Science - April 15, 2004

Days of tasteless button mushrooms are numbered

“In China there are fifty different types of mushrooms available, whereas in the Netherlands you can only find one main sort, the white button mushroom, which is pretty tasteless. Cooperation is a good idea, and it makes business sense.”

These are the words of Dr Ziaoyong Zhang, who works at the Netherlands Agricultural Economics Institute, LEI. She is coordinator of the two year Asia-Invest project, ‘Small Mushrooms - Big Business’, intended to bring Chinese and Dutch mushroom producers and traders together. At present there is little contact between the two groups.

A preliminary workshop was recently held, attended by members of the Chinese Edible Fungi Association (CEFA) and the Dutch Mushroom Growing Association (VPN). There is much interest from both sides, and later this year LEI will hold training sessions and workshops, where there will be an opportunity to exchange knowledge on production techniques, quality control, management and marketing. The sessions are also intended for business networking.

Zhang has high hopes of cooperation between the Netherlands, one of the biggest mushroom trading nations in the world, and China, which is the largest mushroom producer. The Netherlands is an important exporter of mushrooms to other European countries and the US. At present nearly all mushrooms grown in China are destined for the home market, but Zhang believes that many of the exotic varieties produced have good potential for the international market.

“The Chinese associate mushrooms with good health,” explains the researcher. And this is not without reason. Chinese mushroom varieties all possess health promoting characteristics, which will be a good selling point when it comes to marketing them outside China. The health claims made vary from reducing cholesterol levels, regulating blood pressure to increasing resistance to viral infections. Another advantage is that it is relatively easy to grow mushrooms in an environment-friendly way. A number of mushrooms, including the monkey-head mushroom and golden mushrooms can be grown on tree trunks or branches or on organic agricultural waste, for example.

Hugo Bouter

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