Experiencing Mexico’s Ancient Mushrooms

Experiencing Mexico's Ancient Mushrooms

Discovering mushrooms in Mexico. (photo courtesy of Hidalgo State Government)

Mushrooms usually grow among the remains of wood, tree leaves, and other organic compounds, as well as in humid, shady, and warm places. More than 300 edible species in Mexico are collected in wooded areas during the rainy season between July and October.

Although their consumption dates back thousands of years, they have been cultivated in Mexico since the 1940s. The technique was perfected a couple of decades ago. The champiñón is the species of mushroom that is mainly produced and consumed in Mexico and around the world, followed by the mushroom that, little by little, is making its way because it has the advantage of being more prominent. For its cultivation, it is possible to take advantage of the residues of other agricultural activities.

Mushrooms and More Mushrooms

The seta mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is giant, and its “cap” can measure between 2 and 6 inches in the shape of an elephant’s ear, which is why it is also called the “white ear.” It can be prepared in broth, soup, sauces, and moles, “Mexican style” with tomato, onion, and chili, in a quesadilla, or sautéed or fried to accompany chicken fajitas.

This food is considered healthy because it lacks fat and has good quality proteins, fiber, vitamins A and B, iron, calcium, potassium, and carbohydrates, among other elements necessary to complete a balanced diet.

In addition, given its growing demand in domestic and foreign markets, cultivating mushrooms can be an extra activity with added value for farming families since agricultural waste such as straw is the basis on which mushroom spores or seeds are produced.

Experiencing Mexico's Ancient Mushrooms

The mushrooms of Mexico. (photo courtesy of Hidalgo State Government)

Wholesale Mushrooms

In the municipality of Cuyoaco, Puebla (two hours from Mexico City), the Peasant Learning Community (CAC) farmers of Ejido Texcal installed a mushroom incubator chamber as part of the collective activities promoted by the Sembrando Vida Program. The mushroom chamber is in an old adobe (brick hand-made with soil and water and dry-sun) room within the multi-purpose land that houses the community nursery and a botanical garden.

According to planter Abimael López Flores, they used several pounds of barley straw as a base for the crop, which must be cleaned before being used.

He explained that the straw is washed with lime and chlorine and then placed in bags. To “make” mushrooms, a layer of straw is placed over a layer of spores. They are bagged, and the bags are pierced and hung from the ceiling. Finally, the soil is moistened to preserve the humid environment.

The “packages” of straw and spores must remain in complete isolation inside the room for 30 days, known as the incubation period. The room is opened to let in some air and light, and the mushrooms begin to sprout six to five days later.

Experiencing Mexico's Ancient Mushrooms

Mushrooms in Mexico. (photo courtesy of Hidalgo State Government)

According to the production technician who supports the CAC Texcal, Miguel Ramón Ortiz, he learned this technique during his student days at the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP) and has passed it on to the growers.

Each bag, he said, can produce 2.2 pounds of mushrooms per harvest, and it is possible to harvest them up to four times, allowing 15 days to pass each time.

In two months, the chamber installed in the CAC Texcal can produce almost 90 pounds of mushrooms, which serves for the self-consumption of the 25 families of seeders participating in the process. Still, it is not ruled out that the product will be enough for more in the future.

Mushrooms From Hidalgo

The mushroom season begins in Mineral del Chico, Hidalgo about an hour from Mexico City. The town of La Presa made the first gastronomic offer. During each of the four weekends in August, residents will cook with the main ingredient: the mushroom, the common element that comes with the rainy season.

During a press conference, the details were announced, inviting people to come to the community of La Presa to participate in the mushroom harvest. Luis Aguilar Tenería, Administrator of “Rocabosque” and Vice President of the Tourist Council of La Presa, commented that this gastronomic offer is expected to generate a good economic benefit to the municipality. Since August is the mushroom season, residents take advantage of it to offer visitors delicious dishes such as pastes, nopal-hongo, pasta with mushrooms, mushroom broth, quesadillas, and various proposals be able to taste during their visit.

Beatriz Ortiz was in charge of delivering the message to the Secretary of Tourism, mentioning that the traditional cuisine of Hidalgo is a cultural model that includes culinary techniques and customs, which are passed from generation to generation, rescuing the gastronomic tradition.

Experiencing Mexico's Ancient Mushrooms

Mushrooms in Mexico. (photo courtesy of Hidalgo State Government)

What Else?

Alma Rosa Torres, mushroom picker and owner of “Pastes Rosy,” commented that one of the activities that are interesting during the visit to the community would be the elaboration of mushroom pastes (the Mexican version of the English pasty) which goes from the collection, preparation, and creation of the paste.

Chef David Jerónimo Castillo mentioned that Hidalgo has products that stand out worldwide, hoping that Mineral del Chico will become a Town with Flavor since it has unique gastronomy. He invited the people to visit the community of the dam during August to collect mushrooms and, at the same time, be filled with knowledge to know which mushrooms are used for each dish offered and how they are organized without damaging the area for its new production.

Alicia Temería Hernández, a mushroom picker and owner of “Las Manzanas” Restaurant was invited to learn about more than 25 mushrooms in the locality, promoting local consumption and seasonal consumption gastronomy.

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