By Sandy and Doc Rey

When I’m asked these days about ideas on what to farm—whether for one’s family or for commercial purposes—I will say, “Mushrooms!” Walk around and see that even your cracks and crevices have mushrooms sprouting.

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Emily Soriano, Chief of Tissue Culture of the Central Luzon Integrated Agri Research Center (CLIARC) and it made me appreciate mushrooms more, not just the taste.

Why cultivate, grow and process gourmet mushrooms? Because it is nutritious and easy to farm! Mushrooms are edible fungi that grow on and obtain food from decaying organic matter.

Rows of mushroom fruiting bags at CLIARC.

They are rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals: Vitamin D for healthy bones and teeth; thiamine for normal functioning of the brain and nervous system; riboflavin for maintaining healthy red blood cells and promoting good vision and healthy skin; and
niacin for keeping the body’s digestive and nervous systems in good shape. It contains more potassium than most other fruits like bananas and vegetables.

They are also known for their medicinal value. Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinula edodes) are known for their anti-cancer and immune system enhancing abilities. King Oyster (Pleurotus eryngii) has inhibitory effects on cholesterol levels and haslaxative effects that are good for constipation. Noted for its ability to lower blood sugar levels and as an antioxidant is Grifola frondosa or Maitake (Hen of the Woods).

You can start with roughly P5,000 in capital if you can work with an existing vacant room. To start, you will only need plastic bags, PVC pipes, cotton, alcohol, rubber bands, a casserole, a pressure cooker, tweezers, flat bottles, and a stove.

Production materials are basically agricultural wastes. You can use rice straw, sugarcane bagasse, tobacco, waterlily, sawdust, corncobs, corn leaves, grass, and so on. It is easy to learn how to propagate and is environment friendly.

90% of our mushroom requirements are imported. This shouldn’t be the case as mushrooms are easy to grow in small areas and capital is minimal.

If you find that making your own fruiting bags may be time consuming, you may buy them ready to fruit. Meaning, you buy the bags that are producing mushrooms already. You may keep them under your kitchen sink, where it is dark and cool. Every day, you can harvest for your table.

Mushroom spawn.

Among the problems we saw with mushroom cultivation were the short shelf life of the product, low consumer awareness of mushrooms and their nutritional benefits, and lack of product development in processing.

Mushrooms can be made in patties and jam or pickled; mushroom adobo is wonderful. I saw cookies, polvoron, and even wine made from mushrooms. Tasted the crackers, and I thought that dehydrated mushrooms make a nutritious and wonderful snack. There were also some dried noodles that were ready to eat as chips.

Mushrooms are not only nutritious, sumptuous, and delicious, they are also easy to produce organically. It is a better option to and substitute for meat.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s September 2013 issue.