Verpa Bohemica, also known as the early morel, split to show how the cap is unattached to the stem except at the top: a true morel is attached all the way down. Also, true morels are hollow, and the verpa is full of cottony wisps. True morels are the most delicious of mushrooms; V. Bohemica is only "edible with caution.".
The whole potful of utterly useless verpas that I traded two dozen eggs, a pound of goatcheese, and some grass fed beef for.
As always at this time of year, I am trying desperately to get the trade network up and running. Just about now I am beginning to be overrun with eggs and experiencing a serious surplus of milk and milk products (Iris' twins were picked up today - starting tonight I will be milking twice a day). No-one, however, yet has any garden produce to trade, and won't for at least another month. Trolling Craigslist looking for things I might want to trade for, I found morels advertised!
I adore morels, as does anyone with half a brain, and was delighted to find them so early in the year. The man wanted $12 a pound for them - cheap for morels, but we are pretty broke and don't have money to be throwing around on mushrooms. So I asked him if he'd be into a trade and he said he would. Yippee!
When he arrived, however, he told me about how he'd been having trouble on Craigslist with people who kept flagging his post, saying that the mushrooms he was selling weren't safe.
"Why not," I asked him, "Morels are awesome!"
"Well," he said, "these aren't the same species as the morels you buy in the store. These are early morels, but they are great and just as yummy."
I was, of course, skeptical of this, but since I was born without a spine, I didn't send him packing but merely asked him if he knew the genus and species names. He did, and he told me, and he assured me that he's been eating these for years and feeds them to his kids and that the people flagging his account were simply mistaken. Dubiously, I went ahead with the trade, and when he was gone, started doing some research.
He was right about what the mushrooms were, anyway. They were indeed, as he had said, Verpa Bohemica. With good resources they are pretty easy to identify. However, not one resource I checked (and I checked about eight) said that V. Bohemica should be eaten without reservation. Most sites said something along the lines of "be careful with these, as reports of vomiting, GI distress, and loss of muscular co-ordination exist. However, personally I've never had an issue." Only one person I found reported actual effects, and he also said that the mushrooms just didn't taste very good. Many more people said they liked the mushrooms and that they suffered no ill effects, but that's not really good enough for me.
I decided to give them a try in a small quantity but not feed them to anyone else in the family. I have a fairly cast-iron stomach and I'm not afraid of a little muscular discoordination in a good cause. Heck, I've been known to bring muscular discoordination on myself, on purpose, of a saturday night. However, after soaking the shrooms in saltwater and then drying them in a low oven, I just didn't like the smell of them. They didn't smell woodsy and enticing, as wild mushrooms ought to smell, but rather gloomy and bloated and a little bit rotten, like the bottom of a compost pile.
I threw them out. You win some, you lose some.