A mushroom is the fleshy, spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above ground on soil or on its food source.
Fungiculture is the process of producing food, medicine, and other products by the cultivation of mushrooms and other fungi.
People who collect mushrooms for consumption are known as mycophagists and the act of collecting them for such is known as mushroom hunting, or simply “mushrooming”.
China is the world’s largest edible mushroom producer. The country produces about half of all cultivated mushrooms, and around 2.7 kilograms (6.0 lb) of mushrooms are consumed per person per year by over a billion people.
Mushrooms are not plants, and require different conditions for optimal growth. Plants develop through photosynthesis. While sunlight provides an energy source for plants, mushrooms derive all of their energy and growth materials from their growth medium- through biochemical decomposition processes. Growing rooms can be illuminated to facilitate harvesting or cropping practices, but it is more common for workers or mushroom farmers to be furnished with minerâs lamps rather than illuminating an entire room.
This does not mean that light is an unnecessary requirement, since some fungi use light as a signal for fruiting. Mushrooms grow well at relative humidity levels of around 95-100%, and substrate moisture levels of 50 to 75%.
Instead of seeds, mushrooms reproduce sexually through spores. Spores can be contaminated with airborne microorganisms, which will interfere with mushroom growth and prevent a healthy crop.
All mushroom growing techniques require the correct combination of humidity, temperature, substrate (growth medium) and inoculum (spawn or starter culture). Wild harvests, outdoor log inoculation and indoor trays all provide these elements.
Mushrooms are a low-calorie food usually eaten cooked or raw and as garnish to a meal. Dietary mushrooms are a good source of B vitamins, such as riboflavin, niacin and pantothenic acid, and the essential minerals, selenium, copper and potassium. Fat, carbohydrate and calorie content are low, with absence of vitamin C and sodium. There are approximately 20 calories in an ounce of mushrooms.
When exposed to ultraviolet light, natural ergosterols in mushrooms produce vitamin D2, a process now exploited for the functional food retail market
Mushrooms are used extensively in cooking, in many cuisines (notably Chinese, Korean, European, Japanese and Indian). Mushroom is called Khumb in Hindi. They are known as the “meat” of the vegetable world.
Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets have been commercially grown on mushroom farms. The most popular of these, Agaricus bisporus, is considered safe for most people to eat because it is grown in controlled, sterilized environments. Several varieties of A. bisporus are grown commercially, including whites, crimini, and portobello. Other cultivated species now available at many grocers include shiitake, maitake or hen-of-the-woods, oyster, and enoki. In recent years, increasing affluence in developing countries has led to a considerable growth in interest in mushroom cultivation, which is now seen as a potentially important economic activity for small farmers.
Medicinal mushrooms are mushrooms or extracts used or studied as possible treatments for diseases. Some mushroom materials, including polysaccharides, glycoproteins and proteoglycans, modulate immune system responses and inhibit tumor growth in preliminary research, whereas other isolates show potential cardiovascular, antiviral, antibacterial, antiparasitic, anti-inflammatory, and antidiabetic properties. Currently, several extracts have widespread use in Japan, Korea and China, as adjuncts to radiation treatments and chemotherapy, even though clinical evidence of efficacy in humans has not been confirmed.
Mushrooms can be used for dyeing wool and other natural fibers. The chromophores of mushroom dyes are organic compounds and produce strong and vivid colors, and all colors of the spectrum can be achieved with mushroom dyes. Before the invention of synthetic dyes, mushrooms were the source of many textile dyes.
Mushroom farming is not very popular yet as the several others in the category of farming, but it is very lucrative, most especially because of the demand for it by foreigners in Nigeria. Among the nationals of the Asian, middle-eastern and some European countries, there is a demand for mushrooms for reasons ranging from its medicinal properties, to its nutritional value.
The land requirement for it could be as small as a plot of land, depending on the volume the farmer hopes to produce. Mushrooms grow on compose heap, either artificially created or naturally created by a tree that fell and decomposed. Mushrooms grow on the decayed and decaying portion of the tree. This is what has been transferred to the artificial growth of it. The area is cleared and laced with saw dust collected from the saw mill. This is watered and laced with a layer of food wastes gathered from hotels or any restaurant.
Materials for mushroom farming in the production of mushroom, there are very simple available basic materials like saw dust, rice bran (flour wastes at rice mills) and limestone powder. These materials are mixed in specified quantities, moisturized and turned to compost within a period of 21 days. The compost is later stuffed into small polythene bags and the spawns from the laboratory are added to it and kept in a not too humid and not too bright place. After four days, you start harvesting mushrooms from the bags, morning and night, daily for up to three months.
It is significant to construct a structure that is not too humid and not too bright, and inside the structure, you make some shelves. Inside these shelves you keep the small bags containing compost and spawns, and then you are set to harvest starting from the fourth day. This is the method used in oyster mushroom cultivation and it seems to be the best for commercial purpose.
Mushrooms are eaten in all sorts of ways, whether fresh or dry. The dried one according to findings seems to be more nutritious than the fresh. It also has a longer life span, while the fresh one lasts for just three days, dried one has a life span of one year
The relative humidity in the growing rooms should be high enough to minimize the drying of casing but not so high as to cause the cap surfaces of developing mushrooms to be clammy or sticky. Water is applied to the casing so water stress does not hinder the developing mushrooms; in commercial practice this means watering 2 to 3 times each week.
Picking and packaging methods often vary from farm to farm. Freshly harvested mushrooms must be kept refrigerated at 35° to 45°F. To prolong the shelf life of mushrooms, it is important that mushrooms “breathe” after harvest, so storage in a nonwaxed paper bag is preferred to a plastic bag.
After the last flush of mushrooms has been picked, the growing room should be closed off and the room pasteurized with steam. This final pasteurization is designed to destroy any pests which may be present in the crop or the woodwork in the growing room, thus minimizing the likelihood of infesting the next crop.
This is watered until the food wastes decompose into the saw dust. The farmer can purchase spawns (mushroom seedlings) from the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos (F.I.I.R.O) for planting.
Written 07/02/2013 By Serah Olagbegi
Most content culled from FIIRO Handouts.