You must have come across food products of various shapes and sizes on your supermarket shelves. If you find a product on the shelf fresh and attractive, you will go for the buy. But a less attractive product seldom goes unnoticed and untouched. One such product which is unique and distinctive in appearance is the morel mushrooms.
You can find these weird-looking mushrooms growing mainly in the wild, especially in grasslands and hardwood forests. In this article, we would be focusing on the various techniques to grow morel mushrooms, their origin, their health benefits, how to use morels in cooking, and what makes these fungi unique.
More about Morel Mushrooms
These weird-looking fungi live in the moist soil of woods and forests. Morel Mushrooms begin to sprout from March to June. They are also most commonly found in the United States, especially in Virginia and Michigan.
Moreover, they are mainly grown around ashes, oak, and tulip trees. The morel mushrooms look like a honeycomb in appearance, and the most common ones found are of black and yellow colour.
Mushroom collectors distinguish these fungi by their shape and colour and pick the correct variant (non-poisonous) from their colour. Since this sacred delicacy grows for a limited time, it can be pretty expensive from March to May.
Even though it is possible to cultivate morel mushrooms, the entire process is complicated, time-consuming, and sometimes unreliable. Some people are successful in growing them, while some are not. The reason being, the harvest sprouted at one location would not give the exact yield next year.
But, since buying morel mushrooms is more expensive than cultivating one, growing them is safer and economical. Now, let us dig further into the various ways to grow morel mushrooms.
Method 1: Using a Growing Kit
Buy the Kit Online: These kits are available either online or from speciality garden centres. Growing morel mushrooms with the help of a kit are one of the easiest ways to cultivate morel mushrooms at home. The kit comes with spawn seeds and an instruction manual. These seeds come in various varieties, such as sawdust and woodchips, which help the mushroom grow.
Making the mushroom bed or soil: The next step is to prepare the mushrooms’ soil or bed to grow. It is important to place the bed in a shady area for the mushrooms to sprout and harvest properly. One needs to ensure that the soil is sandy because sandy soil gives the best result.
For the morels to grow correctly, one needs to mix the right amount of ingredients with the proper ratio. Any high or low in ingredients or ratio would lead to a bad harvest of mushrooms. Follow the right amount of ratio mentioned in the user manual.
Taking Care of the Mushrooms: After planting the morel mushrooms, our next important step is to take good care of the mushrooms. You can do this by mixing a small amount of sawdust and soaked chip woods before adding the bed pores.
The next step should be covering the bed with a thick layer of leaf litter. The leaf litter helps in preserving the soil moisture. Once the mushrooms start to sprout, they will continue to provide mushrooms for several years. Ensure to apply fresh compost every two years.
Note: Growing morel mushrooms can be an uphill task for some. After following all the methods of harvesting, some people may face failure. If you don’t see morels sprouting within ten days, you need to repeat the process.
Method 2: Growing morel mushrooms without a kit
You can harvest morel mushrooms without the help of a kit too. Yes, you heard it right! Those who wish to grow morel mushrooms at their home can easily do it by following these simple steps. But, the process is quite long as compared to using a kit.
To prepare a homemade mixture, you need to get a fully grown mushroom from the market, keep it sealed in an airtight bag, and put it in the refrigerator. Following these step will maintain the mushrooms fresh for a long time.
Also, it would be best if you froze the washed morels only when they are thoroughly dried and wrapped in paper. Storing in a plastic bag is not advisable since it can make the morels rot quicker. It is advisable to use them quickly.
Secondly, boil some water in a large clean container. Make sure that the water is chlorine-free since unfiltered water can potentially hamper the growth of these fungi. The container should be clean enough to let the mixture contaminate when diluted.
Once the water comes to a boiling point, the third step is to add a little salt and molasses to the boiling water. Adding salt and molasses helps the mushrooms to grow faster. The salt also helps in preventing the bacteria from growing.
The next step is to take the morel mushrooms from the refrigerator, add them to the mixture and give a good stir. Once stirred well, spores would appear at the top of the mushroom. After that, put the mixture aside in an airtight jar and give it rest for 44 hours.
Ensure that you don’t leave the mixture for more than 44 hours as there are chances of getting infected by bacteria. After putting the mixture in a container, it is time to place the mixture in a shady place in your garden area where the soil is sandy.
As mentioned previously, one needs to ensure that the soil is sandy because sandy soil yields the best result. If the ground is dry, it is advisable to water it.
The last step is to wait and watch for your morel mushrooms to grow. According to studies, growing morel mushrooms is less reliable as compared to the growing kit.
The growing kit comes with all seeds and fertilizers that help the mushrooms to grow faster and healthy. One cannot find success initially, so don’t lose heart when you see that your yield hasn’t given a result.
Common problems while growing morels
Now that you know the step-by-step procedure behind cultivating morels, it is essential to look at some things that can hamper the growth.
· Morels won’t nurture properly if the soil is too dry. It needs a moist environment to grow.
· Excess moisture in the soil is also not good for the growth of morels. Too much water results in bacterial growth and prevents the morels from growing.
· The right temperature(around 55 degrees) helps the morels to grow fast and adequately.
· A contaminated spawn prevents the growth of morels.
These were some of the points that you must bear in mind when growing morel mushrooms in your backyard. Once these fungi are sprouted, you can use them for cooking purposes as it has a distinct taste.
In addition to that, these morels are also used for medicinal purposes as it has numerous health benefits associated with it. They are highly nutritious and are low in calories, and have minerals and antioxidants in abundance. Now, we will take you through some of the health benefits of morel mushrooms in detail.
High in Vitamin D:
Morels are a better source of Vitamin D than other edible mushrooms. These fungi are high in Vitamin D content. It helps strengthen bones and people with bone deficiencies. According to studies, Morels are the only plant-based sources to provide the goodness of Vitamin D.
Morel mushrooms contain high levels of copper, which have anti-ageing properties. So, eating morel mushrooms once or twice a week would help you ward off those unwanted wrinkles and grey hair at an early age.
Rich in Several Minerals:
Morel mushrooms are rich in minerals like magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and iron. Due to high iron content, many people consume these fungi to treat anaemia and increase brain function.
Good for Liver Health:
Morel mushrooms contain high amounts of nutrients, lowering liver weight and other liver-related ailments. It is an essential agent for curing hepatitis disease.
Helps in Relieving Digestion Problems:
They are high in dietary fibres and help maintain a healthy digestive system. The presence of dietary fibres helps in curing problems such as constipation and indigestion. Moreover, these nutritional fibres help the digestive system work effectively and smoothly, flushing out toxins from the body.
The presence of copper in morels helps relieve stiffness and pain related to arthritis. Consumption of morels helps in muscular strength and lowers joint pain.
Morels are rich in Vitamin B2, which helps prevent eye disorders like cataracts and glaucoma. So, consuming more mushrooms is essential to those having eye disorders.
Morels are rich in Vitamin B3, which helps in reducing any cardiovascular ailments. It lowers cholesterol levels and maintains a healthy heart by preventing heart ailments like stroke and other heart diseases. Vitamin B3 helps in increasing good cholesterol levels and reduces triglycerides.
So, these were some of the health benefits of morel mushrooms. With healthy benefits comes its adverse effects, which might prove harmful to your body.
Discomfort in the intestines, diarrhoea, and vomiting are some of the side effects of consuming morel mushrooms. One may also experience nasal clogging, swelling of lips, and dizziness.
How to Cook with Morel Mushrooms?
Though morel mushrooms are associated with French cuisine, they are also widely used in other parts of the world. These fungi have an earthy flavour, and the darker the colour of the morels, the more flavorful and nuttier it will be. They are very delicate compared to other mushrooms and need to be handled carefully while cooking. Morel mushrooms need to be properly washed and cleaned before they are tossed or seared in a pan.
Once they are washed and cleaned, you should immediately cook them. Keeping the morels in the open for a long time would make them mushy and go bad much quicker. However, it is your choice whether to dice them in half or toss them in a pan as it is.
Morels do not take much time to cook, and it is effortless to prepare. They also taste best when tossed in butter and sauteed quickly, and go well with bread.
It is advisable to cook these fungi thoroughly; eating them raw can give you a stomach up or cramps. Also, eat a moderate amount at one point. Given that they are incredibly delicious and can add an abundance of flavours to your pasta or risotto, controlling the usage amount can be difficult.
You can also freeze the washed morels only when it is thoroughly dried. It will allow keeping the flavours intact and gives a nice texture when you use it for your next meal. They can be enjoyed around the year when frozen or dried.
To conclude, morel mushrooms are not only delicious and edible but have numerous health benefits associated with them. It is essential to identify these fungi before you plan to consume them, as some are poisonous and pose grave health problems.
Like other mushrooms, morels do have imposters which look similar but are not edible. One of the ways to identify false morels is that they are not hollow inside. Look for fresh morels that are not completely dried out. It is also best to avoid mushrooms that have turned mushy and rotten. Before you consume them, it is always important to consult an expert first as some might be allergic to morel mushrooms.