New chamber will try to promote more mushroom cultivation

Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería photo Oyster mushrooms are well-known for growing on the side of mature trees. But they can be grown anywhere with the right type of material, such as agricultural waste.

The country imports 45 tons of mushrooms every month, but the national production is only 3 tons a year. This is something that a new organization of growers is trying to change.

The organization, the Cámara Costarricense de Productores y Exportadores de Hongos, is in the process of developing training programs for those who might be interested in growing mushrooms. So far just 20 families are commercial mushroom producers.

The country appears to be well situated as a mushroom-growing region. Growers are using saw dust, coffee waste and other discarded agricultural materials to grow mushrooms.

Lida Soto Solano is president of the Asociación de Mujeres Agrícolas de Cartago, an organization that has been growing mushrooms for 15 years. She said there are many openings from the most rudimentary effort to the most modern with computer controlled facilities.

She and her organization produce gourmet oyster mushrooms, a delicacy. She said that she fries them for two minutes with butter and garlic and eats them with crackers.

The oyster mushroom also has been credited with lowering cholesterol.

The Universidad de Costa Rica gave a start to mushroom production in 1997. The university still is involved. The Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería also is promoting the effort to increase production.

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