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Mushroom of the month for May 2011 was...

Verpa bohemicaVerpa bohemica

a.k.a. the Wrinkled Thimble Cap.

Verpa bohemica is an early spring mushroom that is often mistaken for a half-free morel. Morchella semi-libera. Fortunately the wrinkled thimble-cap is also an edible mushroom so the confusion rarely causes problems. I have even seen these for sale at mushroom festivals mixed with half-free morels. Occasionally this mushroom when eaten in large quantities over several days has been known to cause a lack of muscle coordination and/or stomach cramps. I picked 60+ of these Verpas one year which after sautéing I used on a homemade pizza which I ate for dinner one night then for lunches for a couple of days in a row with no problems.

The deeply wrinkled, bell-shaped yellow-brown cap of the V. bohemica is ½ to 1 ½ inches high and 3/8 to 1 inch wide. The off-white, cylindrical stem is 2 to 4 inches tall and ½ to 1 inch wide. The cap is attached to the stem only at the top of the cap and the stalk easily detaches from the cap; this feature distinguishes the Verpa from the half-free morel as the stem of the morel attaches halfway up the cap leaving half of the cap free of the stem. The stem is often loosely stuffed with a cotton-like substance though with age this can dry up and attach to the inner sides of the stem leaving the appearance of a hollow stem. All true morels have hollow stems and caps. Wrinkled thimble-cap mushrooms can be found in deciduous woods and orchards.

 Verpa bohemica cut away view

Verpa bohemica - The Wrinkle Thimble Cap
Photo credit: Michael Kuo (www.mushroomexpert.com)

Verpa bohemicas are edible with caution but they are more fragile and less flavorful than the true morels. They are a good tasting mushroom that can sometimes be found in quantity in the spring. Finding some of these when the morels are not cooperating, leaves one with the possibility of a decent side dish to enjoy with a meal.