The Life of a Mushroom Picker -Part 1

MushroomsMost people like mushrooms with their steak, mushroom soup and entrees such as stuffed mushrooms. And as they come nicely packaged we don’t need to think too much about how they are gathered. So here is an article about the day in the life of someone who has picked mushrooms for a living.

Article courtesy of Guest Author Nia from Survival Wytch and Cooking with Nia

In a previous life I was employed as a mushroom picker. Read my account on the life of a mushroom picker and understand why I have changed direction into Affiliate Marketing and completing online Surveys.

The Life Cycle of a Mushroom

To be able to pick mushrooms you need to know all about mushrooms and how they grow. Each room at the mushroom farm has two platforms that stretch from the front of the room to the back for 100 meters. The platforms are raised off the ground on frames, with a space of 1 meter between the top of one platform and the base of the next. The frames are made of 6 platforms each with a depth of 20 centimeters and lined with a mesh to hold the compost. The compost is mixed with wheat seeds that contain a mushroom starter spore. A layer of casing peat is placed on top of the compost.

The mushroom plant or mycelium grows from those spores like a spider web across the compost and when conditions are right sends the first mushrooms or pins through the peat.

The pins are thinned to create growing space for each mushroom as they breach the surface of the peat or casing. The mushrooms grow to become buttons, then cups, then flats.

A cup is when the mushroom veil breaks away from the stalk and begins to open.

The eight week cycle is made up of flushes. And each flush is approximately 7 days duration. The first pins emerge and over the seven days the buttons are picked at a medium size until all mushrooms are removed. The beds rest and the cycle starts again.

In ideal conditions a mushroom will double its size in twenty four hours.

Depending on how heavily the first crop is thinned determines the size of the mushrooms and the size of the crop of mushrooms. If too few pins or first mushrooms are taken the temperature on the beds gets too warm due to crowding and the small flowers open, making a crop of small flats. This isn’t ideal for the growers as the flats are light and it takes a long time to fill a 4 kilo box with light product. Buttons on the other hand are full of water and very heavy.

Growing mushrooms is a technical process and the temperature, water, co2, the mixture of compost, and how they are harvested, all determine the rate at which mushrooms grow and the quality of the produce.

So the growing conditions determine whether the mushrooms are heavy or light, have good color or are stained, are large or small even shaped or crazy organic art that sometimes resembles motor car parts or animals.

Sometimes disease will ruin a whole room full of mushrooms as they are susceptible to all manner of blights spots and bubbles. There are ten trichoderma species that inhabit mushroom farms and can cause problems.

Being fungi it is competing with other yeasts and fungi to break down the compost and sometimes the competing fungi is more virulent so great they ruin a crop….to be continued

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How often do you burn potatoes?

potatoes1.JPGBy Nia Sowden – author of Cooking with Nia

I guess I’ve burnt potatoes more than any other food and more often than any one else. I have a short attention span. I’ll be in the garden or at the sewing machine or cleaning the car and hear my kids call out to me “Mom, you’ve burnt the pot again”.

I get distracted and forget that I have a pot of jam on the stove or potatoes and other vegetables cooking for the evening meal. I‘ll be the one to take the vegetable scraps out to the compost bin… and then I’ll be distracted…my gaze will fall on the ripening plums or great bunches of parsley that require harvesting. Or I will rescue a capsicum seedling from a scampering herb and I’ll have forgotten about dinner. Then I’ll hear the call, “Mom what are you burning now?!”

Someone has gone into the kitchen or been drawn there by something unpleasant. I know I’m responsible for childhood memories, the smell of burning food and burnt pots is not a pleasant one for them, but it balances the wonderful gems that I create and don’t end up burning.

So to clean burnt pots, potato peelings always worked for me. Just fill your pots with peelings and leave to soak, then gently bring to the boil and the burn comes away.

All-Clad 3-qt.  Cop-r-Chef Saute PanI have destroyed more pots than most people as well. Two pots with welded copper plates on the bottoms I heated to such temperatures that the copper came off! My father calls me a cooking beta tester, and said anyone designing a cooking product should give it to me to test. Two days with me would determine a good product. He is incredibly unfair I think. I can’t help it if things aren’t made to last and as I said I get distracted easily.

Caring for pots is something I’d like to do more often. I have always admired the pictures in home magazines with the pots hanging up above an island bench. Shiny and interesting shapes and big useful pots and fish shaped copper moulds and conical strainers, all ready to be put to work.

When they were new and I only had the four of them and they were my pride and joy. They sat to attention in the pot cupboard with their lids on shiny and happy. Then I bought great pots for stocks and sauces and spaghetti. A conical strainer or two, stainless bowls and more stainless bowls, biscuit trays and muffin pans, Madeline pans, gem irons, cup cake pans, square tins heart tins round cake tins all sizes. And then more pots and frying pans, woks and steamers. I just kept increasing the range and variety of pots and pans without thought to the storage of them.

The truth about my pots is they are stacked on top of one another – baking pans, roasters, saucepans all crammed in on top of one another and they crash and bang when I try to retrieve anything. My pots have dents in them, they are crowded into a pot cupboard and the care they get is very general, they are used and abused.

Cleaning and caring for your pots and pans

I took out my pans beginning with my oldest copper bottomed stainless lifetime guarantee saucepans and bless them they look like they’ve endured a couple of lifetimes. I checked the welds and handles and the bases for signs of copper that may have come away. When I was satisfied with the soundness of the products I cleaned them to a shiny new finish. The same way silver is cleaned in the sink, with aluminum foil hot water and bicarbonate soda. No scratching and rubbing is needed. Just dry them with a soft cloth and the shine is lovely.

I went through all of my favorite pans in the same way except baking tins of course. I then separated them into two cupboards. Now my pots and pans look like someone care’s for them.

“Mom what are you flooding now?!”…I must have left the hose on in the garden… I got distracted.

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