I’ve recently identified with the tag of ‘citizen scientist’ – which I love. It implies the science aspect but also that I am not trained and or have any higher educational background other than an associates degree. I do what I do with the means I have in my best attempt to solve things related to the mycology field.
That being said I’ve studied in my own home built lab morel mushrooms for over 5 years. Theory, test, waiting, results. It’s quite simple – the hardest part is being wrong a lot and then continuing on. I’ve been wrong in my theories and in some I’ve been right and use those tests results today for other fungi.
The morel itself poses a problem for indoor cultivation – it has 2 life cycles by which it passes its genetic code on. The spore as most people know is the mushrooms ‘seed’ and morels have the ability to spore underground via their root structure ‘mycelium’ and or if the occasion arises to spore above ground via the mushroom we all see.
It has been the work of 5+ years to determine what about spring makes the morel switch from one method of life to the next. Environmental? Nutritional? Is it paired another life cycle like a tree or plant?
Well after 5+ years I have my answer. For the first time back in December I was able to grow morels in a sterilized container, indoors, from a single culture method. I say ‘single culture’ because back in the 1980’s a few mycologists developed a method which required 2 stages of growth and patented those ‘processes’ and now those processes are open since it’s been over 20 years. The science required ‘transferring’ a growth of the morel to a nutrient poor media from which the morels would grow upon.
To be clear – my methods never required transfers and were grown from highly nutritious media. This approach would make morel growing viable in all facilities because it is the classic ‘spawn to substrate to fruiting’ all done in a sterile enclosed container which is of course the rest of the mushroom growing world.
The photo below depicts one of the areas which we saw fruiting morels in a line.
Taking that same method I then applied it to agar media for further testing and sure enough I grew morels in a petri dish. Confirming my science. Agar if you don’t know is fairly simple media to be growing fungi on and most fungi like shiitake, maitake, and reishi won’t produce their caps/fruit on petri dishes. But there they were – and a lot of them.
The most interesting factor was size. The morels on the petri dish were considerably bigger which is slightly reverse of how I saw this going. But it indicated that maybe size is not of nutrition but of growing conditions. Mushroom farms call this ‘fruiting’.
Since morels come up where they want to and to this day have never been cultivated indoors like this testing fruiting conditions has been impossible. But that’s where I’m at – to test fruiting conditions. Fruiting conditions are tailored to each mushrooms from shiitake, maitake, and to reishi. Everything comes into play such as light, temp, air, and maybe even water. It’ll take a bit of time to dial in fruiting conditions even if we get it right because it may require specialized setups which dial in spring as re-creating spring isn’t easy.
The agar trials though reinforced my theory about morels.(right) Standard size split plate agar with control added. Morels can be seen fruiting in the center and a macro photo shows the stalks with caps forming.
That being said in the past 7 months I’ve now gone through possibly fruiting scenarios of which may dictate a morel creating itself – within about 2 or 3 other scenarios. It’s actually really hard to create micro tests because industry doesn’t do micro testing so it’s taken some time to theory, create scenario, run test, and wait.
That fact that the morels self-fruited on 3 plates means the ’cause’ by which gets them to turn in to a mushroom should not be too complicated.
The amount of variables that can occur in a small petri dish are limited and currently I’ve gone through a considerable amount of those variables.
So for now my research is on going.
It’s been almost a year since our first fruiting and I know far more than ever – we’ve successfully fruited morels again and are currently in full media trials which should end in full edible morels and of course the creation of the year round market of morel mushrooms.
Here are some more photos of the morels of course with watermarks.