Which camp do you belong?I belong to the camp of mushroom lovers.

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I still remember the days we were small kids. It has been a few decades now, but some of the memories still persist, though a majority of them have faded away with time. Everything has changed with the passage of time,and life has become much more competitive and stressful.

Once after a heavy downpour, when the rain stopped, our group of kids wanted to play football.The grass was slippery but nevertheless we decided to play, and who has ever been able to convince kids not to play. We were passing the ball through the grass and when I was at the other end, near the goalpost, I saw some structures protruding out of the ground. I was distracted for a while and the ball was taken away from me by the rival team.

After the game was over I again went to the place intrigued by the umbrella like structures protruding out of the ground. My friends too came running after me & we plucked all the small white umbrellas from the ground.

All of us were mischievous and playful and started displaying the mushrooms over our head as if we were holding umbrellas, trying to hide from the rain. Soon the delicate umbrellas started to tear off and break.

In the evening when my father returned home from office, I informed him of the white umbrella like structures that we found on the ground and were playing with. He smiled and informed me that “Those small white umbrellas that you saw are called mushrooms. They can be consumed like other vegetables.”

This intrigued me further and I remarked “How can the umbrellas be eaten. I have never had one.”

“Don’t worry, this time when I go to market, I will bring them and we will have them for lunch.”

My father stood true to his words and the same Sunday he brought a packet of button mushrooms from the market.

I can’t still describe the taste that I felt. The meat like taste had hooked me completely and I went on asking for more. Now whenever we used to go to the market, I used to ask my father to buy mushroom. To say the least, my love for mushrooms has only increased over the years. Even my son is very fond of mushroom and it is one of his favorite dishes.

Coming back to the present, the situation has changed in the last few decades. The cultivation of mushroom has been commercialized and due to better storage facilities they are available all through the year. Nowadays available in abundance, we do not have to be dependent on the seasons for consuming them.

Mushroom is a conspicuous umbrella shaped fruiting body. The term mushroom is used to identify edible sporophores and the term toad stool is often reserved for inedible or poisonous sporophores.

The most commonly cultivated mushrooms are Button mushroom, Oyster mushroom and Paddy straw mushroom. Paddy straw mushrooms can grow in temperatures ranging from 35 degrees to 40 degrees.

For growing button mushroom compost is prepared in trays of dimensions 100X50X15cm. The element for compost include wheat straw, bran, urea and gypsum which is soaked by sprinkling water. Then there is a spawning process which is a process of sowing mushroom mycelium into the bed surface surface in the tray. The spawns can be obtained from certified national laboratories. Subsequent to this, a stage called casing is followed.

After a period of 15–20 days of casing, pinheads start becoming visible. White colored small sized buttons start developing within 5–6 days of this stage. During harvesting the cap should be gently twisted and the mushroom chopped off from the base.

Next I will discuss the cultivation of Oyster mushroom, which I have personally grown in the balcony of my flat. It is the simplest to grow and very delicious to eat. But the main problem is the time and care required for cultivation in our flats. So nowadays I prefer to buy it from the market as with a busy schedule, it is difficult to take care of the mushroom. They can be grown in temperature range of 20–30 degrees and humidity of 55–70 percent and the climate is suitable for growing them for almost 8 months in India. The Oyster mushroom is very low in fat content and suggested for controlling obesity in patients suffering from diabetes and blood pressure. There are four steps in cultivation of Oyster mushroom.

· Preparation of spawn.

· Substrate preparation.

· Spawning of substrate.

· Crop management.

Mushroom can range from everyday fare to a very costly delicacy. People can buy them fresh or in cans. When buying fresh mushroom, choose the ones that are firm, dry and unscathed. Store them in refrigerator and they should not be washed until it is time to cook them.

I should mention that there are some expensive food items exported from India like the Kashmiri saffron or even the Darjeeling tea. In the same category come the Gucchi mushrooms( Morel mushroom) which are grown in the foothills of the Himalayas. They are very costly coming in the range of Rs 20,000 to 40,000/kg.($250 to $500/Kg). It is prized as a gift and weddings are considered lavish if Gucchi are there on the menu.It holds a status far higher then that is accorded to meat. Anyone can have meat but not everyone can afford Gucchi.

It is interesting to know how they are collected. Villagers in the Himalayan belt start at dawn and spend their entire day wandering through risky areas and sometimes digging through thick layers of snow to locate Gucchi mushroom. They are notoriously unpredictable and may not grow in the same spot the next season. It is very painful to source them and people may return back with few grams, even after wandering the whole day in their search.

Edible fungi have been part of home cooking for thousands of years. The most commonly consumed mushroom are-

· Button mushroom.

· Chanterelle mushroom.

· Crimini mushroom.

· Shiitake mushroom.

· Oyster mushroom.

· Enoki mushroom.

· Portabella mushroom.

· Porcini mushroom.

· Morel mushroom.

Here are some of the advantages of consuming mushroom-

· Mushroom contain antioxidants ergothioneine and glutathione which protect the body from physiological stress that causes visible signs of ageing.

· The antioxidants may also help prevent lung, prostrate, breast and other types of cancer.

· They are rich in Vitamin B such as riboflavin, folate and thiamine which help the body get energy from food and form red blood cells.

· The fiber, potassium and vitamin C in mushroom may contribute to cardiovascular health. Potassium can help to regulate blood pressure.

· Mushroom contains vitamin D which helps in strengthening bones.

· Many women take folic acid or folate supplements during pregnancy to boost fetal health,but even mushroom can provide the necessary folate.

· Mushroom can protect your brain as you age. The antioxic diets may help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

Steer clear of the mushrooms growing wild in your garden. If a toxic mushroom is consumed the symptoms of poisoning begin to appear,6–24 hours after ingestion. The first stage of intoxication involves abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting diarrhea & hyperglycemia. The final stage of illness involves severe kidney and liver dysfunction with symptoms including abdominal pain, jaundice, renal failure, convulsions, coma and finally death. Recovery is possible but it requires two weeks of intensive therapy.

Having discussed for so long on mushroom it would be improper on my part to not discuss my favorite mushroom dish which is Mushroom Korma.

The ingredients include ½ cup thinly sliced onions, 1 cup sliced white button mushroom, 1 potato boiled and cubed,1 green slit chili, fistful of mint leaves, 1 tsp. ginger garlic paste, ½ tsp. red chili powder, 1 pinch turmeric powder, ¼ cup yogurt.

Spices include- 1 bay leaf, 2 green cardamom, ¼ tsp. cumin seeds, 1 cinnamon stick and 4 cloves.

In addition 8–10 cashew nuts.

Procedure-

· Add cashew nuts to a blender and make a fine paste.

· Pour oil in a hot pan and fry dry spices till they sizzle.

· Add sliced onions and chili and fry till they are slightly golden.

· Add ginger garlic paste and fry.

· Add mushrooms and potato and fry for 2 minutes.

· Add turmeric, salt red chili powder and fry till it turns fragrant.

· Add yogurt, mix well and cook.

· When it begins to bubble add cashew nut paste . Add more yogurt to bring consistency.

· Cover and cook till mushrooms are cooked tender.

The above was recipe for button mushroom. But before ending it up I will discuss one Oyster mushroom dish.

Ingredients -250 grams fresh Oyster mushroom, 1 ½ tsp turmeric powder, 1 inch ginger finely grated,3 cloves garlic, 1 medium sized chopped onion, 2 medium sized tomatoes, 1 tsp coriander seeds powder and 1 tsp salt.

Preparation- Wash the oyster mushroom thoroughly. They can soak lots of water, so squeeze out all excess water. Finely chop the dried mushroom.

Recipe-

· Heat oil in the pan on high heat.

· Add spliced onion, ginger and garlic.

· Stir the mixture well till it becomes golden brown.

· Add salt, turmeric powder and coriander powder.

· Add tomatoes, mix well and cover for 3–4 minutes.

· Add the chopped mushrooms.

· Cook for 7–8 minutes.

· Garnish with coriander leaves.

· Serve with rice or chapati( flatbread made from wheat flour.)

The above sums up my love for mushroom. Hope you too would have become fan by now or already are before me. After all we work hard ,so that we can earn and enjoy life. Having the healthiest of food should be our motto.

I am an indie author having two novels on Amazon.1) Love you forever and ever.2)It takes two hands to clap.I am on medium now and writing short stories/articles

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