Wild morel mushrooms are a delicious, delicious delicacy. They're so tasty that anybody who has them growing wild in their land are apt to keep the location a secret from their own morel-hunting neighbors. Sadly, they're not easy to find and it's not easy to find fresh morels in the market. And they're expensive too!
Fortunately, there's a way to grow your own morels so that you can have fresh morels in the spring. It's not easy but let's learn how to grow morels.
Did You Know?
For a long time, growers did not know the exact science of growing morels - what soil, care, and weather conditions work best for them. It was Ronald Owen of San Fransisco who patented a successful morel growing process in 1982.
More and more growers started experimenting in their backyards. Growers in China were even so successful that they could grow 6,000 morels in an acre of land.
While we suggest that you start with a much smaller area, here is how to plant, grow and cultivate morel mushrooms in your backyard.
Planting Your Morels
Planting is the hardest part in learning how to grow morels. While there are several options, most people find making a morsel surrey is the cheapest method.
1. Decide where to grow your morels.
The easiest choice is to plant them on the side of a dying tree, but that is not always an option. Space should be well shaded receiving less than three hours of direct sunlight per day.
Ideally, daytime temperatures will be in the 60s and 70s when you plant. Morels are a cool-season crop that is best grown when the weather is going from winter to spring.
2. Prepare your soil
Regardless of where you decide to plant the morels, it is important to properly prep the soil. Start by burning some wood chips so that you have ashes. Then, mix equal amounts of peat moss, wood chips, and ashes to the soil together to form a mixture.
Hoe up an area about 0.25 inches deep, and as big as you want your morel area to be. Most growers do very well with a four foot by four-foot square morel growing area.
3. Make your morel growing kit
While you can buy growing kits, you can easily make your own at home from morel mushrooms.
Bring one gallon of filtered tap water or distilled water to a boil. Do not use unfiltered tap water. It contains too much chlorine for your morel mushrooms to grow.
Add one tablespoon molasses to the water as it helps provide energy for the morels to grow. In addition, add one-quarter teaspoon salt to stop bacteria from forming. Stir the mixture into the water, and wait for it to boil again.
Let the water return to room temperature. Then, add the spore part of some morel mushrooms. Put the mixture in the corner of your home and let it sit for about 44 hours. Pour the mixture through cheesecloth and set the liquid aside.
Go to your prepared plot and pour the liquid over the peat moss mixture. Cover the plot with about one-quarter inch of leaves and wait for your mushrooms to start growing.
IMPORTANT: Keep in mind that growing morels can be a very tricky business, so be prepared to fail. If you do not see morels growing in about 10 days, repeat the process.
Growing Your Morels
From the time that you notice a thin match-like stick poking out of the ground until you have a three-inch morel mushroom ready for harvesting can be as few as six days. Therefore, you should make sure to keep an eye on your patch every day.
If the ground seems dry, then water it. Otherwise, it is best to leave the area alone.
Use a sharp knife to cut the cap off the top of the morel mushroom. Most people prefer to harvest the caps when they are about three inches tall.
Use a brush to remove any dirt and bugs. Then, they can be placed in a food-grade container. They can be stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.
Do not wash the morel until you are ready to use it as the moisture will make the morel deteriorate faster.
If you want to keep the morel mushroom for longer than three days, then you can freeze it. They should be washed before freezing them. If they are larger than one-inch in diameter, then it is best to quarter them. You can steam, blanch or saute them to inactivate the enzymes, but freezing raw morels is never a good idea.
Morels can also be dried. When this method is chosen, they should have less than 10 percent moisture content in order to discourage microorganisms growing.
Since most modern ovens do not go as low as 140 degrees, you will need a dehydrator to dry the morels. They should all be cut to a uniform size. It will take between eight to 10 hours in the dehydrator.
Depending on the humidity, morel mushrooms can be hung by a string to dry. It is best to only use an 18-inch string and thread the mushrooms on it very carefully. It can be difficult, however, in some climates to get the water level in the mushrooms low enough to stop bacteria and microorganism growth.
Now that you know how to grow morels, it is important to look at some of the things that can go wrong.
• Lack of Moisture- Morels need to grow in a moist environment
• Too Much Moisture- Letting your morels stand in water creates bacterial growth and mold that may stop morels from growing
• Wrong temperature- Morels grow best when the soil is between 55 and 59 degrees
• Contaminated spawn- There could be something that causes your spawn not to grow
• If you are successful, then you may make yourself some extra cash as morels often sell for up to $50 a pound.
• Never eat a morel without cooking it first- The heat from cooking neutralizes many reactions to eating morels.
• Morel mushrooms are high in fiber, magnesium and iron. They are also one of the highest sources of protein for those who do not eat meat.
Watch This Video
Here's a cool video by TheUrbanFarmingGuys where their adorable family share how they grow morel mushrooms in their farm. The first 5 minutes shows the kids running around the yard (and neighborhood) finding morels so if you want to skip that, you can go straight to the making of the slurry by clicking HERE. (A new YouTube tab will open and you'll be starting around the 5 minute mark.)