New York Strip steaks.
A true morel growing in a forest
     This photo (right), from, shows a true morel growing in a typical forest environment.(If you can spot it)  
    If you can't find any true morels or just really love mushrooms, the shiitake mushroom is very edible.  Even though it is fairly boring compared to the false morel (and pretty much every other mushroom in existence), the white button pizza mushroom is also one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world.  Another example of an edible mushroom is the Chanterelle mushroom (below).  That particular species also just happens to grow in the La Crosse area, so all UW-L students reading this, go see if you can hunt it down!  The edible Chanterelle mushroom  



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