Monday, May 3, 2010

.... and the morel is....


At this time of year this intriguing toadstool, the morel Morchella esculenta, regularly appears along the banks of the river Wear in Weardale, sometimes in large numbers. This is the only one we've found this year, but maybe the cold weather is holding them back. That honeycomb-shaped cap makes it instantly recognisable as a morel and these toadstools are highly prized by those who like to eat wild fungi, although you need to be careful to remove the grit, insects and assorted other debris that collects in those cavities - and cooking is also essential to render this species edible. I have to admit I'm a coward when it comes to exploring the culinary qualities of wild toadstools and with this species, distinctive though it is, there is a possibility of making a fatal mistake.....




Just along the river bank from the specimen above, on the edge of a pine plantation, we found this false morel Gyromitra esculenta, which is a totally different proposition. When fully grown it has a short stalk like a morel and that convoluted cap looks superficially like the morel's honeycombed structure - but about one in seven people who mistakenly eat the false morel become acutely ill die from symptoms similar to death cap poisoning. Apparently some people have a digestive system that's capable to harmlessly breaking down the toxin and can eat them with impunity but the only way to find our if your liver might survive the experience seems to be to indulge in the mycological equivalent of Russian roulette. The fungus is said to be edible if it's dried or soaked to remove the toxin ............. but I think I'll stick with cultivated mushrooms.

9 comments:

  1. Very interesting, I think I would stick to the cultivated ones too. Next time I am up North (I am in the South) I will have to look out for these on one of my walks along the river.

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  2. Ewwwwww! I'd be a complete failure at survival in the wild. The false morel looks too much like a brain to me and we don't eat meat! :O) Phil, I'm awfully glad I haven't encountered this on walks by the river.... I'd be looking for the rest of the body that goes with it!

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  3. Great shots Phil...I've been looking out for Morels locally but without success.

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  4. An unusual pair of mushrooms Phil.
    No chance of me eating them, I don't like mushrooms; not even cultivated ones lol

    I agree with Lesley, that second one does look a bit like a brain. Yuk!

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  5. Hi Linda, it always appears in spring - Iguess it's the fungal equivalent of a primrose, without the aesthetic appeal...

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  6. Does look pretty gruesome, doesn't it Lesley. Fungi are much more closely related to animals than to plants.......

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  7. Some years they seem to be really plentiful Nigel. I've heard reports that they are turning up on bark chips used as a garden mulch.

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  8. Hi Keith, I have to admit the spongy texture of morels would put me off...

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  9. Wonderful pictures of the morels, Phil. I would love to find one for my collection.

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