This blob-like, brain-like, fungus is a False Morel in the genus Gyromitra. There are several mushrooms within this genus and all are referred to as false morels. They also go by many other common names, such as Red morel, beefsteak, brain mushroom, glob mushroom, and redheads.
They have well developed stems, and their oddly shaped caps are generally reddish brown to yellowish brown. When sliced open, they are not completely hollow--and this is the best way to distinguish them from the morels, which are hollow.
Many people eat these mushrooms with no ill effects, but studies are showing that others have severe reactions to eating these mushrooms, and in some cases death could result. Other reactions to consuming these mushrooms could be dizziness, nausea, and coordination problems. In southern Missouri these are eaten regularly with Yellow Morels and are considered quite tasty. Perhaps certain people have built up immunities to the toxins within these mushrooms. Perhaps they are just lucky. Perhaps their bodies are just able to consume them and not suffer for it. I for one would not want to chance it. I would rather err on the side of caution and live another day...or at the very least, not spend days suffering ill effects from a potentially poisonous mushroom.
“There are old mushroom eaters and there are bold mushroom eaters, but there are no old bold mushroom eaters”
The one pictured here is very large, it measures nearly 9 inches tall, and 6 or 7 inches in diameter. The base is 4 or 5 inches in diameter. I believe it is Gyromitra esculenta. Which generally fruits near conifer trees. It is referred to as beef steak morel in some areas and is consumed after special preparation. There have also been confirmed fatalities. Some of the toxin is removed by boiling multiple times in water and discarding the water. Reportedly cooks have been poisoned simply from breathing the steam. One of its toxins is monomethylhydrazine (MMH) which has been used in rocket fuel. It is available canned and dried from Finland and probably other countries as well.
So what's the problem? One danger is the varying levels of MMH in different poisonous mushrooms. Some species contain very little, others contain enough to kill. MMH levels also vary among geographic regions within a single species. The point is nobody knows how toxic any false morel will be in any location. MMH is a cumulative toxin. This means that its levels will build up in your body after repeated consumption. This could lead to illness or even death. Keep that in mind the next time someone insists to you that they've safely eaten these poisonous mushrooms.
Most appear in the spring and summer and grow directly on the ground. Although some are found on wood or later in the year, they are unlikely to be mistaken for true morels. Caps are usually brown or reddish brown and occasionally yellow. Most stems are a light color, ranging from white to tan. These mushrooms are considered saprotrophs, meaning they feed on dead and decaying organic matter. Some have suggested that they may be mycorrhizal as well (forming a symbiotic relationship with trees).
Like true morels, false ones are often found in areas where the forest floor has been disrupted. You're more likely to see them near washes, rivulets, man-made disturbances in the ground, and roadsides.
Make note of the cap shape. False morels have caps that are "wavy" or "lobed". They appear to be bulging outwards. True morels have a more uniformly shaped cap with pits or ridges. They appear to be pitted inwards rather than bulging.The cap of the false mushroom hangs freely from the stem. A true morel has a cap that will be attached to the stem. This is not always the case but more often than not it is.
Don’t eat any mushroom unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure that it is safe!
You should never eat any mushroom unless it is positively identified as edible. If you are in any way uncertain about the edibility of a mushroom, don’t try it. If in doubt, throw it out!
While morels are easily identified, other species of safe mushrooms have deadly look-a-likes. If you are just starting to collect and eat wild mushrooms, don’t rely on books or websites alone for your information. Go hiking with experienced experts, who can show you how to identify the important characteristics of edible and poisonous mushrooms.