Can Morels Be Cultivated? (Solved & Explained!)

Yes, morels can be cultivated, but the process is difficult because morels only grow under very particular environmental conditions.

You must be able to mimic the soil quality that is found in nature and add specific ingredients to the soil to support morel growth.

You must also make sure that the temperature is accurate and there is plenty of ventilation without making the area too cold. Outdoor growing is easiest in this regard, but due to the unpredictability of weather patterns, outdoor cultivation can be riskier than greenhouse growing.

Why Can Morels Not Be Cultivated?

Morels are a very sensitive mushroom that will die or not grow at all if the right weather conditions aren’t met.

Morels grow best when the air is cool and moist but the soil is warm. These conditions are found throughout spring and are hard to simulate artificially. 

During spring, the seasonal rains provide the moisture that morels need, and the cool air is temperate enough for growth. Spring sunlight is gentle and sporadic, just enough to keep the soil warm without drying out the mushroom. 

In addition to the debris and rotten leaves that have nourished the soil throughout winter, the Spring provides everything a morels needs. This is difficult to replicate indoors or outside in your backyard.

Is Cultivating Morels Easier Than Hunting Them?

Yes and no. Finding morels is difficult but dedicated hunters will eventually stumble upon a patch, even if it takes a year or two of hunting.

Whereas cultivating morels may increase the chance of you harvesting some, but even the best morel farm may not harvest morels every year. Some morel cultivators ‘plant’ their morel spores in optimized environments and still have to wait years before morels start to grow there.

With indoor cultivation, you can control the environment, which is never promised in nature. Natural Springtime provides everything a morel needs to grow, but this is only in an ideal Spring. Not all seasons are the same, so any variation in weather can see morels disappear from that spot entirely.

Cultivators have control over artificial weather conditions and soil quality. So in some aspects, cultivation is easier than hunting, if you are patient and willing.

Can Scientists Grow Morels?

Two scientists at Michigan State University believe that they have found the ideal ingredients for guaranteed morel growth after experimenting with different methods for several years.

Despite their announcement, they believe that they are still 2 years away from confirming their results and rolling their method out for mass production.

The scientists wish to formally license the method, and charge commercial mushroom retailers for the secret of their success. That could have an impact on the current morel market. Morels are currently an expensive mushroom due to their rarity and difficulty to grow.

Has Anyone Successfully Grown Morels?

Yes, there are currently two patented methods for growing morels. The first method was patented in 1982 by Ronald Owen in the US, who opened up a series of morel farms that closed in the mid-90s. 

A Chinese firm patented another method that is widely used in Chinese morel manufacturing, but these morels are considered to be sub-par in quality compared to morels found in nature.

How Do I Culitvate Morels?

Although the exact science of growing morels is guarded heavily by those who know the secrets, morel growers continue to experiment with new methods and share their results among the morel-growing community.

Currently, there are two popular methods for growing morels, The Slurry Method and The Spawn Method. Both methods can be used for outdoor and greenhouse morel cultivation.

The Slurry Method

The Slurry Method is a technique of extracting the spores from the mushroom for cultivation.

  1. Get hold of some morel mushrooms. Store-bought varieties can be used but fresh wild morels are preferred.
  2. Get an empty container that is sealable, and fill it with non-chlorinated water. Add a dash of salt and 1tbs of molasses and stir well.
  3. Drop the morels into the mixture and seal. Let the mixture sit for 1 or 2 days. The sugar from the molasses will encourage the morels to release their spores.
  4. After the mixture has rested for the appropriate time, remove any morel debris from the water and pour the mixture over pre-prepared soil.

The morels should begin to flower the following Spring, given the right temperatures and soil conditions.

The Spawn Method

This method requires you to purchase pre-processed morel spawn. They can be purchased online and come in blocks.

  1. Identify a patch of soil for growing your morels. Morels need at least a 4×4 feet patch of soil to grow in so they have plenty of room to spread. Make sure the patch is well shaded.
  2. Add gypsum, peat moss, and sand to the soil. Make sure to dig deep and mix it in well.
  3. Now it is time to simulate a forest fire. You can either gather compost, dead leaves, and branches over the spot and set fire to it, or you can spread ash from a previous fire over the soil.
  4. Spread your morel spores over the patch. Be sure to break them up and spread them evenly.
  5. Cover the spores in a bed of wood chips and wait.

Both methods are best done between summer and fall or anytime during the transition of the seasons.

What Are The Common Issues With Home Cultivation?

Cultivating morels at home can be challenging, but if due diligence is done then you can get great results.

Below are some of the most common issues that morel cultivators face and how you can overcome them.

Moisture

Moisture is a big issue with DIY morel cultivation. Morels need continuous moisture to stay healthy and support their reproductive cycle. A misting machine can really assist in the growth of morels, especially if growing indoors.

Be careful not over mist your mushrooms. Too much water can lead to waterlogging.

Temperature

Morels are the Goldilocks of the mushroom world. The temperature cannot be too hot nor too cold. Morels prefer cool air and warm soils. Regularly check the temperature of the soil and the environment. Neither should drop lower than 55 degrees F or go higher than 59 degrees F.

Infection

Infected crops are a huge disappointment after all the hard work you put into growing your morels, but morel spawns are vulnerable to infection and usually from an unknown source. There isn’t much that can be done with an infected crop, other than clear the area entirely and start again.