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Gyromitra esculenta is a potentially deadly mushroom commonly known as False Morel, Turban Fungus and Elephant Ears. It is one of the few species of fungi which use the common name False Morel, as it resembled the highly regarded True Morel of the genus Morchella. Gyromitra esculenta is widely distributed across Europe and North America. Although it is potentially deadly if eaten raw, it is a popular delicacy in Scandivania, Eastern Europe, and the upper Great Lakes regions of North America.
Gyromitra esculenta can be found growing in sandy soils under coniferous trees in temperate regions, and occasionally in deciduous woodlands, during spring and early summer. It has irregular brain-shaped cap which can grow to 10 x 15 cm high and wide, and can be reddish-, chestnut-, purplish-, dark- or golden brown in color. The cap is initially smooth, becoming more wrinkled as it grows and aged. The solid stipe is bare, 6 cm high, and white in color. The fungus has a pleasant and fruity smell, with a mild taste.
Gyromitra esculenta is prohibited for public sale in Spain. In Finland, it may be sold fresh but must be accompanied by adequate warning signs and instructions on correct preparation. It is eaten in omelettes, soups, pie filling or sauteed in butter in Finnish cuisine.
Gyromitra esculenta is commonly parboiled before consumption, but this process may not eliminate all the toxins in the fungus and make it entirely safe for consumption. When consumed, the active agent, gyromitrin, is hydrolyzed (a chemical reaction in which the water molecules are broken into H+ and OH-) into a toxic compound called monomethylhydrazine (MMH). The toxin can affect the liver, central nervous system, and kidneys. One may experienced vomiting and diarrhea several hours after consumption of the mushroom, followed by dizziness, lethargy and headache. Severe cases may lead to acute confusional state or delirium, coma or even death after 5-7 days. False morels are also sold prepared and canned, in which case they are ready to be used.