A mushroom is the fleshy spore bearing fruiting body of a fungus, typically produced above the ground. Mushrooms can appear on the top of the soil (epigeous) or below the ground (hypogeous). The most common type of mushrooms is the white mushrooms (Agarious bisporus) these numerous types are edible while others are not, because of being poisonous. Edible mushrooms have no effect on humans and they have a desirable taste and aroma unlike the non-edible ones.

The practice of eating mushrooms started in china way back about hundreds of years. it spreads to Ancient Roma and Greek. Mushrooms are consumed both for nutrition and medicinal value while in some regions they are used for religious purposes for example the hallucinogenic mushrooms. The hallucinogenic mushrooms can be harvested wild or cultivated.

Commercial cultivation of mushrooms started in china, United states, Netherlands, France and Poland but its now in the pearl of Africa (Uganda). They have over 20 species include, blewit and the yellow leg.

White mushrooms (which are the commonest) have amazing multiple nutrients that the body needs. These nutrients include; carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamin A, B, B12 and D1, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, potassium and water. One would definitely not want to lose out this whole list!.

Besides the above nutrients, mushrooms contain a high capacity of antioxidant like the tomatoes and pumpkins. This antioxidant acts against the effects of free radicals in the body. Mushrooms also contain a mineral called selenium which is rare in many other vegetables and its a credited nutrition element.

Selenium aids in liver enzyme function and detoxities some cancer causing compounds in the body. It further prevents inflammation and decreases tumor growth. Basically, eating mushrooms means eating healthy, reducing the degree of occurrence of cancer, diabetes, heart problems. Selenium and the other nutrients in mushrooms boost immunity and are a measure for weight management.

Mushrooms have varying names according to the different tribes for example for Buganda "Obutiko", Banyankole Bakiga "Obutuzi". Many decades ago, mushrooms were known to be all wild since they would sprout on the surface of the earth by themselves and people had less knowledge about how they came into existence leave alone the "fungi science" we study at school.

However, as agriculture kept on progressing, people started putting up strategies on how they can do mushroom cultivation. This is no easy task for whoever comes by. It requires a lot of knowledge and agricultural scientific skills. The major steps taken during the 15 weeks production cycle. The steps are as follows;

PHASE 1 COMPOSTING
This is making mushrooms compost and it occurs outdoors although an enclosed building may be used. A concrete slab is required, then a compost turner to aerate and water the ingredients and a tractor loader to move the ingredients to the turner. The ingredients include; Wheat straw bedded house manure and synthetic compost made from hay and crushed corncobs. Once the ingredients are stacked in a pile, water is sprinkled over them, then nitrogen supplements and gypsum are spread over the bulk ingredients to be thoroughly mixed by the turner.

PHASE 2 COMPOSTING
Aerobic fer-mention is completed in phase 1 so mushrooms compost develops as the chemical nature of the ingredients is converted by the activity of micro organisms, heat and some heat releasing chemical reactions. Basically in phase 2, Pasteurization is done to kill insects, pest fungi or any other pests that may be present in the compost. Removal of ammonia is also done.

Spawning,
This means inoculating mushroom compost with mushroom spawn. Like any other fruit that has seeds for propagation, mushrooms have microscopic spores within the cap called mycelium. Mycelium propagated vegetatively is called spawn. Spawn can be bought from spawn maker companies.

Casing,
This is a top dressing applied to the spawn run compost on which the mushrooms eventually form. A mixture of peat moss with ground limestone, clay-loam field soil or weathered compost can be used for casing. Those act as a water reservior and a base where rhizomorphs which form as mycelium fuses together grow. Its on these rhizomorphs that mushrooms develop.

Pinning,
The mushroom initials which develop after rhizomorphs have formed in the casing start to outgrow into quadruple pin-like structure. the pins expand to mushrooms. Mushrooms can be harvested 18 to 21 days after casing.

Cropping,
This is the actual harvesting cycle farmer does a 3 to 5 days harvest period followed by days when no mushrooms are available to harvest. The cycle continues so long as the mushrooms continue growing. This cycle may go on for 35 to 42 days and for some farmers it can extend to 60 days.
Having that lengthy procedure covered, let me take you through the remaining activities before you can have the mushroom served on your table.

Storage,
After harvesting the mushroom, one can store them in a refrigeration if they are to be consumed within close periods of time or the farmer can choose to dry the mushrooms and store them in a dry aerated place. The dry mushroom last for longer periods compared to the fresh ones.

Kitchen preparation,
Depending on one's preference, mushrooms can be baked, grilled, fried or steamed. However, for the dry mushrooms, you need to first re-hydrate them by pouring hot water over them and leaving them soaked for a few minutes.

This same liquid can be used in the proceeding procedures of cookery but the last drops must be left out since they contain dust from the mushroom stem bottoms.

Mushrooms can be eaten in a boiled state although here in uganda and more particularly the western regions, people prefer preparing mushroom with cow ghee. Being one of the dishes cherished among the Batooro and Banyankole, "Obutuzi" is definitely a must served dish on cultural ceremonies in this region so why not stretch your hand and grab yourself a mushroom soup dish?

In central region people prefer mixing mushroom in ground nuts for a great taste and captivating aroma and is commonly served on cultural ceremonies. So eat healthy, eat mushrooms.