Mushroom - the oldest art of nature!- Erakina

Packed with nutrients and flavor, the mushrooms were earlier classified as an exotic ingredient, but today they are rated as a new superfood.

The hunter-gatherers were amongst the first ones to consume mushrooms. Initially, the mushrooms were collected for a long time and it was believed that they were of a supernatural origin. Egyptians profoundly called it the ‘Plant of immortality ‘ while the Romans believed that it was the food of the gods. Mushrooms were first used for medicinal purposes in China and Japan.

Fruiting bodies of fungi:

The edible fungi are often classified as a vegetable and are loaded with protein, fibers, and antioxidants. They are the fruiting bodies of fungi. Not all mushrooms are edible, a few of them may be poisonous. They have been fascinating us since prehistoric times with their sudden appearance in groups and various shapes and isolation too. It is said that they occupied the earth before it was covered with trees.

Health benefits:

What fascinates us most is that they produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight and help increase the same in the human body when consumed in adequate amounts. 

They are rich in Vitamin B, Potassium, Selenium, and cancer-preventing antioxidants and help with weight loss and boosting immunity. 

  • They are 90% water and almost calorie-free. They help in maintaining the water balance and strengthen the muscle reflexes. 
  • With their anti-allergy,anti-cholesterol,anti-tumor, and anti-inflammatory properties, the mushrooms are responsible for healthy skin.
  •  Due to high levels of potassium, mushrooms are also useful in preventing heart attacks.

Cultivation in India:

The demand and production of mushrooms are increasing every year in India. India is in dire need of food diversification to meet the challenges and feed the ever-increasing number of mouths. Button and oyster mushrooms are mainly grown in the country. India began to cultivate mushrooms in the mid-sixties when Dr. E.F.K Mental of Germany became an FAO consultant at Solan. He was the one to introduce button mushrooms in India. Until 1980, mushroom cultivation was confined to the Northern Hills of Jammu and Kashmir, and Himachal Pradesh. But today, mushrooms are cultivated across India. Presently, button mushrooms are cultivated in Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh. Punjab, Haryana, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Karnataka.

White button mushroom:

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The white button mushrooms are thumbnail-sized with smooth rounded caps and truncated stems. Their color depends on the time in which they are harvested while their flavor is mild. The fragrance and flesh multiply on cooking. These mushrooms are available all year round and may be consumed fresh or cooked. They can be paired with cheese, butter, herbs, and various sauces. They cannot be stored in plastic.

Mushrooms in the food processing industry:

Mushrooms find use in the food processing industry. They are dried, canned, pickled, or frozen to increase the shelf life. New technologies have emerged like irradiation treatment to improve shelf life and consumption. Mushroom pickles, mushroom powder, mushroom sauce, mushroom candy, etc. are a few mushroom products that are used in the food processing industry.

Cultivation: the process

The entire process of mushroom cultivation shall be divided into six steps – Spawn production -Spawn is produced from the stocks of selected strains of mushrooms. It is done under sterile conditions. Measures are taken to produce a high-quality spawn in terms of flavor and texture. 

  • Compost preparation-Compost is prepared from the substrate on which the mushroom grows. It consists of the plant wastes like cereal, straw, sugarcane, bagasse, salt, urea, etc. usually 220 grams of substrate is required to produce 1kg of mushroom.  
  • Spawning-The process of mixing spawn with compost is known as spawning. There are two types of spawning – surface spawning and layer spawning. 
  • Spawn running-Spawn running is a process in which the compost is filled in polythene bags and covered with a newspaper. The fungal bodies grow out from the spawn and colonize within two weeks.
  • Casing-Casing is then done on the compost beds after the process of spawn running is complete. The beds are now covered with a layer of soil that is 3-4 cm thick to induce fruiting. The casing material must be porous with a pH range between 7-7.5. 
  • Fruiting -The fruit body sprouts out under controlled conditions in the form of pinheads and starts growing gradually.

The plant is susceptible to pests like nematodes, mites, and springtails. Diseases like dry bubble, wet bubble, cobweb, and false truffle are common in these plants. Hence pest management is necessary for the cultivation of the same.

A versatile ingredient:

Mushrooms work like magic in the dishes. They can be grilled, baked, stir-fried, sauteed, stuffed, and roasted. Indian kitchens make the best use of mushrooms in kebabs, kofta, and fries. A few delicacies shall be enlisted as mushroom chili fry, shahi mushroom, Kalan milagu, mushroom Chettinad, and mushroom uttapam!

-Pooja Kumari Shah

One Comment

  1. Anik Karmakar

    The 2nd best vegetarian option! Love it! Nicely detailed illustration.

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