The first mushrooms
were thought to have been cultivated in Southeast Asia.
In ancient times it was believed mushrooms were created
by thunderbolts because wild mushrooms appear after storms.
Mushrooms are spread
in nature by spores, much the way seeds spread plants. They
broadcast spores that colonize and grow where the conditions
are right. A mature mushroom will drop as many as 16 billion
mushrooms contain no chlorophyll, they can't photosynthesize
their own food, so they rely
on other plants for their nutritive energy. Parasitic mushrooms
colonize living plants; saprophytic mushrooms live off decaying
a kind of fungi, a major group of living things, originally
considered plants but now treated as the separate kingdom
Fungi. They occur in all environments on the planet and include
important decomposers and parasites.
Since the body of a
mushroom is usually dispersed over a large area,
it is rarely noticed. In nature some species of mushrooms
may have a body that spreads over hundreds of square miles.
A population of honey
mushrooms (Armillaria ostoyae) in the Blue Mountains of eastern
Oregon was found to be the largest single organism in the
world, spanning 2200 acres.
Fungi have a vegetative
body called a thallus or soma, composed of one-cell-thick
filaments called hyphae. The hyphae typically
form a microscopic network within the substrate (food source)
called the mycelium, through which food is absorbed. Usually
the most conspicuous part of any fungus are its fruiting
structures that produce spores. The mushrooms we like to
eat are the fruiting bodies of certain fungi.
Many species of mushrooms
and fungi have been used as folk medicines for thousands
of years. These are now under intense study by ethnobotanists
and medical researchers for their potential anti-cancer,
anti-viral, and/or immunity-enhancement properties.
A mushroom is not
a true vegetable, since it has no leaves, roots or seeds
and does not need light to grow. However, the National Agricultural
Statistics Service includes mushrooms in the vegetable category
for statistics purposes.
eat four pounds of mushrooms per capita a year. The Chinese
eat about 22 pounds.
of mushrooms in the US has quadrupled since 1965.
Mushroom farms are
climate controlled buildings; airflow, temperature and
light are all constantly monitored.
is the 2nd largest producer of mushrooms, following China.
California and Florida are the top mushroom-producing states.
Mushrooms are canned,
pickled and frozen, but drying mushrooms is the oldest and
most commonly used way to preserve them.
Joe Jurgensmeyer and Darrell McLain founded J-M Farms, Inc.,
in Miami, OK, in the fall of 1979. The first button mushrooms
were picked on March 13, 1980 and the first delivery was
made the following day to Associated Wholesale Grocers of
Springfield, MO. J-M Farms, Inc., delivers mushrooms to Oklahoma,
Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, Kansas, Missouri
The button mushroom
is is one of the most widely cultivated mushrooms in the
world. Most grocery stores in the western world sell this
mushroom canned and fresh.
started cultivating the button mushroom (agaricus bisporus)
in the 17th Century.
commercial variety of the button mushroom was originally a
light brown color. In 1926, a Pennsylvanian mushroom farmer
found a clump of button mushrooms with white caps in his mushroom
bed. Cultures were grown from the mutant individuals, and most
of the cream-colored store mushrooms we see today are products
of this haphazard natural mutation.
The Portobello mushroom
is a large brown strain of the same fungus as the button
mushroom, left to mature and take on a broader, more open
shape before picking. Portobello mushrooms are distinguished
by their large size, thick cap and stem, and a distinctive
serve as a substitute for meat in some recipes because they
have a similar texture.
The shiitake mushroom
is large and brownish to very dark brown and has a fleshy
cap from about 1 to 2 inches across. Shiitake
is easily dried. Dried shiitake is convenient to use and
inexpensive to store and transport.
The shiitake (she-TAH-kee)
mushroom is native to Japan and China and grows naturally
on fallen oak logs in the spring and autumn. Shiitake is
from the Japanese "shii" for oak and "take" for
mushroom. In China it is also called the hsaing ku, meaning
Shiitakes are the second
most-consumed mushrooms in the world, after the button mushroom.
In Asia it is number one. Shiitake mushrooms are
Japan's number one agricultural export.
Shiitake can be grown either on hardwood logs like oak or
on a special combination of oak sawdust, bran, millet and other
Logs used for shiitake production usually average 4-6 inches
in diameter and 40 inches in length. Spawn, or mycelium, is
placed in pre-drilled holes. Mycelium is the mass of threads
which forms the vegetative feeding part of the shiitake. Wax
is melted and dripped over the hole to form a seal.
Lost Creek Mushroom
Farms in Perkins, Oklahoma, sells grow-your-own shiitake
mushroom logs, fresh and dried shiitake mushrooms and other
shiitake mushroom products.
As an alternative enterprise
in the US, shiitake mushrooms represent a way to use low
quality hardwoods such as the white oak, post oak and sweet
gum covering millions of acres in east and central Oklahoma.
Many mushrooms are extremely
poisonous. While not every mushroom is dangerously poisonous,
most simply aren't large or tasty enough to be eaten.
MUSHROOMS SHOULD NOT BE EATEN UNLESS IDENTIFIED BY AN EXPERT,
AND EVEN THE EXPERTS MAKE MISTAKES SOMETIMES because many
safe mushrooms closely resemble poisonous ones.
A simple identification error can lead to symptoms of sweating,
cramps, diarrhea, confusion, convulsions and potentially result
in liver damage with a mortality rate of 60 percent or higher.
There are over 38,000
varieties of mushrooms available, over 3,000 in North America
alone, with varying colors, textures and flavors. There are
so many varieties of mushrooms, both edible and toxic, that
mass consumption is pretty much limited to those commercially-grown
varieties which can be trusted to be edible.
Ag in the Classroom
Oklahoma Ag in the Classroom is a program of the
Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, Oklahoma Department of
Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Oklahoma State Department