Greenhouse Gardening – How to Grow Morel Mushrooms

A morel mushroom with grasses around it and text in the green box saying Greenhouse Gardening - How to Grow Morel Mushrooms

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Morel is a high-value culinary fungus in the whole world. It is a unique type of mushroom found in woods. There is a high demand in the world market for this mushroom and it is a valuable product. That is why it is not easy to buy fresh morels in some markets. Expect an expensive stock if you’re lucky to find one. That is why it is a good idea to grow morel mushrooms in a greenhouse.

Finding morels in the woods can be a hard task because they are hard to find. Most of them are hiding under thick leaves, underneath a dead tree, or in recently burned spots.

The morel mushroom business is worth hundreds of millions of dollars in North America only and is now a multi-billion dollar enterprise worldwide. The good news is that you can grow morel mushrooms in a greenhouse. This is better and more affordable than hunting them in the wild.

These porous mushrooms have a unique honeycomb surface and a nutty, earthy flavor which is loved by many. It is satisfying to eat and exciting to look for. It can be one tough mushroom to produce but certainly satisfying to breed. It can provide a significant source of income when grown correctly.

Morel mushroom in the middle of the woods
Delicate Morel mushroom

Interesting facts about growing morel mushrooms in a greenhouse

The ecology of morels is still not fully explained except that wildfire, some disturbances, and decaying or lifeless trees can spark bulk fruiting, breeding, and the dissemination of millions of spores. These mushrooms thrive in burn zones following a forest fire in some areas. 

Did you know that for a long time, farmers didn’t understand the well-defined art of producing morels? Neither did they know what soil, attention, and climate situations work properly for them. It was only then that Ronald Ower, Gary Mills, and James Malachowski patented a triumphant morel growing system in 1982. 

Now that we are becoming more familiar with this mysterious fungus, growing morel mushroom in a greenhouse can be your new venture. Keep in mind that they are delicate mushrooms to nurture, and it can take several years before you see some results. It is not rocket science but with careful research, you can make one of these techniques work for you!

Health benefits of morel mushrooms

  • It is an excellent source of protein, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc, and B vitamins. 
  • It is a powerful anti-oxidant to protect against heart diseases, stress and free radicals.
  • According to a study carried out in 2002, morel mushrooms have an unusual polysaccharide that stimulates and strengthens our immune system.
  • This mushroom shows healing characteristics because it includes a high level of selenium and niacin which fights cancer.
  • Morel mushroom is a natural remedy for diabetes because it can help lower blood sugar.
  • Morel mushrooms can provide your daily iron demands which are 8mg per cup.
  • The morel essence gives the liver enzymes to regenerate primarily by dispensing antioxidants.
  • It contains a huge level of vitamin D.
  • It helps people with arthritis by decreasing the symptoms.
  • It can be eaten to prevent hyperthyroidism.
  • Eating morel helps keep a healthy heart by preventing cardiovascular diseases because it is high in Vitamin B3.

Possible allergic reactions and side effects of eating morel mushrooms

You may feel intestinal discomfort, diarrhea, and vomiting, or you may see some superficial swelling in the lips, tongue or esophagus, gasping of air, nasal clogging, dizziness, itching inside the mouth. The worst side effect may include triggering anaphylaxis. Alcohol consumption stimulates the existence of these allergic manifestations and may even cause fainting. 

A yellowish false morel found in the woods
False Morel

What is a false morel?

False morels are deadly. They look like the actual morels but their caps are round, reddish-brown, and sometimes yellow. You must classify them accurately and ensure that they are safe to consume. False morels contain the chemical Monomethyl Hydrazine (MMH) which induces vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and sometimes even death. MMH is also found to be carcinogenic.

Different techniques on how to grow morel mushrooms in a greenhouse

There are many ways to grow morel mushrooms. There are easier techniques especially for beginners and a challenging one for experienced growers. Let’s have a look at these methods below.

The spawn method

The simplest way to get a spawn is by buying a morel mushroom kit. It arrives with any kind of spawn or spores and comes with instructions on how to grow them in a greenhouse. There are different varieties as well like sawdust, woodchips, and grain.

  • Prepare the morel bed between summer and fall or in a climate where there is a transition of seasons. 
  • Pick a shaded spot.
  • Measure it. Most of the kits appear to be enough for a 4ft x 4ft square.
  • Sandy soil with some gypsum and peat moss seems to work fine. The gypsum has calcium sulfate which helps to develop the size of the mushroom caps.
  • Simulate a post-forest fire environment by adding some ashes from burned log to your soil. Ashes provide nutrients for your morels.
  • Spread your morel spawns into the bed within the top layer.
  • Combine some hardwood chips on top of your spawn bed.
  • Then wait. It can take several years before it bears any actual mushrooms.  Don’t be sad if nothing appears the next spring. But once they sprout, they can continuously produce mushrooms for many years after.

The spore slurry method

A spore slurry is a solution of water, salt, sugar, and spores. The spores are suspended in water and used to inoculate an outdoor environment.

  • Begin with clean, non-chlorinated water in a container.
  • Combine a pinch of salt and about 1 Tbs of molasses to the water. Then stir it well.
  • Add the mushrooms and allow the mixture to sit in a closed container in a warm room for 1 to 2 days. 
  • After straining and removing the mushrooms you will have a fluid with millions of spores.
  • This spore fluid can be spread over your provided bed or in another familiar morel habitats like the bottom of a dying elm tree. 
  • It is one of the most affordable and simplest ways of developing morel but it can be unpredictable if it really works.

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On the upper part is a brown Morel mushroom on the ground. Below are harvested morel mushrooms placed in a basket on a chair. Text says How to Grow Morel Mushrooms in A Greenhouse

Indoor cultivation process

It is possible to grow morel mushrooms indoors. Since 1982, people have set up a controlled environment. Here is the step-by-step guide on successfully growing morel mushrooms indoors:

  • Use metal trays or cake pans as your fruiting tray.
  • Create drainage holes at the bottom of each tray/pan.
  • Clean and sterilize the tray/pan with 5% bleach.
  • Arrange the substrate with 50% organic compost, 30% potting soil, and 20% sand.
  • Add some powdered limestone to increase the soil pH to 7.2.
  • Pour 2 inches of the substrate to your metal tray then water it.
  • Let it drain thoroughly.
  • Add the spawn to the substrate.
  • Store the fruiting tray/pan in a dark spot with a temperature between 65°F to 70°F with 90% humidity.
  • In 4 to 6 weeks, you will notice solid masses of mycelium or schlerotia on the surface of the substrate.
  • Place the fruiting tray in a fridge at 39°F for a couple of weeks.
  • After a couple of weeks maintain a relative humidity of over 90%.
  • Keep it at around 72°F this time.
  • You may use grow lights to produce 12 hours of light and then 12 hours of darkness.
  • The morel mushrooms stalks can develop in a week.
  • Enjoy harvesting your morels!

Common morel cultivating issues

These are some well-known issues in growing morel mushrooms. The instructions in growing them are pretty easy, but the failure rate is usually high. Here are some of them.

  • Lack of moisture: Morels need a moist environment. A misting system will be of great help.
  • Too much moisture: It can produce bacterial and mold growth which may prevent morels from developing.
  • Incorrect temperature: They thrive best when the soil is between 55°F and 59°F.
  • Infected spawn: There may be an unknown issue that makes your spawn not to develop.
Several harvested morels place on a tissue paper

Harvesting morels

Use a sharp knife to cut the cap off the top of the morel mushroom when they are around three inches high. Brush it to eliminate dirt and bugs. Place them in the fridge for two to three days. Put them in the freezer if you want to keep them for more than three days. Don’t wash them until you are willing to cook it because the moisture will make them degenerate faster. 

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