False morel mushrooms are as common as their namesake, morel mushrooms. They are occasionally found growing in the same areas that morels grow, too. However, false morels and morels are quite different.
In appearance, false morels look rather like brains on a stem, while true morels look sort of like a sponge on a stem. If this isn’t enough to tell the difference, if you slice them in half top to bottom, there are more differences that are easy to see.
A false morel doesn’t have a hollow stem or completely hollow cap. True morel stems are hollow and the entire cap is also hollow.
True Morel Mushroom
The reason it is important to be able to tell the difference between these unrelated mushrooms is that morels are choice edible mushrooms. Many people feel that false morels are also excellent to eat, yet people have died from eating false morels.
There are many species of false morels. Some are more poisonous than others and they can also be more toxic based on where they are growing.
Some sources claim that false morels are only poisonous if they are raw or improperly cooked. However, there are a number of people who have become quite ill or have died from eating even properly cooked false morels. There is also some indication that the toxins are additive. That means that the longer a person eats them, the apter they are to have a severe adverse reaction to the mushrooms.
False Morel Mushroom
In comparison, true morels are edible whether they are raw or cooked and there don’t seem to be instances of poisoning from true morels. This is even considering the fact that an individual can be allergic to any food or drink that is consumed.
Symptoms of poisoning by false morels include dizziness, upset stomach, cramping, vomiting, headache, liver failure, and respiratory distress. The toxins often attack blood cells as well as the central nervous system. Consuming alcoholic beverages while eating false morels may amplify the effects of the toxins. Symptoms usually appear between 4 and 48 hours after eating false morels and the main active toxin is called gyromitrin. Gyromitrin is also a carcinogen or cancer-causing substance.
Handful of False Morels
The bottom line is that while many people continue to eat false morel mushrooms, they are considered poisonous and have claimed a number of lives. This is one that I would not personally recommend eating, especially since there are a large number of quite edible mushrooms out there that seldom cause problems.