Mushrooms, Part 1

By Bob Bowen

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

There are three ways to get mushrooms. You can buy them. You can hunt them in the wild. Or, you can grow them. Most Americans buy their mushrooms. They eat them many ways. They eat them uncooked in a salad. They cook them with onions and garlic slowly in butter or oil. Or they make a hot soup out of them. People even make mushroom bread.

Mushrooms are fungi. They lack the chlorophyll that makes plants green. They grow mainly on dead organic matter, such as fallen trees. They are low in calories, but high in Vitamin B, potassium and niacin. There are hundreds of different kinds of mushrooms. They grow throughout the world. Some of them are very colorful. Most of them are safe to eat.

Serious mushroom hunters call the fungi by their scientific names, such as Morchella Elata, or Polyporus Betulinus. Many people like to eat mushrooms but have no interest in their names. These people call mushrooms by their popular names, such as Slippery Jack or Chicken Fat.

However, some mushrooms are poisonous. People can get very sick from eating poisonous mushrooms. This year, more than one-thousand people have become sick in Russia and Ukraine. More than two-hundred people have died. They had eaten poisonous mushrooms they collected in forests.

Many of the poisonings were in Voronezh in southern Russia. Mushroom sales are now banned at local markets there. And, police are guarding the forests to prevent people from picking mushrooms.

Most Russian people know about mushrooms. Ten years ago, there was a failed attempt to oust the leader of the former Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev. However, many people who lived in Moscow did not know of the events taking place. They were out of the city at the time - searching for mushrooms.

During the wild mushroom season in Japan, satellites are used to find Shiitake mushrooms. In France, farmers sometimes use pigs to find the prized Black Truffle mushrooms hidden under the ground. The Truffle reportedly smells like a pig in mating season.

Next week, we will tell how to grow your own mushrooms.

This VOA Special English Agriculture Report was written by Bob Bowen and George Grow. This is Bill White.