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Importance of mushroom

It is necessary to cultivate it on large scale for the benefit of the country.

Dr. S.M. Alam 
 Miss Saboohi Raza
NIA, Tando Jam, Pakistan.

Oct 01 - 07, 2001

The enormous increase in our population has necessitated more and more food production through alternate resources such as mushroom as the availability of more arable land for traditional crops is not likely to increase. Edible mushrooms occupy a pivotal position among the lower organisms. In the developed countries, mushrooms have become one of the most important of all the horticultural crops. The production of mushrooms is increasing everywhere in the world, and nowadays these are available all the year round and are used in enormous quantities to serve with all kinds of table dishes. There are about 5000 different species of mushrooms of which at least 1250 are reported to be edible. During 1980, about 800 million kilograms of Hygracircus, Shiitake and Pleurotus types of mushrooms were produced and consumed in the world. About 18-25 thousand kilogram of morels (Morochella esculenta), which are found in Swat and Kaghan areas of Pakistan are annually exported to some European countries.

Mushrooms are being used as food and medicine since time immemorial. Their cultivation on extensive scale can help solve many problems of global importance such as protein shortage, resource recovery and reuse as well as part of environmental management. Edible mushrooms contain a high percentage of protein, all indispensable amino acids, and vitamins B-complex and other biochemical compounds. This vegetable is also a food source of dietary fibre and the quantity present is much higher than the crude fibre. The protein value of mushroom is double of cabbage, potatoes and asparagus, four times that of tomatoes and carrot and six times that of oranges.

The protein value of dried mushrooms has been found to be 30-40 per cent comprising all the essential amino acids. Mushrooms are source of Niacin (0.3 g) and Riboflavin (0.4 mg). Mushroom is a good source of trypsin enzyme. It is also rich in iron, copper, calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and folic acid. Mushrooms are valuable health food, which are low in calories, high in vegetable proteins, zinc, chitin, fiber, vitamins and minerals. Mushrooms are also have a long history of use in traditional Chinese Medicine to promote good health and vitality and increasing body's adaptive abilities. Specifically, selected strains of dried mushrooms are used to produce mushrooms capsules and extracts. The mushroom is a highly concentrated food and unsurpassed for flavour in addition to being a completely satisfying meal.

The edible mushroom mycelium (10-20 %) may be put in various sausages, minced meat and vegetables, soups, pastes and bakery products and many other dietary menus. Mushroom can be grown by almost anyone and anywhere. However, cultivation of this edible fungus also consumes agricultural and industrial wastes and produces such as straw and molasses, which is an excellent fertilizer and soil conditioner. Mushrooms have no colouring matter and so do not need sunlight to obtain the requisite nutrients for survival. They can grow in darkness, where no other crop would easily flourish. A crop of mushroom can be produced in boxes beneath the kitchen sinks and in garden sheds. For large scale cultivation, properly designed rooms/spaces are needed, which should provide suitable temperature, humidity and darkness.

Mushrooms are fleshy fungi, which are generally used as delicacy from the time immemorial. It has no colouring matter or chlorophyll. It is tough and an umbrella like fruiting body. It produces microscopic spores, which serve as a mean of reproduction, but is not same as that of plant seed. Nowadays, mushroom is being relished throughout the world as food and medicine. Researches reports revealed that mushrooms are rich in food values being food source, and out of 100 g, it contains proteins (3.6 g), minerals vitamins B,12 (0.26 mg), fats (0.3 g), carbohydrates (1.5 g), dietary fibers (2.5 g) and ash (5.0 g) and the vitamin contains are exceptionally high. The protein contents are significantly higher than those provided by the foodstuffs like dates, potatoes, lettuce, carrots, and dried mushrooms containing more proteins than beet. They also contain folio acid, which is blood- building vitamin and counteracts the pernicious anemia with all properties. They serve as a possible source of antibiotics and anti-cancer agents. They lower the cholesterol level of blood pressure. Mushrooms constitute an ideal source for reducing body weight.

Cultivation of mushrooms has not been given due importance in Pakistan. Mushrooms naturally grown in certain places in the country are utilized as food, where mushroom cultivation is lucrative business in many countries. In Pakistan, mushroom cultivation has tremendous prospect although, at present only some wild types of mushrooms are eaten by rural folk. Modern technology has made possible to grow mushrooms under control and semi-control conditions. Nature has gifted Pakistan with variety of environmental conditions suitable for cultivation of mushroom from sea level to high mountains, where different types of mushrooms can easily be grown round a year. The simple, economical and commercial methodology for cultivation of some known edible mushrooms has been evolved in Pakistan.

Different agriculture and industrial wastes could be used as source of food for mushroom cultivation. Mushrooms may also be grown in a variety of places like, caves, ditches, huts, hovels, cottages, cellars, garages, sheds or shelters, bee hive shaped huts, thatched or meted roofs, thick green groves and gardens. The cultivation of mushrooms need i) preparation of substrate and compost; ii) preparation of spawn; iii) seeding of the spawn on suitable substrate for mycelial growth and production of fruiting bodies. Mushrooms can be grown in all parts of Pakistan. The species Agaricus rodmani, Phellorina inguinence, Podoxis pistillaris, Lepiota procera, Inocybe ceophylla, Crepidous sp and Amanita nano are grown in Balochistan. Sindh, Punjab and NWFP of Swat Valley and Murree Hills.

In the past decades, this vegetable was ignored to grow in different areas of Pakistan. But, at present it is commonly grown in many areas of Pakistan, having natural high humidity and low temperature. These areas are suitable for growing white button mushroom. Chinese mushroom is perhaps the easiest and simplest in its cultural requirements and is more suited to conditions in Pakistan, especially the plains of the country. Mushroom cultivation can be profitable as cottage industry in many parts of the country. The mushroom after harvest can be marketed as flesh, canned, dried or made into powder or as a soup. Drying and cannying of mushroom is essential for market from one city to another or for export purpose. Profitable mushroom cultivation on large scale requires close attention, experience and skill. If it is developed as a cottage industry in villages and on business lines near towns and cities, the delicacy of this vegetable can become a common diet item in near future to provide cheap source of proteins, vitamins and other nutrients.

Mostly, the straw and leaves of wheat, paddy, barley, oat and grow straw, banana, sugarcane and maize, empty millet heads and corn cobs, cotton wastes, thin sticks and sugarcane bagasse, saw dust, dust logs, straw papers, manure, etc. can be used as medium for its cultivation. Mushrooms are now very common in the four provinces of the country. It is a common business for the people of hilly areas of Kashmir, NWFP and Punjab and very much familiar with the business of black morels. A Khumbhi mushroom is very common in the rural areas of Sindh, a white umbrella type of mushroom known as Khamiri is also consumed by the local inhabitants of Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab. There are well-cultivated mushrooms, which can be marketed in local and foreign markets. The common edible mushroom (Agaricus bisporous) accounts for about 75 per cent of the one million tons of mushroom in the world each year, the remainder includes the Japanese Forest Mushroom. Now, the mushroom is a common vegetable for the population of the country. Therefore, it is necessary to cultivate it on large scale for the benefit of the country.