Kerala farmer Shanoob Vazhakkad has been growing mushrooms for 24 years. He shares how to make low-cost mushroom beds at home and reap a good harvest for under Rs 100.
In 1998, Shanoob Vazhakkad, then 22 years old, heard that his neighbour had passed away due to cancer.
The resident of Edavannappara, a village in Kerala, recalls, “One of his family members said he had been prescribed a strict diet by his doctor. This included several exotic vegetables and mushrooms. They would buy all the items from a nearby store. But mushrooms were always unavailable or highly expensive.”
“Mushrooms were rarely cultivated in my area back then. I didn’t know they could save lives, as they reduce the risk of serious health conditions such as Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. I wanted to make the item easily accessible to everyone,” he tells The Better India.
This knowledge served as the inspiration for Shanoob to become a mushroom farmer, he says. The same year, he began the cultivation of milky mushrooms in 100 beds in his house.
Over the next five years or so, more people joined his endeavour, and Shanoob slowly expanded to more units around the district. He also tried growing oyster mushrooms. Today, he is in the process of building a brand that sells not only mushrooms, but also value added products like soup mix, pickle, chammanthi podi, and more. He says he sells an average of 80 mushroom packets a day.
“I think it is important that people grow mushrooms in small quantities in their own homes. There are plenty of houses with kitchen gardens that cultivate almost all daily vegetables. Growing mushrooms takes less effort, money, and time, and the benefits are greater,” he opines.
Shanoob says that a small space inside the kitchen, dining hall or any other closed room is enough to keep two or three mushroom beds that can give harvests twice a week. Replacing the seeds and caring for them for 20 days takes very little effort, he says.
“It costs just Rs 70 to prepare a mushroom bed. Even though June to December is the right time to grow mushrooms, by maintaining the right temperature inside the room, one can harvest the fungi all through the year. There is no need to purchase any readymade beds, which are made by mixing chemicals. A bed can be made easily by following a few easy steps,” he says.
Shanoob shares his process of making a mushroom bed:
- The main ingredient to make this bed is dried paddy straw, which can be procured from nearby farmers or farm shops.
- Fill water in a large container and soak the dried straw for up to 18 hours.
- Half dry them — in a way that they are still a little moist — by spreading them on a sheet under sunlight. Make sure that the sheets are clean.
- Take a vessel half filled with water and place the straw over the water in another container. Make sure straw doesn’t touch water directly, and that only vapour comes up.
- Steam the straw for around 45 minutes, then let it cool.
- Take a clean and transparent polythene cover with average measurements 30 cm width, 60 cm height and 30 gauge width, to fill the straws in. Sanitise the cover and your hands before filling.
- The straws must be filled in a way that the surface of the cover is in circular shape.
- Add a set of mushroom seeds (preferably oyster or milky) on top of the straw layer.
- Make sure to collect the seeds that are grown without the use of chemicals from experienced farmers or garden nurseries.
- Make three of four layers of straw and seeds to finally tie the cover with a rubber band.
- Make small holes all over the cover to ensure air circulation.
- The bed can be placed anywhere in the house which is dark, cold and has air circulation. This can be under the staircase area, corner of the dining hall, or any unused room in the house.
- Water the bed using a sprinkler every alternate day, based on room temperature. It is best to maintain a temperature below 20 degree Celsius, where the bed is placed.
- The harvesting period will last from 45 – 60 days. Around 600 g to 1 kg or mushroom can be harvested from a bed for at least two days per week.
- The only expense encountered in the process is the purchase of straw, cover and seeds, which will be less than Rs 70.
- Hygiene is a significant part of mushroom cultivation. Look out for flies, mosquitoes or any other insects from time to time, which will otherwise poison the harvest.
- Two beds are enough to meet the requirements of a family of four.
For more information and healthy mushroom seeds, contact 9946054455.
Edited by Divya Sethu; Photo Credits: Shanoob Vazhakkad