Oyster Mushrooms - A Primer

There are thousands of species of mushrooms around the world and several hundred are edible. A dozen or so are cultivated commercially, but two of them more so than others. Agaricus bisporus, the white button mushroom, is the most widely cultivated mushroom, and represents over 90% of production in the Western Hemisphere. Pleurotus ostreatus, the oyster mushroom, comes second, but is much more present in Asia than in Europe or North America. In the developing world, and indeed in Rwanda, Pleurotus is the mushroom of choice. It is fleshy and delicious, accepts a wider range of temperatures and is not a picky eater: Pleurotus will gladly digest anything from cotton seed hulls, wood chips, corn husks and banana leaves, to water hyacinth, coffee pulp and wheat straw.

Pleurotus in the wild originates from temperate regions and will grow out of dead trees and wood. Commercial growers replace that wood with other organic material, prepared in a special way. That organic material is referred to, in our business lingo, as "substrate." Out of this substrate, given the right conditions, will grow beautiful edible mushrooms.

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