Is Gyromitra edible?

John Uncategorized 11 Comments

[Gyromitra esculenta. Photo courtesy of Rand Workman]

Well, this is an eternal question that arises every morel season.

With tons of discussion on the subject, there can be a lot of confusing ideas that become indistinguishable from hearsay.

If there could be a quote, or a snippet of some sort from someone with experience on the matter…

Oh wait! there is! and It’s by mycologist Gary Gilbert of Boston Massachusetts!

 


“Many people have eaten some Gyromitra species for decades with no ill effect.

It is not true to say that eating them will kill you, nor is it clear that eating them is absolutely healthy. It depends on species, location, elevation, time between harvest and ingestion, and most of all, your body. Tons of nicknames exist for them but “False Morel” is one that is frowned upon as they do not resemble morels very much at all.

Use that term for Verpas only please.

Gyromitras are medium to large size. Cap is contorted, lobed, wrinkled and most often a shade of brown. Margin can be attached or free of stipe. Stipe is smooth, folded or ribbed, hollow or partially hollow stems.
The carcinogenic compound gyromitrin is almost non-existant in many species. However, there are 9 to 11 different types of gyromitrin in the very dangerous Gyromitra esculenta as well as G. infula and G. ambigua.

These are truly the most dangerous species in North America.

Gyromitrin decomposes in your body to yield monomethylhydrazine (often referred to as MMH). People vary as to how much of this they can tolerate without ill effects. Deaths have only occurred in Europe from this but yearly there are serious liver poisonings in the US from it. A small increment too much of it can kill (though no reported deaths in the US) and even one meal of it could start a tumor. Obviously, this is hard to test for but the chemical is absolutely a known carcinogen. Interestingly, the stipe has twice as much gyromitrin in it as the cap.

G. brunnea; G. caroliniana; G. korfii; G. montana ; G. gigas; G. sphaerospora; G. fastigiata are other species that are commonly eaten but none of them have been successfully tested for gyromitrin content, much to the chagrin of those who follow this issue. Poisonings occur regularly in AK, ID, OR, WA, MT. Possibly the California Gyromitra species are much less toxic or completely edible, exluding the G. esculenta clade. In the Michigan and midwest areas I’ve seen many reports of people eating some of these species for years but little data on which specific species they’ve been eating. They may think it is Gyromitra esculenta when it actually is Gyromitra korfii, for example.

‘Food’? for thought. Happy spring hunting – Gary Gilbert

Wow! Thanks for taking the time for that wonderful explanation Gary!

I feel loads more confident in how I think about Gyromitra now!

Still confused about Gyromitra’s edibility? Leave me a comment in the comment section below!

Comments 11

  1. Read also Michael Kuo’s book “Morels” as well as some articles published in Fungi Magazine as well as the 2013 NAMA Toxicology Committee Report.

    1. Years ago I spent some time in Finland. The Finns regularly collected Gyromitras for their tables. When I expressed concern about the toxic properties, several people told me that they knew these to be dangerous, but not if properly cooked.

      Their process was to boil the fungi first, throw away the cooking water, and rinse them. After that these fungi were often cooked in a cream sauce or baked with other ingredients.

      I do not know the efficacy of this pre-boiling technique, but I did eat several dishes prepared like this without any apparent illness at the time.

  2. Gyromitras are THE False Morel. Whether you like it or not. Always has been and always will be.

    Verpas are a look a like.. they are not classified as a false morel although they’ve been called an “early morel”

  3. I am from Livingston County, Michigan and for the first time harvested some Gyromitra brunnea. After I was 100% certain of identifying this mushroom, I tried a small sample by first parboiling, rinsing and then sauteeing the mushroom. The texture was very good but a very mild flavor since the parboiling took most of the flavor out.

    The next day I decided to cook up a small batch slicing the mushroom into 1/2″ thick pieces, steamed them and then sauteed them in butter with a little salt and pepper. They were outstanding and tasted very much like morels.

    I teach a community education course on Wild Mushrooms and I am on the fence whether or not I want to cover the topic of consuming the Edible Gyromitras. It may be a can of worms I may not want to open.

  4. I found some mushrooms that look like g in the Berkshires MA and would like to send you pictures, if you have an email.

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      Elin, thanks for sharing that article! It’s testimonials like these that are important to have at hand. While I do not want to confuse readers about my article (it is NOT advice on consuming wild mushrooms!), I want to reiterate that it is merely an educational resource for others.

      Your comment with this link included adds to the value of this page. Thank you!

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