Why Filipinos Should Cultivate Mushrooms
The ancient civilizations of Egypt, Rome, and China knew of the importance of edible mushrooms as food. Egyptian pharaohs zealously kept the mushrooms for their own use, decreeing it was too delicate a morsel for commoners who could eat garlic!
The Romans restricted mushroom consumption to the nobility. Later, convinced that mushrooms gave their soldiers strength, the Romans permitted them to eat the fungus. The ancient Chinese called mushrooms the “divine fruit of immortality,” and Buddha is believed to have eaten them before being transported to nirvana.
Nutritionally speaking, mushrooms contain higher quality proteins than green plants, important minerals such as iron, phosphorus, potassium and calcium and nearly all vitamins, including vitamin D. Edible mushrooms are rich in vitamins B1 and B2. They also contain fibers, which stimulate digestion in humans, as well as other elements favorable for health. Another advantage is that they can be grown at home without any great effort.
Despite being “an almost perfect food,” growing mushroom is still considered one of the “not too famous” business ventures in the Philippines. “But if this is tapped and one gets to know the techniques of its trade, mushroom culture could be remarkably profitable,” says the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which promotes its cultivation throughout the country.
“It is regrettable that, to date, cultivating mushrooms has been almost ignored in many developing countries, even though it could contribute significantly to feeding their population, for edible mushrooms are delicious and nutritionally valuable,” deplores Jan Lelley in an article on mushroom growing.
More than 100,000 varieties of mushrooms have been discovered, of which 700 are considered edible or fit for human consumption. The most widely cultivated mushroom species are kabuting saging, tainga ng daga, shiitake, abalone, and champignon.
Kabuting saging sprouts in the wild after thunderstorms and is usually cultivated in straw beds in open fields or in portable wooden frames. Tainga ng daga is usually found growing luxuriantly on decaying trees in the forest. Shiitake is also known as the Japanese forest mushroom since it grows profusely in the forests of Japan logs of shii, a tree closely related to the oak.
Abalone is commonly known as oyster mushroom because its fleshy gills look like ears growing sideways and overlapping one another, resembling oysters. Champignon is one of the few mushroom species with international commercial importance.
There are a number of species of mushroom that are poisonous, and although some resemble certain edible species, eating them could be fatal. “Eating mushrooms gathered in the wild is risky,” experts usually caution.
Claudius II and Pope Clement VII were both killed by enemies who poisoned them with deadly mushrooms. Buddha died, according to legend, from a mushroom that grew underground. Buddha was given the mushroom by a peasant who believed it to be a delicacy.
Edible mushroom species have been found in association with 13,000 year old ruins in Chile, but the first reliable evidence of mushroom consumption dates to several hundred years BC in China. In Asia, mushrooms are favored for their earthy flavor and their therapeutic properties.
In fact, recent studies have confirmed that the health benefits associated with mushrooms are numerous and wide-ranging. Mushrooms are high in antioxidants, selenium, riboflavin and other healthful substances that may fight cancer, some experts claim.
Research conducted at California’s Beckman Research Institute shows that mushroom cells contain mechanisms that suppress breast and prostate cancer cells.
Other research suggests that some mushroom extracts can help reduce cancer treatment side effects. When people took the mushrooms a week before they started treatment, they did appear to help with side effects of both chemotherapy and radiotherapy, including sickness and hair loss.
In Japan, a study found shiitake mushroom to be a formidable cancer fighter. In 1969, scientists at Tokyo’s National Center Research Institute isolated a polysaccharide compound from shiitake they called lentinan. In laboratory trials, lentinan caused tumors in mice to regress or vanish in 80 percent to 100 percent of the subjects. Lentinan appears “to stimulate immune-system cells to clear the body of tumor cells.” It has also shown some effect on bowel cancer, liver cancer, stomach cancer, ovarian cancer, and lung cancer.
Eating shiitake mushroom can also lower cholesterol. Research conducted in Japan identified a specific amino acid in shiitake that helps speed up the processing of cholesterol in the liver. In a 1974 study, 40 elderly individuals and 420 young women consumed 9 grams of dried shiitake or the equivalent amount of fresh shiitake (90 grams) every day for 7 days. After a week, total cholesterol levels had dropped 7 percent to 15 percent in the older group, and 6 percent to 12 percent in the young women.
Here are more reasons for eating shiitake mushrooms: They may also lower blood pressure in those with hypertension, lower serum cholesterol levels, increase libido, stimulate the production of interferon which has anti-viral effects, and has proven effective against hepatitis in some cases.
The abalone mushrooms are a natural source of statin drugs, specifically the isomers of lovastatin. In 2009, a case control study of the eating habits of 2,018 woman revealed that women who consumed mushrooms had an approximately 50 percent lower incidence of breast cancer. Women who consumed mushrooms and green tea had a 90 percent lower incidence of breast cancer.
Edible mushrooms are not only good *for the stomach alone but for also for the total well-being of a person. As such, Filipino farmers are urged to cultivate mushroom as additional source of income. “Mushrooms can be grown in enclosed indigenous structures and with minimal capital,” said Alice Ilaga, the biotechnology program chief of the Department of Agriculture.
Mushroom cultivation is an income generating activity that can be done both in rural and urban areas. Mushrooms can be grown on commercial or small-scale using either highly urbane equipment or low-cost materials and agricultural wastes.
By going into mushroom production, farmers can utilize the huge volume of agricultural “waste” that are all over the country-rice straws, corn stalks and banana leaves, to name a few. The following lowing can also be used as bedding materials for mushroom culture: dry water lilies, jute sacks, legume straws, and sugarcane bagasse.
Economic analysts have seen mushrooms as another major Philippine crop. The local market for the crop is reportedly growing. In several Makati supermarkets, for instance, mushrooms are among the fast-selling items in their vegetables section.
By Henrylito D. Tacio