Could morel mushrooms be coming to a farm near you?

Outdoors

UPPER PENINSULA, Mich (WJMN) – Tis the season for morel mushroom hunting! According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, (DNR) May is morel month. Rachel Coale from the DNR Forest Resources says that she believes the pandemic has had something to do with the increasing popularity of morel hunting this year.

“I think a lot of people discovered or rediscovered the outdoors during the pandemic and we were seeing record numbers of campground reservations trails are packed,” Coale said. “And it’s just like one more activity you can do, I think a lot of people think that all you can do in the woods, is you know, either go hunt or go hike and there’s so many more opportunities out there.”

Bryan Rennick is a graduate student at Michigan State University where he works as a research assistant for truffle and morel cultivation. He and his team are on year one of a three-year project that could bring morel farming to farmers.

“We’re hoping we can grow them indoors, and we do that as part of confirming that we have a right strain, and a few other others as well as a few other experiments, but really our goal, and what we’ve been successful with over the last three years is growing them outdoors,” Rennick said.

Also on the project with Bryan Rennick and his team is an economist. This is necessary to ensure that through this trail run all aspects that this could impact are considered.

“So I attempt is to make this into like a viable industry for Michigan or at least the Midwest area where, because the morels are planted in the fall, after, say a crop has already been removed from the field, and in harvested in the spring before they’re planted it may have potential to serve as a second crop, you know, in certain small farms,” Rennick said. “We’re not sure how well it scales, right now we’re still in the early stages but we’re having lots of success.”

A variety of people could benefit from the controlled growing of these mushrooms.

“I think if we can offer morels in a greater abundance at a lower price more people will be able to enjoy them,” Rennick said. “Right now they’re very expensive selling for, when I checked two days ago, in our area, they sell for around $60 a pound, and I’ve heard, they go up to $100 a pound, which is really enticing if you are a farmer, or you know someone whose crop failed last year because of a dry spell maybe you can make up for with a mushroom harvest in the spring.”

Previous burn sights in forested areas are ideal locations for morel’s to grow. The DNR even has an interactive map that allows you to see morel hunting locations along with information about the fire and the exact coordinates. To view the interactive map click here.

“The map covers like bigger wildfire sites and prescribed burns from the previous year,” Coale said. “If you look at our page there’s four kinds of morels that are kind of the main ones that are highlighted and one of them is called the burn site morale, and that one is kind of special because it only can come up in other spots but it really likes to come up after fire. So sometimes you will, you’ll see them pop up in great numbers after there’s been a burned been.”

Morel hunting can be a fun way to get outside, get active, and even score a yummy treat. Rachel Coale and Bryan Rennick were kind enough to reveal a few of their hunting secrets.

Rachel Coale’s tips and tricks:  

  • Be mindful of the weather. Look for a warm day, preferably after rain as that generally sets them off.
  • Look in an area with Oak or Maple trees
  • When searching, get down and close to the ground. If you get at a lower angle they stand out a little more

Bryan Rennick’s tips and tricks:  

  • Don’t give up, keep looking!
  • Squat/get low to the ground when looking
  • Look for a spot with good moisture with some plant life
  • Look for trees that have died within the past one or two years if you are looking for yellow morels
  • Look for places that previous forest fires have been if you are looking for burn or black morels

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