This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.
Every year mushrooms of every size and shape push their way up from under dead leaves or from inside dead trees.
The yearly growing season begins in late summer and continues through autumn. During that brief period, people who like to eat mushrooms spend a lot of time walking through fields and forests looking for what some people call "the food of the gods."
The yearly hunt has taken place throughout the world since ancient times. Until two-thousand years ago, mushrooms could be eaten only when they were found in the wild. That is when Chinese people began growing the Shiitake mushroom.
The Shiitake, like all other mushrooms, is a fungus. It grows on dead trees or other kinds of dead organic matter.
Mushrooms do not grow from seeds. They are formed by spores. Spores are produced by fully-grown mushrooms. They fall from the under-side of the mushroom's rounded top.
Mushrooms drop their tiny spores only once. However, they drop millions of them at the same time. The winds spread them over a wide area. When a spore lands on a dead fallen tree, it begins growing.
At first, a spore produces long tube-like growths called hyphae. A number of hyphae form a mycelium. In time, the mycelium grows into a mushroom.
Mushrooms are rich in Vitamin B. When they are dried, they contain more protein than any other vegetable product. And they are said to lower cholesterol in the blood.
It is possible to grow your own mushrooms - either inside your house or outside in your garden.
Companies sell mushroom myelium which you can use to start your own mushroom garden. Or you can buy small containers of dead organic matter which already contain mushroom spore. You should add water. Put the container in a room at the correct temperature. Then wait for your mushrooms to grow.
Shiitake mushrooms are popular among mushroom lovers for their taste and because they are easy to grow. They grow naturally in warm areas of Japan and China.
The European Button Mushroom also is popular. It grows very quickly. During a thirty-day period, it is possible to get two button mushroom crops from one container of mycelium.
This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by Bob Bowen. This is Bill White.