The process of growing morel mushrooms has baffled amateur and professional mycologists for years.
Now that we know more about the mysterious morel, growing your own is certainly possible. Be aware that these are difficult mushrooms to cultivate, and it may take years before you see results.
Reading through the other morel pages on this site before you start will help you better understand their life cycle.
Below are a few different ways to grow morels, ranging from easier techniques to more difficult. I've included the grow kit and mushroom spawn approach, the spore slurry process, and a few other methods. With a little experimentation you can make one of these work for you!
One of the most popular ways of growing morel mushrooms is with purchased spawn.
Mushroom spawn is simply the mycelium, or "vegetative growth" of the mushroom, and the material on which it was grown. Spawn can come in the form of grain (such as rye berries), sawdust, woodchips, etc.
This mycelium-infused material is then used to inoculate larger batches of substrate to create a mushroom bed.
The easiest way to get spawn is by purchasing a morel mushroom kit, which you can do online. Your kit will arrive with some type of spawn or spores, and instructions on how to plant them.
Follow the instructions that come with your kit. Regardless of the company you purchase from, most will tell you to do some variation of these similar steps:
Prepare your morel bed:
Plant your spawn:
That's right, a few years. Don't get discouraged if nothing happens the following spring. Keep the area moist and nutritious according to your kit instructions. With some luck and the right conditions, you may someday have morels in your backyard!
If you're an accomplished mushroom hunter and don't want to buy a kit, you may have some success growing morel mushrooms by using the spore slurry method.
A spore slurry is simply a solution of water, some salt, a form of sugar, and spores. The spores are suspended in the water and used to inoculate an outdoor habitat.
To create this solution you'll need some wild morels. They should be mature, although not mushy or rotting. A few mushrooms per gallon of water will be sufficient.
Follow these easy steps:
After you strain and remove the mushrooms you'll have a liquid with millions of spores!
This spore liquid can be spread over a prepared bed as described above (sandy soil with peat moss, ashes, and wood chips). It can also be spread in other known morel habitats, such as at the base of dying elm trees. Feel free to experiment with your slurries.
This process is easy, but the downside is that it can be unreliable. A spore slurry is not as far along in the life cycle as mycelia in spawn, so the odds of success aren't as good.
However this is one of the cheapest and easiest ways of growing morel mushrooms, so why not give it a try?
This method can work with other types of mushrooms too!
Since morels often grow near certain trees, it makes sense that inoculating the roots of these trees with morel mycelia may result in mushroom production.
The easiest way to do this is by broadcasting spores using the slurry method described above near the base of a tree (elm or ash). Other ways involve nurturing a young tree by either:
Don't think you have it in you to nurture a young tree? You can always try the last, and most difficult, method mentioned on this page: growing morel mushrooms indoors.
For years this technique was thought impossible. Many tried and failed to cultivate morels indoors.
Ronald D. Ower reported the first true success in 1982. Ower was eventually awarded a patent along with Gary Mills and James Malachowski. Their work paved the way for indoor morel growing.
Mills went on to create a company involved in large-scale cultivation, which you can read more about in this article by Michigan State University news.
So yes, it is possible to grow them indoors, however unlikely. The process is similar to other types of mushroom cultivation:
Ok, so the above directions make it sound far simpler than it actually is. Although I've cultivated mushrooms indoors, I've never tried with morels, so to go into detail would be just me plagiarizing someone else's work.
UPDATE: Thanks to the anonymous visitor who sent me Peter Dilley's Grow Morels instructions. I'd highly recommend visiting his page if you want more info on indoor growing.
For more information on growing morel mushrooms indoors I'd recommend reading Paul Stamets' Growing Gourmet and Medicinal Mushrooms.
So there's your introduction on how to grow morel mushrooms. Start out with one of the easier methods but don't be afraid to get creative and experiment. Many advances in mycology were made by accident.
Remember that your main goal is to create a habitat conducive to your particular mushroom. Although not always easy with morels, it's not as impossible as once thought.
Learn, experiment, be patient, and above all have fun! You'll be glad you did when in a few years you're picking morels straight from your backyard.
Here's a place to share your successes, failures, and questions regarding growing morel mushrooms.
Click on the links below to read some other points about growing morels. They were all written by other visitors to this page.
Not Sure This Counts As Growing
Last year I found a new spot to pick morels, near an old cemetery in the country. The ground was absolutely soaked and muddy, and I only found maybe half …
Growing Morels by Accident
My grandparents went mushroom hunting in Michigan every spring for many years and always brought back bags of morels. They collected them in old potato …
Long Time Ago: Growing Morels
I was a old man of 13 years when I first indoor cultivated morels. I told my dad back then (1961) that I had figured out how to do this as a year round …