Morel mushrooms are known for adding a delicious umami tang to whatever dishes they're prepared in, but you can't always find them in the produce section when you've got a hankering for them. While you can harvest them in the wild, there's no guarantee that you'll even find any. So, that leaves growing morels yourself. How to grow morel mushrooms at home is an imprecise science, but there are a few methods that people have had success with that you can try.
How to Grow Morel Mushrooms at Home
When it comes to growing morel mushrooms, there's no one way to try to cultivate a cluster of them. Both gardeners and scientists aren't totally sure what conditions make morels grow, so for any first-time planter, there's going to be some trial and error.
The preferred way to grow morels is using a grow kit with a spawned morel. More advanced planters will make their own slurries to start the growing process. Although these aren't the only two ways you can try to plant morel mushrooms, they're the two with the greatest success rates.
Plant Morel Mushrooms Using a Grow Kit
What is a grow kit, you ask? A grow kit is a product you can buy that comes with the necessary parts to start a morel mushroom cluster, and you can find tons of them online. Included in a grow kit is usually a mushroom's spawn or spores and instructions on how to plant it. Spawn refers to the layer of material that the mushrooms grew from, such as sawdust, and spores are the actual reproductive particles that the mushrooms can grow from.
These kits give you the vegetative materials you need to grow morel mushrooms, but they don't make the environment or enclosure you need to support their growth. Making their habitat is up to you.
Create a Mushroom Enclosure
Making a space for your morel mushrooms to live isn't actually that hard. All you need is a raised garden bed (most are made out of wood), and you can get one in store or build one yourself. They don't need to be huge; 4'x4' works great.
Make sure to set this box up in a shaded area in the early fall because morels really like damp, cool spaces. Place a barrier (like cardboard) on the exposed ground in the box so that you can put your soil mixture on top. Then, add a mixture of peat moss and nutrient-rich soil to the bed.
Morel mushrooms are often found in areas devastated by forest fires, so if you can find ash to add to your soil mixture, you've got a strong chance of having a successful growing season.
Distribute the Spores or Spawn
This is the easiest step. You only have to take the morel material you've bought and crumble it apart, spreading it throughout the soil in your planter. Add some hardwood chips on top, as morels grow near these trees in the wild, and you're good to go.
Plant Morel Mushrooms Using a Slurry
No, these slurries aren't like 7-Eleven's slushies; they're a spore-filled water suspension that you can pour on an awaiting bed (the same one you build to house your grow kits). To make a slurry, you do have to have wild morels. This method isn't the best one for you if you can't find them yourself or you don't have a contact you can reach out to who does.
Just remember, neither of these methods is better than the other. They're just two ways of reaching the same goal.
How to Make a Morel Mushroom Slurry
A slurry is a water mixture that draws the spores out of wild morel mushrooms and keeps them suspended so they're ready to be spread and planted at any time. Rachel Goclawski is a foraging instructor, and her slurry recipe works in a pinch.
To make a slurry, you need a few ingredients:
- A few wild morel mushrooms
- 1 half gallon to 1 gallon of non-chlorinated water
- ½ cup flour
- ½ cup karo syrup or unsulfured molasses
Cultivate Mycelium and Plant Morels
Add all these ingredients into a blender until everything's mixed together. Then combine some wood chips, fresh wood ash, and your slurry into a bucket with some filtered water in it. Add an aquarium airstone to the mixture to keep air filtering through everything.
From there you need to wait 1-2 days before spreading your spores over the prepared areas in your yard or in designated beds where you want to grow morels.
How Long Does It Take Morel Mushrooms to Grow?
Don't expect to get any return on your morel mushrooms in the first year or two. It can take a few years for morels to actually start blooming enough for you to harvest them. This is often the biggest reason that people don't grow morels; it's hard to want to put in work for something you won't benefit from until years down the road. But, if you love the nutty peanut-capped 'shrooms, it'll be well worth the effort.
Give Future You the Gift of Morel Mushrooms
Growing morel mushrooms is the ultimate lesson in patience. While it can take years to see the fruits of your labor, the meaty textures and unique flavor profile make it worthwhile. And you don't have to be a seasoned gardener to be able to grow morel mushrooms; anyone can when they have the right tools and know all the steps ahead of time.