Morels are valued for their unique flavor, but their cultivation is still a challenge for budding growers. They are naturally ubiquitous in temperate zones, in slightly humid and alkaline soils, whether rich or poor, clayey or sandy, but always in areas where competition from other species is absent. They are saprophytes, feeding on dead organic matter.
What species to cultivate outside?
There are several dozen species in the world linked to three lineages (clades): "yellow" (M. esculenta), "black" (M. elata) and "blushing" (M. rufobrunnea). In the wild, each species tends to grow in a typical environment and feeds on a related diet.
Various species are found in abundance in the burns of the Pacific Northwest during the Spring following a wildfire. They still account for a large portion of the global supply, So-called fire morels, arguably of "black" ancestry, appears to be absent in the North-East.
Morchella. Importuna, native to the North-East, grows on mulch. Large scale production expanded quickly from 2010 in China, using a patented process.
The northern morel (M. septentrionalis) is usually found North of the 44th parallel, on wood debris, not far from deciduous trees (broad-leafed poplars, American ash).
Mycoboutique offers strains of numerous species in cultivation kits or liquid mycelium syringes. Check availability on the web site.
Planting usually takes place in the spring after thawing or at the end of summer.
- Select a shaded, well-drained site, rather alcaline with pH 7-8, preferably nearby trees naturally associated with the selected species
- Dig trenches 2 m long, 50 cm wide and 20 cm deep, 2 m apart
- Lay paper, kraft or newspaper for instance, in the bottom
- Fill in with moist alkaline sawdust, adding 10% wheat bran or soy flour, up to 4 cm from the top
- Lay paper over the sawdust and spread sand over the paper to stimulate fruiting
- Spread one kg of spawn per m2 of surface over the sand
- Water copiously after seeding, then twice a month until October; soak the day before freezing as well as at spring thaw
- Protect from animals with wire mesh and cover with leaves or straw to keep moist
Harvest usually lasts about ten days in the spring, after the thaw, when the temperature reaches 20°C during the day and close to freezing at night. Fruiting stops once the temperature exceeds 25°C.