The Verpa genus contains 5 widespread species.
May Be Toxic! Not Recommended!
Consumption of the mushroom is not advised due to reports of poisoning in susceptible individuals, include gastrointestinal upset and lack of muscular coordination. Coma has been attributed to the mushrooms. It's suspected that Verpa may be able to synthesize low levels of the Gyromitrin toxin.
More scientific study needed
Verpa have not been studied the same way Morchella (true morels) and Gyromitra have been. More study is needed to see if and how many toxins are present.
Be safe. Don't feed to children!
Half Free Morels?
Verpa can sometimes be confused with the half-free morel mushrooms (Morchella populiphilaWiki)
- Verpa caps attach at the top of the stem.
- If you can twist the cap and it pops off easily, it's a Verpa.
- On the half-free morels, the stem attaches to the mid point of the cap.
- If there is any cotton like substance inside the stem, it is definitely a Verpa. Older Verpa specimens may be hollow. Hollowness of the stem alone is not enough to identify reliably.
- If you're not sure, ask an experienced mushroom hunter or mycologist, or don't consume.
Myths and Facts
Verpa are safe to eat if you prepare them correctly.
We don't know what toxins are present, or if they are neutralized by cooking or boiling and discarding the water.
People in Italy/Europe eat these mushrooms regularly.
Most publications, books, and mycologists do not recommend eating Verpa mushrooms. Fungi Magazine published an article in 2015 detailing how people from northern Italy have a long tradition of eating Verpa mushrooms. The evidence presented is observational and even says that scientific study and chemical analysis is needed.
I've been eating these for years with no issues.
Some people regularly eat Verpa mushrooms. Long term affects (if any) are not known. Until leading mycologists come out and say Verpa is safe, it's best to stay away.
True morels of the MorchellaWiki genus are a highly prized delicacy. These are the mushrooms you're looking for.