Cultivating Coveted Morel Mushrooms Year-Round and Indoors

When new buds appear on the trees and the earth warms up with the arrival of spring, the foragers plant fans in the woods and scan the leaf litter for mushrooms.

Undoubtedly the most famous of the wild fungus, Morrell is 3 to 6 inches tall and plays a signature cone-shaped lattice cap in cream to chocolate brown colours. Their nuts, valued for their earthy taste, sell for $ 50 per pound fresh and $ 200 a pound dry. They only appear for a few weeks – in New York, usually from late April to early June.

Experienced Morrell hunters return to well-protected areas year after year, often showing a form of hearing loss when asked where they collected their belongings.

“There’s something about morales – they have a mystical style that attracts people,” said Gregory Bonito, a biologist who studies morales and other fungi at Michigan State University. And unlike some wild mushrooms, which are easy to cultivate, there is a strange period in Morrell’s life that makes it difficult for them to grow. Bonito explained.

It is not impossible to cultivate morales. Until 2008, at least one American farmer produced them commercially. And since about 2014, farmers in China have taken it out in the spring, but yields may fluctuate, Dr Bonito said. He leads a small Morrell farming project in Michigan and surrounding states that are funded by the US Department of Agriculture. He said that all the participating farmers but at least one more farmer were added last year, although the number is increasing this year.

But on-demand, Morales has the potential. In December, after four decades of research, Copenhagen twin brothers Jacob and Carsten Kirk announced that they had devised a way to reliably cultivate large quantities of Morrell indoors year-round in a climate-controlled environment. Is.

Kirks, who is 64 and often disillusioned with each other, says he has grown about 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of mushrooms using his system. Last year’s crop yielded about 4.2 kg in a 22-week cycle, reaching about 10 kg per square meter (or 22 pounds per square yard).

“That’s a lot,” said Jacob Kirk. “Now we can see the commercial side of it.” With his method, Carsten Kirk added, the cost of producing a mortar would be “equal to the production of white button mushrooms.”

It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post. But if that happens, it will be a game-changer for the food industry, “said Kenneth Toft Hansen. Danish chef and winner of the 2019 Bocuse d’Or‘OrAn international competition often referred to as the Pak Olympic Games.

Jacob and Carsten Kirk said they were impressed by Morrell’s cultivation as an undergraduate student at the University of Copenhagen in the 1970s. Even as teenagers, they were passionate biologists who turned themselves into a home laboratory to recreate the experiences and observations described in their textbooks. They also liked fodder for mushrooms and other wild foods. To integrate these interests, they began growing white buttons and oyster mushrooms, which are relatively easy to grow. But they should focus on morales, knowing how expensive they are and that they have never been successfully cultivated.

After graduating from university, Jacob and Carsten started tinkering. Using a specimen found in the forest, they grew the Morril mycelium – a fungus equal to the roots – in a dish and, a few years later, set out to produce a structure called sclerotia, hard mycelial nuggets that store nutrients. And some other types of fungi rely on fruit.

But at the same time, in 1986, two researchers from Michigan State University and another from California caused a stir in the world of mushroom cultivation when they published the first of three patents in which These sclerotia were described as a way to produce morals. In 1988, the Kirk Brothers sought out an investor to fund their efforts to replicate this method. Since then, he has rented a privately funded space on the University of Copenhagen’s agricultural research campus, which he calls. Danish Morrell Project.

According to Gary Mills, one of the inventors of the patent was Scottsville, Mich. The method described in the 1980s by the general manager of Gourmet Mushroom, a specialized mushroom growing company, worked great. Between the 1990s and 2005-and 2008, he and his colleagues were adding hundreds of pounds a week to facilities in Michigan and Alabama. Mills said. Tom Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza, became an investor and built the first pilot plant for the commercial cultivation of morales. But in 2008, the financial crisis hit, and Morrell’s growing operations stopped.

Mr Mills said gourmet mushrooms were planned to return to Morrell, but the high cost of energy and labour made making the cultivation process economically viable. One of his college professors often commented that anyone who learns to grow morale can easily become a millionaire. “Good.” “I can tell you, can it be true or not,” Mills said sternly.

But the Karak brothers say they are not particularly affected by the millions. “We’ve been learning and enjoying these experiences,” Carsten said. Jacobs said the brothers never copied the American patent and said they had heard that other scientists around the world were having trouble. He believes that his new method is very sustainable.

Preparing it was a chore. By 2003, they had taken some extra steps, but the brothers had not yet raised a single mural inside the house. The money was running low, and it looked like they might have to close. But when they needed the most promotion, a small outdoor farming project bore fruit. In these experiments, Kirks set out to recreate the developmental conditions of a large cluster of Morrell found in nature. He said that he soon succeeded in translating his outdoor success into indoor moral growth. “We now have a standard way that we can improve step by step,” Jacob said.

Since 2005, he has worked on completing this method. They created and improved artificial soil and two different types of nutrients, and experimented with different climatic and light conditions. Based on their observations of nature, they found that adding grass to their soil somehow stimulated the mycelium. And after developing a prototype for several farming strategies, they designed and built a system of moving pellets to commercialize the most productive.

Kirks works alone and has a complex record of his experiences. Only two other people know the full details of the operation: Helena Kirk, their investor and Carsten’s daughter, who assists in the communication. Helena said that as brothers, they don’t worry about hurting each other, as they can be friends or partners. “They always have small arguments with each other, and they always end in an hour.” Overall, though, they are quite similar in temperament, he added. “Jacob is a little more creative,” he said, “while my dad is more realistic.”

After working tirelessly on Morrell’s farming science for so long, Kirks is still figuring out how to commercialize his product. So far, they have given most of their products to their investors and a handful of chefs, including Mr Toft Hansen.

He first joined the Kirks in 2014. At the time, he was training for his first Bocuse d’Or, in which competitors were told to use ingredients from their own country. Mr Toft Hansen said. When he asked Kirks if he could add morale to his dishes, he shook it a little – about 20 mushrooms. Since then, he says, the more he gets from Kirkus, the better.

The chef notes that in the kitchen, there are some great benefits compared to the fodder of cultivated morsels. Nature-grown morale often carries dirt, insects and slugs, but washing trash means wetting the mushroom, which degrades its texture. Fodder mushrooms are also vulnerable to sun and rain damage. “If it’s raining the day before, the mushrooms may get wet and the quality starts to deteriorate,” he explained.