Here comes the Milky Mushroom!

[caption id="attachment_29540" align="aligncenter" width="507"]Milky Mushroom, Manila Bulletin Milky Mushroom[/caption]

[caption id="attachment_29536" align="alignright" width="224"]Dorie S. Bernabe, Dr. Ela Gutierrez, Philippine Horticultural Society, Milky Mushroom, Manila Bulletin Dorie S. Bernabe and Dr. Ela Gutierrez of the Philippine Horticultural Society showing Milky Mushroom harvested during their visit to a farm in Cavite[/caption]

A newly introduced mushroom promises to become a runaway winner compared to the different species that are currently produced in the Philippines.

This is the Milky Mushroom from India, thanks to Rolita “Baby” Spowart who has been devoting her time to agri-related pursuits. Her efforts in researching on this mushroom, from spawn production to grow-out techniques, have finally achieved the desired results. And honest-to-goodness commercialization of this new species is starting to take off.

Botanically known as Calocybe indica, Milky Mushroom has a milky white appearance. Harvestable mushrooms come in various sizes, some small while most others are much bigger than the common oyster mushroom. The biggest Milky Mushroom that Baby Spowart has produced so far weighed three kilos.

When we visited a growing area in Amadeo, Cavite (she has other farms) three pieces of the harvest weighed a kilo. There were smaller ones but bigger than the commonly produced oyster mushroom.

The Milky Mushroom yields much higher than the oyster mushroom. It also has a much longer shelf life. When kept in a refrigerator, Milky Mushroom can remain fresh for about 21 days. Not so the oyster mushroom.

[caption id="attachment_29538" align="alignleft" width="212"]Mark Spowart, Milky Mushroom, Manila Bulletin, Amadeo, Cavite, Merry Mushroom Farm, Manila Bulletin Mark Spowart and the three-kilo Milky Mushroom, the biggest so far that they have produced at the Merry Mushroom Farm in Amadeo, Cavite.[/caption]

Also, we like the taste of the Milky Mushroom much better than the oyster mushroom. It is fine-textured, smooth and tender. It can be prepared in many ways. It can be an ingredient in pansit, tinola, adobo, pizza, 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, Baby Spowart is selling her harvest at R200 per kilo. We think that’s very reasonable considering the quality of the product. But Baby says that in due time, the price could be lower. As of now, she said, she is still recovering her investment in her search for the right technique to produce the spawn. She admits she also committed a lot of mistakes in her search for the proper technique in multiplying the spores. There were the usual contamination of the spores and the chemicals used in the laboratory were not cheap.

At any rate, in the future, the grower could sell his harvest at only P50 per kilo and still make a profit. That is because the cost of producing the mushroom for the table is not much. There are no chemical fertilizers and pesticides used in growing the new mushroom. The growing medium is largely fresh rice hull topped with carbonized rice husk. The only added material to the growing medium is one percent powdered eggshell, oyster shell or marble dust, whichever is readily available. These powdered materials are the source of calcium.

[caption id="attachment_29539" align="alignright" width="224"]Baby Spowart, Milky Mushroom, Manila Bulletin Rolita “Baby” Spowart and her Milky Mushroom[/caption]

Baby Spowart did most of her research through the internet starting in December 2011. She spent at least a year in experimenting on the best ways to produce the spawn. There were mistakes that cost a small fortune (read millions). The chemicals that she used in her lab are very expensive. At any rate, her persistence had finally produced the desired results.

Commercial mushroom production was also limited in the past year because Baby had to observe how the consumers would receive the product. 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. One restaurant owner who had tried just a few kilos would now like to have a regular supply of 65 kilos. Many others who have tasted the delicious Milk Mushroom would like to buy on a regular basis. As of now, Baby could not meet the demand.

And that is why she is in an expansion mode. She is fast-tracking spawn production in her laboratory in Isabela where she and her husband Paul are staying, taking charge of an 82-hectare rice farm.

Now, their son Mark is conducting seminars on Milky Mushroom production so more people could learn to grow this new species. Last October 5, he conducted his latest seminar at their Merry Mushroom Farm in Amadeo, Cavite.

By all indications, this Milky Mushroom is really starting to take off.

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