Every spring, mushroom hunters descend on damp wooded areas in search of morel mushrooms, a distinctive fungus with a spongy cap. These mushrooms are very popular for culinary use and can be sold once gathered. Because of this, there is a growing market for morels that have been farm raised. To grow morels at home, you must replicate the conditions that the fungus grows under in the wild.
Locate a morel mushroom in the wild to harvest mushroom spoor from. Morel mushrooms typically grow in early spring near downed trees or in dense layers of leafmold.
Pierce the stem of the morel with a heat-sterilized paperclip. Hang the mushroom upside down in a sterile environment over a clean petri dish that has been prepared with agar mix. The morel will drop spoors onto the agar.
Cover the petri dish and store it at room temperature (between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit). After a few days, the spoor will begin to send out web-like reproductive strands. Continue to reproduce the spoor once the entire dish has been colonized by cutting away sections of the agar and putting them into new petri dishes.
Cover ryegrass seed with water and let it soak for 24 hours. Drain and mix 1 part potting soil with 5 parts seed. Place 2 cups of the potting mixture into a 1-quart canning jar. Cover the top of the jar with a filter disk and screw a canning ring over the top of the jar.
Put the jar of soil in an autoclave and cook it for 1 hour at 15 PSI. If you do not have an autoclave, fill the bottom of a pressure cooker with water to a 2 cm depth. Place a vegetable steamer on top of this and put the jar on top of the steamer. Heat the pressure cooker on a stove top until the water boils. Place a 15 PSI Pressure regulator onto the pressure cooker vent and heat until steam comes out of the vent. Heat for 1 hour.
Clean your work surface with a mixture of ½ part bleach and 9½ parts filtered water. Place the sterilized jar on the work surface and set aside the filter and ring. Add a few small pieces of the spoor-filled agar to the jar.
Replace the filter disk and cover loosely with foil. Shake the jar well. Store the jar in a dark location at room temperature for between four and six weeks to create morel spawn.
Mix an organic compound composed of 8 parts hardwood chips, 1 part rice hulls, ½ part soybean meal, ½ part sphagnum peat moss and a small amount of powdered limestone.
Mix a potting mix for your mushrooms that contains 2 parts sand, 3 parts potting soil and 5 parts of your organic compound.
Fill an aluminum cake pan with the potting soil. Wet it with water until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Place this container onto a second cake pan filled to a depth of 1 inch with damp ryegrass seed. Wet the second container. Put both containers in an oven bag and place them onto the vegetable steamer basket in the pressure cooker. Fill the bottom of the pressure cooker with 2 cm. of water. Sterilize the soil at 15 PSI for 1 hour.
Open the oven bag and stir ½ cup of the morel spawn mix into the cake pan filled with the potting mix that you made. Reclose the bag and place in a dark location at room temperature for between four and six weeks. Keep the humidity in the bag at 100 percent and do not allow air to circulate around the bag. After this time, morel sclerotia will cover the surface of the soil. These sclerotia are the morel seeds. Remove the rye tray from the bag, close the bag and chill in a refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit for 2 weeks.
Saturate the seed tray with sterile, room-temperature water for 16 hours. Allow the tray to drain and dry for 24 hours. Keep the soil in a moist, humid place with light for 12 hours daily. The mushrooms will begin to grow within 7 days. Harvest the mushrooms when they mature.
Things You Will Need
- Morel mushroom
- Paper clip
- Petri dish
- Agar mix
- Ryegrass seed
- Filtered water
- Potting soil
- 1-quart canning jar
- Charcoal filter disk
- Canning jar ring
- Pressure cooker
- Vegetable steamer basket
- Hardwood chips
- Rice hulls
- Soybean meal
- Sphagnum peat moss
- Powdered limestone
- 2 aluminum cake pans
- Oven bag
- Agar is a gelatinous substance made from red algae. It is used in petri dishes to grow spoor. It is also a frequent ingredient in desserts and can be found in many grocery stores.
- Sterilize any tools that come into contact with the mushrooms, mushroom spoor or potting soil. Bacteria that can form on the tools can kill morel mushrooms. One of the best methods to sterilize the tools is to heat them over an open flame.