A most promising new mushroom that can outperform the commonly grown varieties in the Philippines is now here.
This is the Milky Mushroom from India, thanks to Rolita “Baby” Spowart who has been devoting her time to agri-related pursuits. Her passion in researching on the production of this new mushroom, from spawn to grow-out, is starting to pay off handsomely not only for herself but for other growers as well as the consumers. After a year of continuous trial and error, she said, she has already perfected the technique of producing the planting materials. And also the technique of producing the mushroom for the table.
Botanically known as Calocybe indica, Milky Mushroom has a milky white appearance. Harvestable mushrooms come in various sizes but mostly big ones. The biggest Milky Mushroom that Baby Spowart has produced in her farm is three kilos.
When we visited her growing area in Amadeo, Cavite, three pieces of the harvest weighed a kilo. There were smaller ones but bigger than the commonly produced oyster mushroom. (Baby has other farms for spawn and grow-out operations as well as for orchids and ornamentals.)
The Milky Mushroom has a much higher yield than the oyster mushroom. In Amadeo, a 75-square meter growing area, according to worker Cynthia Pataray, can produce 20 kilos a day. The peak production period is two months but the same planting can be productive up to six months. However, the yield becomes less and less.
Another advantage is that Milky Mushroom has a much longer shelf life than oyster mushroom. When kept in a refrigerator, it can remain fresh for about 21 days. Not so the oyster mushroom. Also, we like the taste of the Milky Mushroom better than the oyster mushroom. It can be prepared in many ways. It can be used in pansit, tinola, adobo, omelet, soups, lumpia, chopsuey and more. We liked very much the thinly sliced mushroom simply cooked with oyster sauce. It is very delicious, not to say nutritious.
It is claimed that like other mushrooms, the Milky Mushroom has medicinal properties that could boost one’s immune system. The cap and stem can be cooked. Even the very mature ones are soft and tender.
As of now, Spowart is selling her harvest at P200 per kilo. That’s because, she said, she is still recovering the research costs that run up to a small fortune (read millions). But she says that as production becomes really commercial scale, she believes that a farmgate price of P50 per kilo will still be profitable. After all, the cost of production is not much.
There are no chemical fertilizers and pesticides used. The growing medium is largely fresh rice hull topped with carbonized rice hull. The only added material to the growing medium is one percent powdered eggshell, oyster shell or marble dust, whichever is readily available. These powdered maretials are the source of calcium.
Baby Spowart did most of her research through the internet. She spent at least a year in experimenting on the best ways to produce the spawn. There were common contaminations which were very costly because the chemicals used in the laboratory are expensive. But then her persistence had finally produced the desired results.
Also, commercial mushroom production was also limited in the past year because they had to observe the market. They displayed their limited production in the weekend market and the customers liked it. So they intensified production of spawn and fruiting bags to meet the demand. As of now, there are two main buyers in Metro Manila and Baby could not cope with the increasing demand.
And that is why they have expanded spawn production. They also thought of conducting seminars so more people would grow the mushroom and so the increasing demand could be met. Conducting the seminars is Mark Spowart, the only son of Paul and Baby Spowart. He himself has mastered the technique of Milky Mushroom production. In fact, on October 5, he will conduct another seminar in Amadeo. You can ask more information about the seminar by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also call or text 0917-890-2425.
The seminar is one whole day. Topics include introduction to mushroom farming, why grow Milky Mushroom, site selection, growth parameters, mushroom house design, pasteurization of substrate, how to make mushroom bags, incubation conditions, harvesting, how to cook Milky Mushroom, and spent mushroom substrate made into compost. There will also be a cooking demo, and of course eating Milky Mushroom.
By the way, the Milky Mushroom farm is one of the tour destinations being considered by the Philippine Horticultural Society that will follow the Horticulture Congress that will be held in late January next year in Quezon City.