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Beefsteak Morel: Gyromitra esculenta

Beefsteak Morel: Gyromitra esculenta - Fungi species | sokos jishebi | სოკოს ჯიშები

Beefsteak Morel: Gyromitra esculenta

Pileus
Cap 5-9 cm tall, 5-11 cm broad, semi-globose, brain-like, inconspicuously lobed; fertile surface convoluted to wrinkled, lobes separated by deep furrows; color: tan-brown, ochraceous-brown, deep reddish-brown; sterile undersurface of cap cream to buff-colored; margin attached to stipe at several points; context thin, brittle; odor and taste not distinctive.

Stipe
Stipe 3-6 cm long, 1-3 cm thick, hollow, round to compressed, sometimes grooved or with basal folds; surface smooth to furfuraceous, whitish, often tinged vinaceous-tan.

Spores
Spores 18-23 x 9-12 µm, ellipsoid, smooth, with two oil droplets; spores pale yellowish-buff in deposit.

Habitat
Solitary, scattered to gregarious under conifers, occasionally under hardwoods; common in the Sierra, rare in coastal forests; fruiting from late winter to spring.

Edibility
Potentially deadly, especially raw, but see comments.

Comments
Commonly known as the Brain Mushroom because of its much wrinkled, typically reddish-brown cap, Gyromitra esculenta is one of the more distinctive members of the "False Morel" group. Nonetheless, it is sometimes confused with morels (Morchella spp.) The latter are easily distinguished by their longitudinally ridged, pitted caps. Although the species name suggests edibility, Gyromitra esculenta is a questionable choice for the table as it contains monomethylhydrazine (MMH), a volatile toxin which in high doses can be fatal. Anecdotal evidence and preliminary tests by Duffy and Vergeer suggest that California material may not contain high levels of MMH, but caution is still advised. Although we cannot recommend eating this mushroom, it is commonly consumned in the Western United states. If you do try Gyromitra esculenta, it should always be cooked in a well ventilated area to avoid breathing any monomethylhydrazine that might be present and the cooking liquid should be discarded.

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