Rabu, Mei 20, 2009

A mushrooming trade

By : SUZANNA PILLAY
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Oyster mushrooms growing in spawn packets at Norlian’s farm.
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SUZANNA PILLAY tells you why mushrooms should be promoted as a health food.
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IF you are scheduled for an operation, some people say that you shouldn’t eat black jelly mushrooms (Auricularia polytricha and A. auricula judae) for a couple of weeks prior to it because they apparently thin the blood and prevent blood clotting.
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This is surprisingly true, according to Dr S. Vikineswary, Professor of Biotechnology and head of the Mushroom Research Centre (MRC) at the University of Malaya’s Institute of Biological Sciences.
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She said, however, that not eating them and other edible mushrooms on regular days is a mistake because they are excellent low-fat food, and are rich in protein, fibre, calcium and zinc.“Research has shown that black jelly mushroom lowers cholesterol levels and lipid concentration in blood. They can be grown locally and dried easily to enhance shelf life,” she added.
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Vikineswary, who is also president of the Mushroom Association of Malaysia (MAM) said that the association aims to promote mushrooms as a health food. It will also educate mushroom growers on culture techniques.
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“Research conducted here and abroad has shown that mushrooms have important medicinal properties,” Vikineswary said.
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“The MRC, collaborating with the Department of Agriculture (DOA), also wants to encourage the growing of a variety of mushrooms.”She said that the majority of growers in Malaysia focus on the grey oyster mushroom (Pleurotus sajor-caju) or the white oyster mushroom (Pleurotus florida) because they are local favourites.
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“They would also be willing to produce other varieties like the pink and yellow oyster mushrooms, black jelly, monkey head, abalone and lingzhi, but it is a matter of teaching them that these also have loads of nutrients for wellness, are not toxic, can be cultivated locally and are not obtained from the wild.
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“There has to be a demand for these mushrooms for growers to thrive. Unfortunately, even if these are displayed on shelves beside grey and white oyster mushrooms, consumers still make a beeline for traditional ones,” she said.
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“We hope to promote mushrooms for wellness via seminars, exhibitions and fairs with the MAM, MRC and DOA.”
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Cheng Poh Guat, a grower in Tanjung Sepat, Selangor for 20 years, agrees that it is not easy for small growers to grow or sell the more unusual mushrooms. Cheng’s company, Vita Agrotech, which she co-founded with her husband, is a leader in mushroom cultivation and marketing in Malaysia, collaborating with local universities and the DOA in research and development of its medicinal values and training new growers.
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“It is just not wise to invest time and effort into growing something unless they can sell it. Moreover, species like the monkey head mushroom take three months to yield compared to oyster mushrooms which are quicker to cultivate and result in a bigger yield,” she said.
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According to Cheng, different species have different characteristics and yields. White oyster mushrooms take up to 30 days to bear fruiting bodies, and the grey oyster up to 2½ months. The yellow oyster may also take about a month, while the black jelly mushroom takes 1½ months to bear fruiting bodies.
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She said that apart from being restricted in the choice of mushroom to grow, another pressing issue local growers face is how to identify good- quality spawn culture for mushroom cultivation.
Why is spawn quality so important to mushroom growers? Associate Professor Dr Noorlidah Abdullah explained:
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“The first stage of mushroom cultivation is to produce the spawn, the seed to the plant. Good quality spawn results in a higher yield. To prepare this culture, you need to learn special techniques or end up with poor quality, contaminated spawn or worse, not even the right species you want.”
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She said the mushroom growers had requested that the MRC and MAM conduct a workshop this month to teach them all about spawn production.
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“We will teach them how to prepare it and also recognise what good spawn looks like.”
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The workshop will take place at the Institute of Biological Sciences, University of Malaya, from Sunday to Feb 11. Two mushroom growers from Batang Kali, Zainon Ariffin and Norlian Mohd Ali, have been growing oyster mushrooms for three years, producing daily mushroom yields of 60kg and 30kg, respectively.
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They say that the workshop on spawn production eventually gave them better yields.“It is difficult for the untrained eye to recognise what is a good new spawn and we need to be able to do so,” Zainon said. Fellow grower Rose Kamsiah Kamaruddin said that learning to differentiate between good and bad spawn makes the difference in the capital outlay needed to cultivate mushrooms.
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Rose, who operates Bumi Agrotech in Banting, Selangor, said it was not always possible to buy good spawn.“Each packet of spawn costs about RM2.50. Two hundred bags of spawn will cost RM500. Imagine if all the spawn purchased was of poor quality. That would mean a loss of RM500 and also more money to purchase new spawn bags.”
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For details on the spawn workshop, call Zainon Ariffin at 013-341-8202.
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Types of mushrooms
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1. Black Jelly mushrooms:
Anticoagulant, breaks up blood clots, regulates blood pressure, hypocholesterolemia and hypolipidemia, anti-oxidant and alleviates weight reduction.
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2. Ling Zhi mushrooms:
Prevents and treats cancer, strengthens immune system, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant, alleviates asthma and respiratory problems.
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3. Monkey Head mushrooms:
Stimulates nerve growth, potential treatment for degenerative disorders such as dementia and peripheral nerve regeneration, repairs neurological trauma from strokes, Alzheimer’s, improves immune system, anti-cancer, anti-ulcer properties, improves motor and muscle response pathways.
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4. Oyster mushrooms:
Blood regulation, anti-thrombotic, lowers blood pressure, lipid concentrations and glucose levels, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-toxical; inhibits tumour growth and anti-oxidant.
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5. Button mushrooms (Agaricus Brasiliensis):
Suppresses tumours, regulates blood pressure, anti-gastric.
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6. Shiitake mushrooms (Lentinus edodes):
Contains Lentinan, anti-cancer properties or acts as immunotherapy for lung, skin, stomach, breast, colorectal and cervical cancer; suppresses cancer recurrence; increases immune system.
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7. Golden Needles / Enoki mushrooms (Flammulina velutipes):
Increases immune system, anti-fungal and anti-viral; anti-inflammatory, toxic to tumour cells.
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Source: Medicinal Properties of Edible Mushrooms by the Department of Agriculture Malaysia and Institute of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Malaya.

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