The world of mushrooms, owing to their sudden appearance in numbers, groups, rings, bunches, and also in isolation as a single attractive and imposing structure, has fascinated the man since time immemorial and references are available in the scriptures of many ancient civilizations. Theofrastus (372-227 BC), the great Greek philosopher, wrote about food value of mushroom when the latter found its way in the royal dishes for Greek and Roman emperors. There are indications that mushroom existed long before the Homo sapiens appeared on Earth, as evident from the fossil records of the lower Cretaceous period, i.e., about 130 million years ago; it is assumed that the primitive man also consumed mushrooms. The collection and consumption of mushrooms from the wild is still a practice in many regions of the world but the scenario changed after successful artificial cultivation of mushrooms. Though the Chinese are reported to have cultivated some specialty mushrooms like Auricularia, Flammulina and Lentinula between 600-1000 AD but, undoubtedly, it was the artificial cultivation of the common button mushroom (Agaricus bisporus) in France around the year 1650 which transformed the world of mushroom production and consumption.

Not all mushrooms are edible, but some are highly poisonous. While edible fleshy fungi are called mushrooms, poisonous ones are termed 'toadstools.' It has been estimated that out of 10,000 species of fleshy fungi (Kendrick 1985) about half of them are edible (Chang 1993) and as many as 100 species are highly poisonous. Collection and consumption of wild mushrooms requires knowledge and adequate precaution. Rather it is one of the most important reasons for popularization of artificial cultivation of proven edible mushrooms.

Commercial production of edible fungi represents unique exploitation of the microbial technology wherein worthless wastes (agricultural, industrial, forestry, and household) are efficiently converted into nutritious food. Indoor cultivation of mushrooms utilizing the vertical space is the highest protein producer per unit area and time, almost 100 times more than the conventional agriculture and animal husbandry. It has promising scope to meet the worldwide food shortage, without undue pressure on land, for the human population increasing at an alarming rate of almost 2 lakh people per day. Of about 2000 edible fleshy fungi, 20 types are being artificially cultivated and about ten are being produced and marketed in sizeable quantities: the common button mushroom (A. bisporus), oyster mushroom (Pleurotus spp.), shiitake (Lentinula edodes), black ear mushroom (Auricularia spp.), paddy straw mushroom (Volvariella volvacea), winter mushroom (Flammulina velutipes), silver ear mushroom (Tremella fuciformis), nameko (Pholiota nameko), monkey head mushroom (Hypsizygus marmoreus) and two famous medicinal mushrooms namely Maitake (Grifola frondosa) and the Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum).

Growing Soilless

Growing Soilless

This is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide to growing organic, healthy vegetable, herbs and house plants without soil. Clearly illustrated with black and white line drawings, the book covers every aspect of home hydroponic gardening.

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