How to tell the difference between true and false morels
Morels are among the most popular mushrooms on earth. Unlike other mushrooms that are farmed, morels are mostly harvested from the wild. Morel lovers, foragers, and chefs set out to the forest to gather these tasty treats when spring comes. However, how do you tell the difference between morels and false morels?
The two significant features to look at when trying to distinguish morel mushrooms are the interior and the shape of its cap. You will begin by dissecting them. True morels possess a hollow center and a very conspicuous cap. Its cap is relatively uniform with a ribbed and pocked interior.
On the other hand, a false morel cap is crimped and lobed; it looks as if it’s protruding outwards. Its interior is not hollow, and usually, it is packed with a sort of cotton fiber.
Morels are relatively easy to identify; upon seeing one, you can never go wrong. Typically, they grow during spring, though you can find them during the fall and summer, depending on where you reside. There are various morel species like yellow, burn, or black ones, though most people do not see the need to distinguish them.
The most distinct feature of morels is their intensely pocked cap. Also, they feature the hollow center, though you can only see this once you dissect the mushroom. Furthermore, the stalk is thick, but it is not wavy like the Gyromitra.
If you see these features and are still not sure it’s the real deal, go foraging with an experienced mushroom hunter. When hunting mushrooms, it would be best to be sure that you know what you’ve picked.
Morels are not supposed to be consumed while raw. Consumption of raw morels could lead to severe digestive problems if not cooked correctly. What’s more, remember to check your morels for snails or bugs. Visit
Why are they so popular?
They are tasty. Morels have made people who didn’t initially like mushrooms fall in love with them. Mushrooms are typically slimy or slippery, but morel mushrooms are distinct with their meat-like texture and the fact that they taste like nuts.
They have an impressive reputation. This is mostly because they are not easy to find, pricey, and exceptional appearance. They usually are reserved for posh meals with expensive meats and wines.
Why are morels so tasty?
Its texture and the nut-flavored taste is deep. The meat-like texture is tender, making it a filling piece of protein that’s not slimy. They are not the kind of meal to vanquish other meals, yet they still leave a mark in your taste buds.
Benefits of consuming morels
These mushrooms are packed with all kinds of nutrients. Typically, they grow in rich soils, which means they have plenty of minerals and vitamins. Even though nutrition can differ depending on the soil, morels usually have lots of Manganese, vitamins B6 and E, Potassium, Niacin, Copper, Vitamin D, Thiamine, Magnesium, Riboflavin, Iron, zinc, and Phosphorus.
Morel mushrooms also have plenty of antioxidants, fiber, and proteins.
Where do they grow?
Morels are categorized into natural or fire morels. The fire morels grow during spring in huge numbers after a forest fire in a particular region in the year before. A fire between July and August is perfect, but having a fire in an area does not guarantee that you will harvest morels the following year. However, it’s something good to look forward to. Fire morels prefer growing on pine or spruce most of the time; they grow on the exterior where the fire was, and not in the center part that was completely burned down.
The natural morels grow on pastures, or orchards, that are close to trees. You can find a big butch of them in one section, more than enough for you, or several for a snack. They might thrive for a year or two and then, for no particular reason, disappear for some time. This is among the reasons why morels are so sought-after yet so challenging to find.
Most of the time, they grow on tree roots, where there is a lot of shade or on the ground with plenty of thick needles from a coniferous tree. The reason why morels grow after forest fires is that morel mycelium begins producing when it’s anxious. Some other reasons that might stress mushrooms until they start fruiting are livestock and digging.
Nonetheless, they also fruit during spring since it’s when the trees start releasing sap and taking up energy and carbohydrates from the roots. They are among the few mushroom species that you would want to start hunting for during spring.
True and false morels are almost similar, but the differences are quite distinct, even if there are some similarities. Especially the difference in the shape and appearance of the caps. These two mushrooms have a brainy appearance; however, that is just about where their similarities end. False morels have a brown, red, or purple color while true morels feature grey, yellow, or tan color.
False morels usually feature a thicker stalk; however, they do not have the same cap as mentioned above. A false morel looks like a morel that was walked over and left out to dry in the sun, then it was eventually rained on, in simple terms.
If you feel like you might not identify the false morel, the most reliable way to tell them apart is by dissecting one. Cut the mushroom vertically from the cap to the stem, which is at the bottom.
False morels, what are they?
False morels are mushroom species that appear very similar to true morels and are at times mistaken for. Verpa Bohemica and Gyromitra Esculenta are the two common species of false morels.
You probably have not heard of these scientific names, but their English names are beefsteak and red mushroom. They are very common and easy to find, and while their differences are quite distinct, many people cannot tell them apart.
Where do they grow?
These morels grow on edges of ponds, ravines, or valleys. Also, Gyromitra can grow beneath conifer trees or on forests. False morels grow on the same spots as true morels, making it harder to differentiate the two if you’re foraging for morels. They also grow under the same conditions and thrive under similar circumstances.
These morels can grow on a given area in butches or a few that are scattered. Simultaneously, false morels can grow on a given site and continue growing on the spot for several years. Although the chances are high that when you go to this same spot after a few years, there will be no morels, for no particular reason.
What will happen if you eat a false morel?
Consuming a false morel is a mistake that you will pay for dearly. The toxins in false morels are lethal to humans. Some false morels contain gytomitrin, a toxin that once ingested releases monomethylhydrazine – a chemical found in rocket fuel. This chemical might be perfect for space travel; however, it destroys your kidneys. MMH is an accumulative chemical. Therefore, the amounts will amass in the body after frequent consumption. This could result in severe symptoms or even death.
The symptoms are issues with muscle coordination, diarrhea, and pain in the abdomen, headache, fever, convulsions, and even death. You might not die from this mushroom’s toxicity, but the pain is excruciating enough to make you prefer death.
Furthermore, False morels slow down the blood clotting process in one’s body, which results in more bleeding and hurting. Even though it rarely happens, these symptoms can slowly lead to death if they are not dealt with on time.
If you eat or smell false morels, the lethal toxins found in the mushrooms can lead to mushroom toxicity, and the symptoms will be visible from between 6 to 48 hours after ingestion or inhalation.
The toxins in most of these false morels disappear once you cook them, and some countries in Europe are comfortable eating them. However, there is no need to risk your life because of a wrongly prepared mushroom. If you do not know how to cook them properly, you should avoid them.
Morels are among the most sought-out mushrooms out there. However, they are also quite delicate and very problematic to grow in a commercial setting or indoors. You have a better chance of harvesting true morels once you get out and try finding them in parts with plenty of ash trees, especially areas where a forest fire occurred.
Ensure that you can certainly identify a morel before making plans to eat it. If it is hollow in its interior and its stem does not link up to the cap, that’s a promising first step. However, you should always consult an expert. If you wish to grow morels in your garden, you should try creating a spore slurry or purchasing a kit. However, do not expect the morels to appear any time before a couple of years have gone by.