When people think of mushrooms, the first thought is usually the kinds of mushrooms seen at the store or those seen in art. Morel mushrooms, which has a big presence in the video game “Stardew Valley,” are not a mushroom that can be commonly bought in stores.
Morel mushrooms, with their honeycomb appearance, are actually quite expensive. These fungi are $254 per pound. There are several reasons why they are so expensive, from being hard to cultivate to being hard to find. This mushroom delicacy sure does make itself hard for others to enjoy.
The Morel Mushroom Taste
Morel mushrooms can be enjoyed by people who normally don’t like the taste or texture of mushrooms. Many mushrooms have a slimy texture, but morels have an overall meatier texture that is more subtle.
People describe morel mushrooms as having an “earthy” or “woodsy” taste. When cooked, their taste can resemble a kind of meat, which is helped by their texture. They can also taste nutty.
The Morel Mushroom Shape
The unique shape of the morel mushroom creates many complications in the harvesting and packaging process that drive the prices of them up.
Morel mushrooms are hollow with oblong caps. These caps have a honeycomb pattern that allows even more air to get into them. The features that these mushrooms have make them super unique. They also have a meatier texture instead of the traditional mushroom texture.
This shape creates an extremely large different price between fresh and dried mushrooms. Fresh, you can get a pound of morel mushrooms for $30-90. Dried, however, morel mushrooms are $254 a pound.
Because there is so much air in these mushrooms, you have to have a lot more of them to create a pound. It takes around 7 times more fresh mushrooms to create a pound of dried mushrooms.
The two things that make food spoil the quickest are oxygen and moisture. With the airy shape of the morel mushroom, it is exposed to a lot of oxygen and moisture has an easy time getting trapped.
This makes these mushrooms hard to process cause they only last about a week from harvesting without a lot of preparation. There are issues with getting them to the public fast enough because of their quick spoilage. Some sellers have found a way around this issue using ice techniques.
Not only will they rot while in processing, but they’ll be rotting before they can be harvested. Their shape can cause them to become inedible while they are still in the ground.
The unique shape of this mushroom not only makes it super appealing to people, but it also makes them super hard to harvest. This shape causes a lot of complications.
Morel mushrooms aren’t farmed or easily able to be cultivated, which will be discussed further on. These mushrooms are harvested through foraging which comes with many complications that make the mushrooms expensive.
Naturally, morel mushrooms grow in forests under or around deciduous trees. Sometimes they will also grow in fields.
Then, in some places, there are burn morels that grow where forest fires had happened. These fields of burn morels are where many of the morels on the market come from as they usually grow in a bunch.
However, foraging morels makes the harvesting quantity very unpredictable. Harvesters have to first find them, make sure they are of edible quality and hope that there are more than just a few growing in the ground.
Not only is foraging complicated from being unpredictable and making sure they are edible, but morel mushrooms can also be hard to find. These mushrooms can camouflage under the trees and plants that they take shade in.
There are also morel look-alikes, some of them being dangerous to eat. Harvesters must be able to correctly identify the mushroom so they don’t bring back anything poisonous.
Morel mushrooms found on public land can’t be sold. There are only certain places where mushroom sellers can forage these morels so that they can sell them. One of these places is usually the remains of a forest fire, resulting in burn morels.
These limitations create an even smaller production rate so fewer are able to get sold, increasing the price.
Morel Mushroom Harvesting Season
More mushrooms have their own season where they can usually be harvested in May. Their harvesting season is very short leaving harvesters very little time to get the morel mushrooms to sell to people.
They are also unpredictable on where they will grow each year. On top of those things, climate and weather can also make harvesting morels a challenge.
It’s not great for morel harvesting when it is wet outside. Lots of rain and other moisture make morel mushroom harvesting a challenge with all the moisture that gets trapped in the mushroom. This leads to faster rotting and more morel waste.
With all the other problems that morels bring, another reason for their high price is foraging competition.
Not only are production harvesters going out and foraging morel mushrooms, but other foragers are going out too. In certain places, these lands are available for everyone to harvest from. Some people have a lot of information on morel growing seasons, and so they go out to collect their own supply.
This leaves even fewer mushrooms to be foraged for selling purposes, driving the prices higher.
In some places, morel sellers have come up with a solution for this. In these places, you can sell morel mushrooms that you have foraged to these sellers so that they can sell them elsewhere. This encourages people to not keep their own mushrooms and to put more in the entire production.
For people who really enjoy foraging, selling these mushrooms could be a source of income. Lots of harvesting knowledge would be needed as there is a ton of competition with people who really know these mushrooms.
With many foods that get grown in the United States, there is a point where there are lab grown seeds or plants. However, mushrooms are more difficult to get down for cultivating.
Morel mushrooms are not currently being grown in the lab. There is early progress of such, but it has not gotten that far. It would take a long time to start seeing if lab grown morels can be a successful thing. If so, that would allow for easier growing, harvesting, and then lowering the prices.
Without being cultivated, we have to rely on naturally grown morel mushrooms for selling.
There are many reasons that morel mushrooms are so expensive. Morel mushrooms are a difficult plant to obtain a lot of. Since there are so few that are able to be sold each year, that drives the prices of them up.
There is the issue of how their shape makes them difficult to process and weigh, considering how dried morels are over twice as much as fresh morels per pound. Being able to forage enough of them makes the production very little. You can’t see what you don’t have.
Even with all these complications, food scientists are continuing to attempt cultivating them in labs or figuring out a way to farm them. If they succeed then there will be an increase in morel mushrooms and a decrease in their price.