Where the noble mushrooms grow. A look behind the scenes at the Demeter producer Pilzgarten Helvesiek.
W if anyone ever told me that I was Full 15 minutes delighted to stare at a bag of wet sawdust ... Yes, exactly: The whole thing sounds quite unlikely until crazy. But now I'm sitting right here staring devotionally. And listen in awe as Torsten Jonas takes me enthusiastically into the complex world of wet sawdust. Torsten is one of the most experienced mushroom breeders in Germany and managing director of the mushroom garden Helvesiek. And what he proudly presents and explains to me in a plastic bag is, of course, not just some sawdust. It is much more a very carefully thought-out compilation of certain ground wood species, grains and water - in the jargon: substrate. And just this inconspicuous substrate is the decisive ticket to the fascinating world of precious mushrooms.
Enigmatic mushrooms: not animal not plant - but a genus of its own
Who ever went astray in the Forest was (or with grandma and grandpa mushrooms search), knows: mushrooms love wood. And preferably rotted. Often they grow near fallen tree trunks or stumps. In fact, they prefer to feed on cellulose, which occurs in large quantities in wood. Instead, they use an enzyme that dissolves the cellulose out of the wood and thus makes it receptive to it. The whole thing is a bit like an external digestive process, such as of spiders knows. That puts us in the middle of the wonderful world of mushrooms.
It's not just the nutrient uptake of these creatures that works differently to most animals or plants - mushrooms are actually a kingdom of their own. Some of the countless species that occur on Earth can take on gigantic proportions. In the US, a fungus was discovered whose weight is estimated at 800 tons. Anyone who is wondering why - to the cuckoo - such a monster mushroom had to be discovered in the first place (probably had at least the dimensions of the Eiffel Tower and should therefore be visible from afar), must know: The actual mushroom grows under Earth. What we know on the surface as a mushroom is really just a fruit, a reproductive form of adult, sexually mature specimens. These form small or larger stands with cones, which send out spores over the earth and thus provide for the multiplication. It is believed that about one third of the total mass of the earth is made by mushrooms. Some of them are edible and even so delicious that they are deliberately grown as noble mushrooms. Such as. Torsten Jonas in the mushroom garden Helvesiek.
Fine green field expertise
The small village of Helvesiek lies amidst green meadows and fields in the district Rotenburg (Wümme) in Lower Saxony. Here it is so cozy that fox and rabbit certainly say "good night" regularly. And in the middle of these green meadows lies the mushroom garden.And then they are quite spectacular: probably know a herb pancake or a shiitake cook interested. But what about the chestnut mushroom, the velvet hood or the pom pom blanc? All these precious mushrooms grow in the mushroom garden and have one thing in common: they are delicious. And they like substrate. Most of all, that of Torsten Jonas.
It would be far too costly and too unsafe to actually locate edible mushrooms on rotting tree trunks. In order to be able to breed a calculable crop economically, quality-oriented and food-safe, another path had to be found. Torsten has an exciting CV, spent only a few years in Hamburg's Schanzenviertel and then went to Guatemala as a PhD in horticulture. There he also got to know and love his lovely wife Heike. When the two then returned to Germany, there was a free position in the mushroom garden. There one tried for some years to realize a professional mushroom breeding. Until then with only moderate success. Torsten accepted the challenge in Helvesiek, turned the breeding process from scratch and developed i.a. a proprietary substrate mix - the key to successful mushroom cultivation. The sawdust mixture must have a constant exact composition and an ideal moisture level. Today, the mushroom garden is one of the leading organic mushroom farms in Europe, is Demeter-certified and also supplies the finished substrate to other companies. And Heike has been advising marketing at the mushroom garden for several years.
About seeding, popcorning, mimosa and Japanese mushroom explosions after earthquakes
But how come? Organic noble mushroom because now in the substrate - and especially out again? The ready-mixed substrate is filled in plastic bags to a so-called substrate block and sterilized under pressure in large, custom-made boilers. This ensures that there are no unwanted germs and harmful mold spores in the substrate. The substrate blocks are then "seeded" in a specially shielded clean room containing noble fungal spores.
The pre-vaccinated pouches come for a few weeks - the exact duration varies according to mushroom strain - tightly stacked in the warehouses. There, the fungus can darken and develop at a constant temperature from the spore to an adult organism and completely penetrate the substrate. Some of the fungus species form brown, crispy-looking areas, which are referred to in the jargon as Popcorning. After that, the fungus is ready to propagate - at the earliest opportunity, it will make its fruits, the edible noble mushrooms.
In this phase, the mushroom in the substrate bag is a real small mimosa. He is so sensitive that even small vibrations or temperature changes signal him: "Let's go!" Within a short time he then forms too early unwanted fruit in the bags. Although these are quite edible, their shape and size do not meet the requirements of the market. In mushroom-afflicted Japan, so-called "unwanted" mushroom explosions occur so regularly in the growers: A small earthquake can spoil the entire mushroom harvest within a few seconds.
When the mushroom is optimally matured in its substrate block and ready for fruiting, it moves to another hall with moisture sprinkling.The mushroom bales store airy on shelf constructions and form within a few days the delicious noble mushrooms.
Harvested by hand and shortly after in the organic market
Once the mushrooms reach the desired size, they are hand-picked harvested, sorted and packed in crates. A few hours later, they are already on their way to health food stores and weekly markets or even to producers who make vegan products such as patties from shiitake mushrooms, for example.
Precious mushrooms @home: the ideal storage. And the own small breed with mushroom kit
So that noble mushrooms also optimally in the domestic refrigerator store, one should immediately remove any plastic foil (the way also applies to mushrooms and Co). Do not put mushrooms too tightly in a paper bag, wrap them loosely and place them in the vegetable drawer (the coldest place in the fridge) without pressure from other food. Fresh produce will then last for several days without any loss of quality.
And if you feel like growing your own mushrooms in your own basement or bathroom: The mushroom garden also offers practical mushroom kits to order with three idiot-proof varieties for their own local mushrooms. You only need a bit of water and a quiet, not too warm place - and a few days later you can harvest your own noble mushrooms. I am present myself and very excited about my personal harvest. I will report!