Morels are prized by mushroom hunters for their delicious flavor. However, mistaking a false morel for an edible morel can have serious, even deadly, consequences. False morels contain a toxic chemical called Gyromitrin. This potentially carcinogenic chemical causes nausea, dizziness, coma and even death. Luckily, there are ways to distinguish false morels from the edible variety.
Identifying a False Morel
Examine the mushroom cap. A false morel will have folds and wrinkles, and look almost like a brain. A morel will have deep pits and ridges. False morel caps may also be saddle-shaped.
Twist the cap. If the cap falls off with little effort, it is most likely a false morel. Morel caps are securely connected to the stem.
Inspect the stem. False morel stems connect at the very top of the cap. Morel stems connect at the very bottom of the cap.
Assess the mushroom's color. A false morel can be any color from yellow to a dark brownish red, but tend to be darker than morels. A morel will generally be a lighter color, most likely gray or sand.
Slice the stem lengthwise. A false morel will have a stem filled with a solid, meaty mass. Morels are hollow. This is the easiest way to distinguish between the morels, but make sure to examine them carefully. Slugs like to eat the insides of false morels, making them appear hollow.
Slicing the mushroom also makes it easier to determine where the cap is connected. Remember, if the bottom of the cap is connected to the stem, it is an edible morel. Only false morels are connected at the top.