Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Do's and Don't of Eating Morels - or how not to get sick

Every year, I hear or read of at least a few reports of people getting sick after eating morels. Some of these are from people who have never tried them and have an allergic reaction to them -- which is a good reminder to always only eat a little bit the first time you try morels or any wild mushroom to ensure no unpleasant reaction before eating more. Due to this fact, before the season begins, I always find it necessary to mention some tips to avoid getting sick or even worse from the morels ones picks and ingests. I can honestly say that I have never gotten sick from eating morels but I suspect these simple rules have served me well.
  1. Never eat any false morels including so called "reds". I know there is much debate about this, but like I said these are my guidelines and so far they have done me no wrong. For more information about the eating false morel debate see this previous post The Debate over Reds - To Eat or Not to Eat.
  2. Never eat morels raw. Anything raw can and usually does have bacteria on it. Cooking it, even a fast sauté will destroy the bacteria and save your stomach.
  3. Never eat any spoiled or bad smelling morels. This is more important late in the season. Usually if a morel looks or smells bad I just let it be. When I get home I always look mine over thoroughly and cut off any darkened pieces or parts with that rust colored rot starting to set in.
  4. Always be sure that you know where they grow. This is by far the most important one because this is how you can actually poison yourself by eating morels. IF IN THE WOODS, YOU ARE GOOD. Never eat morels from lawns, orchards, etc. unless you have verified that the area has not been treated with pesticides or herbicides for a very long time. Any poisons in the soil WILL be absorbed by the mushrooms and if you eat them, by your stomach. For all you Show-Me folks who may have doubts, check out this article on arsenic poisoning by morels.
    Even in the woods sometimes you may have questions. For example, would you eat the morels in this picture (to the left) growing less than a foot from someone's old fruit of the looms? These were out in the woods but they still gave me pause.
  5. Never eat too many morels. I know, some of you may argue that there is no such thing as too many morels. But like most things in life, morels and mushrooms are best in moderation.
  6. Finally, there is the alcohol warning. Some say don't eat morels and drink at all. Others say you can have a beer or two just don't over do it. I have done the later and had a drink or two when consuming morels but never too much. Others swear it just took them a sip, so if you drink, you are going to have to see where your tolerance lies. For those who want to be safe, just stick to soda or some less potent potable.
Well there you have it. Just some general guidelines to follow. After all the time you spend driving and hunting down your patches the last thing you want to see is your half-eaten morels and all that hard work getting literally flushed down the toilet.


Anonymous said...

Good commentary, esp. about the Gyromitra (big red) "controversy". For chapter and verse, consult "A Morel Hunter's Companion" by Nancy Smith Weber.

Among the reasons why you might say,"they've never affected ME..."
-- MMH content (the poison) varies by species (there are many more than one) location, soil chemistry, the parts you eat (more in the stem), and preparation
-- MMH is volatile & boils off. If you boil them OUTSIDE before cooking and DON'T breathe the fumes, you will remove some of the toxin
-- MMH poisoning is cumulative, you may be all right until that "last meal."
-- Some people can metabolize MMH more efficiently then others, breaking it down more quickly into less dangerous compounds. Unless you have had a DNA workup for the gene(s) involved, you cannot be sure which group you are in.

I guess you know which side of the line I'm on ;)

-- Feral Boy

Anonymous said...

Nice article,

I find no reason to even try a red. There is plenty of opportunity to get the greys/yellows if one can just hold out on their temptations for a little longer.

I went out this weekend in a few spots around Jefferson City to see if I could find a teeny tiny grey or two but saw nothing, not even reds or LBM's. I've never found a black in Mid Mo but know that they are found more to the south in Missouri and they come out first so when the fish weren't biting for me Sunday I drove south of Camdenton to some public land and check on some south slopes and found absolutely nothing.

Keeping my fingers crossed and that middle April will have things flushing good around here. We have a week of extremely nice temps coming up right now.


Anonymous said...

just curious, when mixing beer and morels, what kind of symptons do you get? And when I laid mine out to somewhat dry, the smell gives me the biggest headache ever, I bag them up and headache goes away. Not to mention, I drank 2 beers with a couple, and it sort of felt like someone was sitting on my chest. Wierd, no more beer and morels for me.

Calahan 79 said...

I'm finding a lot of little greys, and a few nice yellows around Iola Ks. Good luck everyone!

Anonymous said...

Drinking vodka all afternoon and had plate of shroom for dinner. 4 hours later projectile vomiting, not from the booze I can handle that. Guess no more drinking and eating shrooms.

Anonymous said...

Looking for help. I am in Seattle where to my surprise I came across a large patch of morels. I am flying back to St. Louis tomorrow and looking to find a way to get them home. I was told to put them in a brown paper sack, but do I have to keep them cold? Can they be stored at room temperature for a couple days without effect?

ahistory said...

I wouldn't keep them out of the fridge for longer than a day, but I have stored them in paper bags and flown back from Oregon and they did fine. Just put them in the fridge as soon add you get here. I would also carry the on the plane. No telling how hot or cold the cargo hold might get.

Wendy Custer said...

Has anyone found and would you eat a red mushroom?

Anonymous said...

I went out there and ate them on the spot! I never got sick however I would not advise everybody to do this! I a 1/2 Indian btw....

Anonymous said...

alright just a quick question the rules that I have in this bowl I don't know how to tell if they're rotten or spoiled two of them are like a tan color and the other ones a little bit darker. but how would I tell like my smell cuz I mean they still smell like morels and they look like for reals I've had them in water for 2 weeks now but I can't tell please help me.

Anonymous said...

I have three more rounds to retain an one is a little bit darker than that my question is how do i tell if my morels went spoiled I left them in water for 2 weeks but I don't know how to smell for like them being rotten or the coloration please help me.

lee woo said...

It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises. See the link below for more info.


Silvia Jacinto said...

Reading your article is such a privilege. It does inspire me, I hope that you can share more positive thoughts. Visit my site too. The link is posted below.

Jonathan Colvin said...

It's not just because of bacteria that you shouldn't eat them raw; they are actually poisonous raw. Heat reduces the amount of toxin, which is presumably either a hydrazine or helvellic acid. But there is probably some small amount remaining, which may be why mixing them with alcohol is a bad idea.