What is Morel Mushroom?
Morel mushroom, Morchella Esculenta, or ‘Gucchi’- call them whatever, just don’t call them regular mushrooms! Sold at around ₹10,000 – ₹30,000 per kg, this spongy edible fungus is India’s most expensive mushroom out there! Loaded with antioxidants and multivitamins, wild morel mushrooms are known to have positive effects on diseases like arthritis, and diabetes, and prove to be helpful in cases of tumours as well- rest can be discussed with your physician. In India, many farmers have shifted their interest to growing morel mushrooms for high profits.
Where did Do Morel grow?
These mysterious mushrooms grow in the conifer forests of Uttarakhand, Kangra Valley, Manali, and other various parts of Himachal Pradesh during the spring season – in the months of April and May – after the ice on the foothills has melted, collected by the locals, and exported globally to the USA and Europe.
Can You Grow Morel Mushrooms Indoors?
Owing to its inability to grow outside the wild habitats, these mushrooms fetch a lot of eyeballs. Tons of effort is being made to cultivate them artificially. Even you can grow them!
Soil Preparation for Morel Mushroom
- Morels grow best around dry and aged trees (known as ‘Dungra’ in the Pahadi dialect), from which they get their nutrition. One good way to grow them is to prepare a 4 by 4 square feet area around a dying tree where the soil is loamy – but not too rocky or clayey – and there is abundant shade and a good amount of moisture.
- Also, the soil temperature for morel mushrooms should be between 13°C to 16°C (55°F – 59°F) for mushrooms to thrive the best.
- The next step is to concoct a mixture of Peat Moss and Gypsum in the ratio of 10:1. Gypsum is added to the soil for the calcium sulphate present in it which gives good size to the mushroom caps. To this mixture, you may add wood ash from burnt wood, or wood chips, to provide nourishment to your morels.
How To Grow Morel Mushrooms From Spores With Spawn Slurry or Morel Mushroom Syringe?
- For the Slurry, you need to boil around 4 litres of distilled water and add to it 1/4th tbsp. of Salt, and one tbsp. of Molasses. Salt will help prevent any bacterial growth and sugar will provide adequate energy for the mushrooms to grow.
- Now add some Shredded Morels to this water. Allow this mixture to cool down for it to strain. You will be left with a liquid with millions of spores which will help in the germination of the morel mushrooms. Once this fluid is ready, cover it and leave it aside for around 2 days and not more than that to avoid any bacterial growth. You can also use a morel mushroom syringe that is available in the market or make one of your own.
- Spread this spawn slurry on the soil bed you had earlier prepared. You may also cover the bed about half an inch with Dried Wood Chips and Compost.
Sunlight Exposure for Morel Mushroom
This soil bed requires at least 8 to 10 hours of adequate diffused light per day and at least 85 – 90% humidity for it to yield a good culture of Morchella.
How to Water Morel Mushroom?
You will have to water the soil bed every day. Collecting rainwater for the same would reap a better yield.
Nourishment of Morel Mushroom
You must add fresh compost to the soil bed every six months for good nourishment of the soil.
Now it is time to be patient and manifests the growth of these magical morels.
When to Grow Morel Mushrooms?
The best time to start the cultivation is between Summer and Autumn so that the mushrooms get enough time to grow in the Spring. Usually, the mushrooms will take around two years to grow. If you are lucky, then spongy morels with a honeycomb texture will sprout in the next spring or the year following that. If not, then you need to add the magic ingredient of ‘perseverance’ to them.
Morel Mushroom Cultivation
Once the Morel has been cultivated and has reached a height of around 3 to 4 inches, it’s time to harvest them. Cut off the cap using a sharp knife, dry clean them properly, and refrigerate them until you wish to cook.
*Beware of the false morels which are dark brown in colour and have a skirt-like cap. These contain Monomethyl Hydrazine (MMH) which is carcinogenic and can prove to be deadly if consumed.
This is one of the many methods to cultivate ‘Gucchi’. It is easy but a little unreliable, and yet not impossible.
Due to the good availability of internet services to even the remotest villages of Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal, many local Vloggers and YouTubers have also started to hunt for Gucchi and make people aware of this ‘Celebrity’ mushroom.
Known to be a gastronomical delight, you can enjoy ‘Gucchi’ in many forms of dishes – from Gucchi Pulao, Kebabs, and Roasted Gucchi, to Gucchi curries by adding Indian spices, veggies, and dried fruits.