Mushrooms and Morels

cultivated black morels in blanket
Indoor cultivated black morels presented in a basket.

The ecological role and value of mushrooms as a source of nutrients for humans

This section is primarily based on knowledge from “Svamperiget” and ”Nordeuropas svampe” (see bibliography).

The ecological role of mushrooms
Mushrooms belong to their own kingdom, with up to 100,000 described species worldwide. Their ecological importance is enormous, as they are responsible for a very large part of the decomposition of dead plants here on earth. In this way, a huge amount of fungal biomass is produced, which can often be used by humans for food. However, unlike meat-producing animals, mushrooms carry out this transformation in a sustainable way, as the process is carried out without a simultaneous large emission of greenhouse gases.

The value of mushrooms as a source of nutrients for humans
As regards the nutritional value of mushrooms, it is positive that they are low in fat and carbohydrates, and thus relatively high in protein, and contain many vitamins and minerals. It is also very interesting that mushroom protein contains certain amino acids that are otherwise difficult to obtain if meat is not eaten or is eaten in limited quantities. Thus, an American study of the nutritional value of various foods placed white garden mushrooms just below animal products, but above various vegetables.

However, when consuming edible mushrooms, it should be borne in mind that their cell walls contain a substance called chitin, which is virtually impossible to break down in the human intestinal tract and should therefore be avoided in excessive quantities. It is also important to know that some wild mushrooms may contain high concentrations of heavy metals.

All in all, it can be concluded that edible mushrooms are ideal organisms for producing desirable nutrients and vitamins by decomposing various inedible plant residues. Furthermore, it is a fact that mushrooms can be used as a valuable supplement to a low-meat diet.

About black morels

Close-up of a black morel cultivated indoors
Close-up of a black morel cultivated indoors

As mentioned in point four, the Black Morel (Morchella conica/elata complex) is a species-rich group of closely related species, which we have chosen to call the Black Morel (Morchella sp.). Systematically, these species belong to the morel family (Morchellaceae) of the order Pezizales, which in turn is placed under Discomycetes, belonging to the overall group Ascomycota. According to “Svamperiget” (see bibliography), the latter is probably the largest group of mushrooms with about 45,000 described species.

The Black Morel (Morchella sp.) are known throughout most of the world as highly prized edible mushrooms, which are both extremely tasty and among the most nutritious and healthy to consume. Furthermore, as the worldwide turnover of black morels is relatively modest, top-quality fresh morels can be sold at high prices. We ourselves have been offered as much as DKK 1500 per kg for the indoor cultivated morels. However, due to often very poor storage and transport conditions, black morels found in the wild are far more often of poor quality, which results in significantly lower prices.

The reason for the limited annual turnover on the world market is that black morels are relatively rare in the wild and are only grown commercially outdoors to a certain extent, mainly in China. However, due to the lack of statistics on the subject, it is very difficult to estimate the actual turnover. Still, it is important to note that according to “A comprehensive review on Morchella importuna: Cultivation aspects, phytochemistry and other significant applications” (see bibliography) and other sources, the demand for morels worldwide is increasing these years. In particular, there is a strong demand for fresh morels cultivated indoors all-year-round.