The refuge has a wide variety of mushrooms available for picking, the most popular being the morel. The bookstore in the Visitor Center has a wonderful selection of books that share a variety of edible mushrooms. Remember that different mushrooms come out at different times of the year. Different varieties of edible mushrooms may be found throughout the spring, summer and fall.
There is a mushroom in our woods that some locals eat known as the beefsteak mushroom. Its scientific name is Gyromitra esculenta and it is just one of the many false morel mushrooms worldwide. While false morels look similar to the edible morel mushroom they are in fact poisonous, especially when eaten raw. Some sources will tell you that if you parboil the mushroom they will then become edible, but should you really take the chance? After all, not all the toxins are removed by this process. Also, if you breathe the vapors produced while preparing these mushrooms they can also make you sick.
In and around the Great Lakes and Scandinavia some consider these mushrooms a delicacy. There are, in fact, some people that eat them and seem to have no ill effects. This is not a good idea however, because these mushrooms contain a toxin called monomethyl hydrazine (MMH), the same stuff used in rocket fuel. This compound causes vomiting, dizziness, diarrhea, and possibly death among a whole host of other unpleasant side effects. MMH is also a known carcinogen, so those who dine on these mushrooms are taking two risks each time they take a bite.
Each individual mushroom varies in the amount of the MMH toxin it contains. Some may contain a small amount, while others a lethal dose. It is somewhat like playing Russian Roulette. Death from eating these mushrooms is rare and most people that become ill from eating them will eventually recover.
Of course every person has to decide for themselves what to eat and what not to eat. Why risk it? Those who choose to eat this mushroom should not invite others to join in this dangerous dining.