What Is A "Red" Morel?

Gyromitra Caroliniana

     Many Morel hunters also include these "Red Morels" in their searches. Many eat these along with "True Morels" with no ill-effects. These people are the exception. The "Red Morels",  or specifically known as Gyromitra carolina, contain toxins, and there have even been a few documented cases of deaths from consuming these. They contain Gyromitrin, a toxin that will make most people sick, or worse. Some people will even boil these false morels for several minutes before eating to remove the toxins, but is this really worth it? Lets see what last year's official report was for "recorded" cases of poisonings from "Gyromitra species":

Gyromitra esculenta - 4 cases (IA/1, MI/3).  Symptoms: diarrhea 1/4, disorientation 1/4, drowsiness 1/4, nausea 3/4, vomiting 4/4, weakness 2/4.

Gyromitra gigas - 2 cases (ID/2).  Symptoms: diarrhea 2/2, dizziness 1/2, headache 1/2, intestinal cramps 1/2, nausea 2/2, sweating 1/2, vomiting 2/2, weakness 1/2.

     Now until more studies on these species can be completed, which also includes the simple (Actually very difficult) task of proper classification, and their toxins, I certainly do not recommend any consumption of these mushrooms. I personally have tried very small portions with no known effects, but the truth is, I didn't even like their taste anyway....

Gyromitrin

Toxin produced by certain species of False Morel (Gyromitra esculenta and G. gigas).
{Gyromitrin}

     Another poison in false morels is MMH, or monmethylhydrazine (a chemical also found in rocket fuel). Though MMH is not understood completely by scientists, there is no question about whether it is poisonous or not. It appears that MMH may occur in different quantities in different false morels (even members of the same species), that its presence may vary according to geography, that its affect on people may vary between individuals, and that its toxicity may be cumulative (raising the possibility of eating false morels safely for years and then, one day, croaking after one bite). Clearly, MMH is not to be messed with.

Gyromitra caroliniana

     Mushroom author David Arora writes that false morels "have puzzled scientists for years because of the very narrow threshold between complete absence of discomfort and severe poisoning or even death" (893). Do you want to approach that threshold? The only intelligent decision to make about false morels is to admire their beauty and move on; no person in his or her right mind should knowingly eat a false morel.

Woodland harvest

an article from a Columbia, Missouri Paper:

Published Tuesday, April 12, 2005

G.J. McCarthy photo
Damon Linneman yesterday shows off his first mushroom find of the year — a large red morel he found this weekend at an undisclosed site in Columbia. He said the fungus is nearly 8 inches tall and weighs 2 to 3 pounds. A quality control analyst for the University of Missouri-Columbia research reactor, Linneman said it was the biggest morel he’s ever found or seen. A native of Cooper County, Linneman is a longtime morel hunter. Seeking the wild mushroom is a common springtime tradition for many Missourians. Linneman is protective of his hunting grounds. “You never give up your secret spot,” he said.
 

SECOND THOUGHTS: Wednesday, April 13, 2005

A photo yesterday of a man with a large mushroom he had found in Columbia should have said that the red morel is a "false morel," according to the Missouri Department of Conservation Web site. "On one hand, many people have enjoyed eating false morels for years and may even consider them a favorite wild mushroom," the agency advises. "On the other, false morels have definitely caused serious illnesses and deaths in the United States." The agency says, "Because of different cooking techniques and different individual sensitivities to" a toxic chemical in the mushroom, monomethyl hydrazine, "false morels poison some people but leave others unaffected."

 

The remains of a 23 pound Gyromitra found in MO.!!!

Other types of Gyromitra:

 

Gyromitra fastigiata

Gyromitra  brunnea

I filmed this during the 2004 foray in Tennessee, and have yet to put my finger on a positive identification of Gyromitra.

 

Portions of the above info was retrieved from the US Dept. of Disease Control, Mushroomexpert.com

Photo Credits: Richard Kay, John Denk, Hugh Urban, Chris Matherly, and a few unknowns submitted to me this year on the morel finds page.