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Cultivating Coveted Morel Mushrooms Year-Round and Indoors – The New York Times

When new buds emerge on trees and the ground warms with the advent of spring, foragers fan out through woodlands, scanning the leaf litter for morel mushrooms.

Arguably the most iconic of wild fungi, morels stand 3 to 6 inches tall and sport a signature cone-shaped lattice cap in shades of cream to chocolate brown. Prized for their nutty, earthy taste, they sell for as much as $50 a pound fresh and $200 a pound dried. They appear for just a fleeting few weeks — in New York, generally from late April to early June.

Experienced morel hunters return to well-guarded spots year after year, often exhibiting a form of selective hearing loss when asked where they collected their haul.

“There’s something about morels — they have a mystique that people are fascinated by,” said Gregory Bonito, a biologist studying morels and other fungi at Michigan State University. And unlike some wild mushrooms, which can be easily cultivated, morels have a quirky life cycle that makes them notoriously tough to grow, Dr. Bonito explained.

Cultivating morels isn’t impossible. Until 2008, at least one U.S. grower produced them commercially. And since about 2014, farmers in China have done it outdoors in the spring, but yields can be variable, Dr. Bonito said. He leads a small morel-farming project in Michigan and surrounding states funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All the participating farmers but one grew at least one morel last year, he said, though this year’s numbers are ticking up.

But prospects for morels on demand appear to be looking up. In December, after four decades of research, Jacob and Karsten Kirk, twin brothers from Copenhagen, announced that they had devised a method to reliably cultivate hefty amounts of morels indoors, year-round, in a climate-controlled environment.

The Kirks, who are 64 and who often finish each other’s thoughts, say they have grown about 150 kilograms (330 pounds) of the mushrooms using their system. Last year’s crop yielded about 4.2 kilograms over a 22-week cycle, which tallies up to about 10 kilograms per square meter (or 20 pounds per square yard) per year.

“That’s really a lot,” Jacob Kirk said. “Now we can see the commercial aspect of this.” With their method, Karsten Kirk added, “the cost per square meter for producing a morel will be roughly the same as producing a white button mushroom.”

It’s not yet clear what the Kirk brothers’ achievement will mean for the prospect of sourcing morels more widely and affordably. But if it happens, “it will be a game changer for the food industry,” said Kenneth Toft-Hansen, a Danish chef and winner of the 2019 Bocuse d’Or, an international competition often described as the culinary Olympic Games.

Jacob and Karsten Kirk said they were bewitched by morel cultivation as undergraduate students at the University of Copenhagen in the late 1970s. Even as teenagers, they were ardent biologists who built themselves a home laboratory for recreating experiments and observations described in their textbooks. They also loved foraging for mushrooms and other wild foods. To merge those interests, they began raising white button and oyster mushrooms, which are relatively easy to grow. But they set their sights on morels upon learning how expensive …….

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/26/science/morel-mushrooms-growing.html

When new buds emerge on trees and the ground warms with the advent of spring, foragers fan out through woodlands, scanning the leaf litter for morel mushrooms.

Arguably the most iconic of wild fungi, morels stand 3 to 6 inches tall and sport a signature cone-shaped lattice cap in shades of cream to chocolate brown. Prized for their nutty, earthy taste, they sell for as much as $50 a pound fresh and $200 a pound dried. They appear for just a fleeting few weeks — in New York, generally from late April to early June.

Experienced morel hunters return to well-guarded spots year after year, often e…….

When new buds emerge on trees and the ground warms with the advent of spring, foragers fan out through woodlands, scanning the leaf litter for morel mushrooms.

Arguably the most iconic of wild fungi, morels stand 3 to 6 inches tall and sport a signature cone-shaped lattice cap in shades of cream to chocolate brown. Prized for their nutty, earthy taste, they sell for as much as $50 a pound fresh and $200 a pound dried. They appear for just a fleeting few weeks — in New York, generally from late April to early June.

Experienced morel hunters return to well-guarded spots year after year, often e…….

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