The queen bee of fungi, the shitake mushroom which takes gourmet cuisine to the next level of fine dining, will soon come at a fraction of its current price.
Presently imported from Japan and China at an exorbitant cost, the shitake mushroom has been domesticated and standardised for cultivation for Indian condition by the Mushroom Research Lab at the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research (IIHR) here. The cooler climes of Ooty, Kodaikanal and Kodagu are particularly conducive to its cultivation.
“Imported shitake mushrooms cost about Rs. 600 a kg. With standardisation of cultivation procedures, it can be grown in India, which could reduce the cost considerably,” Meera Pandey, Principal Scientist, Mushroom Relearch Lab, told The Hindu.
Shitake has been cultivated for over a thousand years now and is one of the popular sources of protein in China, Japan and East Asia. It is valued for its medicinal value, including anti-cancer agents and cholesterol-reducing properties, Dr. Pandey said, and added that it took two to three years for the institute's efforts to fructify. Besides successfully developing shitake mushroom for Indian conditions, the IIHR has standardised two local varieties that have sourced from local forests.
Standard procedures have been developed for the pink oyster mushroom, sourced from Western Ghats region in Shimoga, and cherry oyster mushroom, collected from forests near Bangalore.
“Research on forest mushrooms involves understanding viability in the yield, shelf life, nutritional value and also the texture,” Dr. Pandey said.
Unfortunately, there has been no documentation of the edible mushrooms available in forests of India though hundreds of varieties grow in the wild.
Of these, some 25 varieties are edible. At least eight varieties of mushrooms, mostly sourced from forest areas, are being consumed locally, and these include the koole anube of Shimoga and alumbe of Goa. Only button mushroom, oyster mushroom and milky mushroom were popularly cultivated in India, Dr. Pandey said, attributing to the fact that Indians were yet to develop a taste for mushrooms.
Meanwhile, the IIHR is also attempting to domesticate about four varieties of mushrooms native to the forests of Andaman, Rajasthan, Western Ghats and Gir in Gujarat.