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icosahedronOpen Source Morels

Sun 04 January 2015

I've never eaten a morel mushroom! and despite trekking through the woods all the time, I haven't spotted any in a long while. So, I've decided to cultivate some of my own so that I can try them. With all of my projects, I like to document the process; you know, draw pictures, do some research, keep a project journal, write some code. Like my carnivorous plant terrarium notebooks and code, this Open Source Morels project is simply my log of cultivating morel mushrooms. The two species I am starting with are Morchella Esculenta, (Common or Yellow Morel) and Morchella Elata (Black Morel). I noticed that online there are only a few species available, but that there are more than 60 species of Morchella worldwide! 1 The second part of the project, if there is public interest, would be to create a public spore library for these delicious morels! Everyone would be able to share in cultivating and enjoying these yummy fungi.

With this being the first day of research, I believe that the first documented case of cultivation was by Dr. Ch. Repin, an attaché à l'Institut Pasteur, who in 1901 obtained fruiting bodies in a cave. The cultures had been established in 1892 in flower pots. 2 The first lab cultivation I believe is by Ronald Ower, Gary Mills, and James Malachowski at San Francisco State University in 1982. 3 They successfully created a full life cycle of the Morchella esculenta, from hyphae to sclerotia and conidia, to ascocarp and then ascospore discharge. The time from the first ascocarp detection to ascospore discharge was four weeks, from December 14, 1980 till January 11, 1981.

Gary Mills talks about this in the Scientific American Frontiers episode About All You Can Eat. 4 Chedd Angier introduces the first lab cultivated morels by Gary Mill's team at about 37:25.

If you are looking for some starter literature on morel cultivation, check out the Resources for Mushroom Growers Morel Mushroom Cultivation from The Mushroom Grower's Newsletter. A couple great resources for identifying any mushrooms are and Until I release the first pages, if you are hungry and excited about mycology (or just hungry), try Fonda's shrimp, tofu, and wood ear mushroom potsticker recipe. Very delicious.

  1. Multigene molecular phylogenetics reveals true morels (Morchella) are especially species-rich in China (2011) 

  2. C. Repin, Sur la culture de la Morille, Revue générale des sciences pures et appliquées 12: 595–96. (1901) 

  3. R. Ower, Notes on the Development of the Morel Ascocarp: Morchella esculenta, Mycologia Vol. 74, No. 1 (Jan. - Feb., 1982), pp. 142-144 

  4. Scientific American Frontiers, About All You Can Eat (transcript, video) (1994) 

Tom Spalding

[mycology] morels | mushrooms | food | mycology | science | research | nature


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