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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Mushrooms - 2004-05-11

Broadcast: May 11, 2004

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Year after year, mushrooms of every size and shape push their way up from under dead leaves or from inside dead trees.

The yearly growing season begins in late summer and continues through autumn. During that brief period, people who like to eat mushrooms spend a lot of time walking through fields and forests. They look for what some people call “the food of the gods.”

Mushrooms are a fungus. They grow on dead organic matter. Mushrooms do not grow from seeds. They are formed by spores. Spores are produced by fully grown mushrooms. They fall from the underside of the top of a mushroom.

Mushrooms drop their tiny spores only once. However, they drop millions of them at the same time. The wind spreads them over a wide area. When spores land on a tree that has fallen, they begin to grow.

At first, a spore produces long tube-like growths called hyphae. A number of hyphae form what is known as a mycelium. In time, the mycelium grows into a mushroom.

Mushrooms are rich in vitamin B. They contain more protein than most vegetables. And studies show they can lower cholesterol in the blood.

It is possible to grow your own mushrooms – either inside the house or outside in the garden.

Companies sell mushroom mycelium that you can use to start your own mushroom garden. Or you can buy small containers of organic matter with mushroom spores inside. You add water and put the container in a room at the correct temperature as directed. Then wait for your mushrooms to grow.

The hunt for wild mushrooms has taken place throughout the world since ancient times. And, like most hunts, there is some danger. People have to be careful not to eat mushrooms that are poisonous.

Until two-thousand years ago, mushrooms could be eaten only when they were found in the wild. Then the Chinese began to grow the shiitake mushroom. Shiitakes are popular for their taste and because they are easy to grow. They grow naturally in warm areas of China and Japan.

The European button mushroom is also popular. It grows very quickly. During a thirty-day period, it is possible to get two button mushroom crops from one container of mycelium.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Bob Bowen. This is Steve Ember.