Agri-entrepreneur Mario Morala spent a career in agriculture trying to kill funguses that could harm crops, but lately he’s trying to figure out if a fungus can help the farmers.
Morala led the effort to grow edible fungi along with other 10 farmers to create the Bohol Mushroom Farmers Association (Bomfa) in Barangay Cansumbol in Bilar town.
Bomfa provides fresh mushrooms at the Bilar Hill Park and Restaurant, which also offers an acclaimed varied menu (pancit, fried chicken, chicken halang-halang). But visitors and tourists are looking for organic mushrooms products like tempura, empanada, lumpia and cookies. These are the new food craze since the food scene in the province is hit by a number of trends that change the way we eat. The thing to note is that people now want gourmet food to be healthy and Instagrammable.
|Farmers who are members of the Mushroom Farmers|
Association (Bomfa) in Barangay Cansumbol in Bilar
town, Bohol, grow nutritious oyster mushrooms.
Photos by Leo Udtohan
Morala, president of Bomfa, said that mushroom farming is very enterprising today and its market demand is amazing. They hope they can continue expanding in coming years.
Cansumbol is a quiet hamlet, with many people relying on farming rice and corn for sustenance.
“There are a lot of really good rice and vegetable growers in Bilar,” Morala said. “I figured that with mushrooms it’s kind of an untapped market — a niche market.”
Morala clarified that there’s a mushroom market here, with tourists hungry for alternatives menu. Other towns like Loboc, Corella, Loon and Ubay are riding the mushroom wave, too.
“[There are] Lots of customers are waiting for us. We just need to be consistent of our production because restaurant owners are asking for continuous supply of mushroom,” said Morala.
“Everybody should grow mushrooms. We will invite other farmers to do the same and meet the demands of
the market,” said Morala who asked other farmers to embrace mushroom farming as an agribusiness venture.
According to acting provincial agriculturist Dr. Larry Pamugas, the mushroom production project has been swiftly gaining support among rice farmers in the province since it was introduced by the Department of Agriculture in 2013.
“Mushroom production had generated strong interest among rice farmers with many becoming very aggressive in acquiring training and other technical support from the Department of Agriculture through the provincial government,” he said.
| The mushroom recipes which are a must try- mushroom|
tempura, empanada, lumpia and mushroom cookies-
these are not only delicious but nutritious as well.
Photos by Leo Udtohan
Morala said they learned how to grow mushrooms by attending seminars, reading books and doing research. They learned that oyster mushrooms are a fairly easy way to start cultivating fungi, so that’s where they started.
To grow the edible fungi, the used affordable and readily available materials, beginning with the mushroom house or a greenhouse-like structure made of wood and bamboo.
The structure is covered to darken the inside environment after planting. Inside the mushroom house, there are plastic bottles they stuffed with rice straw, saw dust and dried banana leaves and other agricultural wastes.
Under normal circumstances, the mushroom house is usually kept very dark for a month after planting the spawn to enable proper germination.
Morala said harvesting starts after about a month since planting and they harvest at least 30kg of the fungi every two days for four months. The price is P200-P250 per kilo, which is cheaper compared to the P350 per kilo sold in supermarkets.
They sell it to restaurants, hotel and resort owners in the capital city of Tagbilaran and Panglao Island, where mushroom is used to make soup or it is served with other foods.
Morala is optimistic that with the growing interest they will be able to start producing sufficient volumes to sell in the market.
To help the farmers, a seminar workshop was conducted last Thursday which was attended by mushroom growers from the different towns of the province. It ensured technical, financial and organizational sustainability of community-based enterprises.
Dr. Jae Taek Lee, country director of the Korean Philippines International Agriculture (KOPIA) extended latest technology in mushroom farming which was grasped by local players for more production.
“The most important thing is we should produce mushroom products of high quality. And now, farmers just starting to develop mushrooms,” he said.
Bohol has finally realised that mushrooms are one of the best ingredients.
|Mario Morala hopes that mushroom growers in Bohol|
province will be able to produce sufficient volumes to sell
in the market. Photo by Leo Udtohan
“Mushrooms have a lot of health benefits,” Morala said, including heart health and controlling diabetes and cholesterol.
Mushrooms are full of nutrients that improve everything from your immunity to sex drive. High in fiber and antioxidants, they also are a source of more than a dozen other vitamins and minerals, including folic acid.
Vegan customers like mushrooms as a meat substitute, and some buyers have medicinal reasons to consume mushrooms, which research has shown to support the immune system.
Morala said farmers grow the Oyster variety because it is easy to cultivate. The mushrooms are also beautiful which the delicate frills cascade like waterfalls and they come in a broad spectrum of colors.
Mushroom growers have been happy with the reception their mushrooms have been receiving by locals and tourists.
“I think more and more people are aware of the benefits and deliciousness of mushrooms,” Pamugas said.
Don't be surprised if you find more mushroom dishes on restaurant menus. Just lap it up, and enjoy the benefits.
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