A mushroom is the fruiting body of a fungus. Mushrooms carry spores on the underside of their mushroom cap, and the spores are used to propagate the fungus.
Mushrooms have traditionally been used in a range of cuisines, predominantly in East Asian countries. Today they are extensively used for human consumption all over the world as a delicacy, especially as a vegetarian option that is tasty as well as nutritious. A few types of mushrooms are also used in holistic and modern medicine, and to neutralize industrial pollutants in soil and water.
Due to high demand, several varieties are being cultivated for commercial distribution, and fungiculture has become a lucrative business.
What are mushroom spores?
Spores are produced and stored on the underside of the mushroom cap in gills, teeth or pores, depending on its anatomy. When spores are dispersed, they propagate the fungus. In the wild, only healthy mushrooms produce spores. If the fungus has sufficient nutritious resources at its disposal, it will be ready to reproduce, and this is when spores are produced and disseminated. A new network of fungi is born from the spores that fall on fertile ground, or on any surface that is conducive to their growth.
For commercial purposes, however, mushrooms are cultivated on farms. The process is begun by injecting spores into the substrate or the growth surface. Spores are stored in a sterile solution in syringes. They are available for purchase, to mushroom enthusiasts who are interested in growing their own mushrooms on small, medium or large farms.
What are oyster mushrooms and why are they popular?
Oyster mushrooms are some of the most widely consumed edible mushrooms. They get their name from their oyster-shaped cap. The most common types are also colored light grey or grey-brown, like oysters.
Oyster mushrooms have great benefits for the human body. They are highly nutritious and possess antibiotic properties. They are rich in Vitamins C and B complex and contain up to 2.5 percent protein. They contain minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, iron and phosphorus. They have ten times the amount of niacin or vitamin B3 as other vegetables. It is a nutrient that is essential for regulating cholesterol and cardiovascular health. They can prevent deficiency-driven disorders like anemia, because of their high folic acid content. They are high in fiber and alkaline ash, making them a good antidote for hyper-acidity and constipation.
They have a strong environmental application in the form of a cleansing agent in soil or water that has been polluted by oil spills, pesticides and other toxins. They degrade the pollutants and recycle them into harmless ammonia, carbon dioxide or water.
Oyster mushrooms are well-suited for farm cultivation and mass production because they are robust, they propagate and grow quickly, and can thrive on a wide range of substrates. While they typically grow in the fall or autumn in the wild, they can be cultivated all year round on mushroom farms.
What are the different types of oyster mushrooms?
There are a few different types of oyster mushrooms with their own unique characteristics. They differ in color, shape of the cap, texture and taste.
– Pearl oyster mushrooms are the most common type. They are cream in color and tender to the touch. They taste slightly sweet and woodsy. The shape, and to some extent the taste as well, resemble those of a pearl oyster. They are used in East Asian, Czech and Slovak cuisines. Their flavor makes them useful in sauces or dishes that require a meat substitute.
– Blue oyster mushrooms are blue when young, and after that their caps turn dark brown. They require fresh air and can be grown outdoors. They are easy to grow and are ideal for beginners. They also grow at a very fast pace and give a high yield. They are among the varieties that last long when refrigerated but they can continue to grow in storage. The stems are hard to chew and should be removed before use. They are rich in Vitamins B and D, antioxidants, iron and potassium. Research has shown that they can be effective in fighting cancer.
– Golden oyster mushrooms are bright yellow in color. Their caps are thin and velvety and they have short stems. They have a fruity scent and and have a nutty, cashew-like flavor when cooked. They are rich in copper, zinc and amino acids. They don’t last long in storage and need to be used fresh.
– Pink oyster mushrooms are pink and ruffled in appearance and whiten with age. They have a strong, pungent flavor and a tough and woody texture. They are native to the tropics and require warm and humid conditions to flourish. Their flavor makes them a suitable substitute for bacon bits. They are a rich source of fiber, potassium, vitamin B6, folate and antioxidants.
– Phoenix oyster mushrooms are similar in taste and appearance to pearl oyster mushrooms but are smaller and lighter in color, with longer stems. They have a sweet, meaty, anise-like flavor. They prefer warm, humid conditions for growth. They can be stored for up to a week. They have the same nutritional value as other oyster mushrooms and can boost immunity and battle cardiovascular disorders.
– King oyster mushrooms are the largest in this category, and have thick, meaty white stems and small brown caps. They lower cholesterol and strengthen immunity. They have a mild “umami” flavor when cooked and the soft stems have a meaty texture.
How are mushrooms cultivated from spores?
The cultivation process is begun by injecting mushroom spores into a suitable substrate or growth surface. Most varieties of oyster mushrooms thrive on a wide range of substrates like pasteurized straw logs, wooden logs, coffee grounds, grass and waste paper. Growing them on industrial waste is a great way to remove toxins and pollutants from the environment and recycle them into minerals.
Spores are commercially available in syringes containing a sterile solution. The substrate needs to be cleaned and sterilized first. The syringe is prepared by attaching the sterile needle, which is included in the package. Gloves are also included, to make it easier to keep the process clean and free of contaminants. A few milliliters of spores are then dropped on different parts of the substrate. The mushrooms are now ready to grow and multiply.
With a high nutritional value and being desirable as a delicacy, oyster mushrooms are in great demand. A demand which is easily met, with commercially available spores, thriving mushroom farms started by enthusiasts, and a burgeoning fungiculture business worldwide.