Mushrooms an Important Part of Florida’s Agriculture
by ERIKA ALDRICH
Many crops are grown year-round in The Sunshine State, and mushrooms are one of those delicious examples of Florida produce that can be found at any time of the year. While the majority of Florida crops are grown outdoors in the plentiful Florida sunshine, mushrooms are oftentimes grown indoors due to their need for a cool, moist, and ventilated environment. Growing mushrooms indoors means that the light and climate can be controlled for optimal mushroom growth. While not one of Florida’s largest crops, mushrooms are an important part of Florida’s agriculture. Explore the ins and outs of mushrooms grown in Florida!
Mushrooms are the fleshy, fruiting body of a fungus. While there are many different kinds of mushrooms, most mushrooms—especially those we eat—consist of stems and caps. Mushrooms contain no chlorophyll, so they cannot make food from the sun. They gain nutrients from whatever they are growing on, which is usually some sort of decomposing plant matter.
Whether grown indoors or outdoors, mushrooms are grown on a substrate. This is material derived from a plant, such as logs, straw, or another source of cellulose, according to UF/IFAS’ Gardening Solutions. As the substrate decomposes, mushrooms take in nutrients through the mycelium, the underground mass of threadlike hyphae that resemble roots. Outdoors, mushroom spawn—the mycelium—is inserted in logs to be used as a growth medium, according to Florida Agriculture in the Classroom. Indoors, trays or bags of organic matter are used as a growth medium.
Mushrooms Grown in Florida
Types of mushrooms are commonly divided into one of three categories: white mushrooms, cream mushrooms, or brown mushrooms. Common mushrooms grown in Florida include button mushrooms, portabella mushrooms, and shiitake mushrooms; these are the mushroom varieties that are most likely to be grown by large-scale commercial growers. Smaller growers are more likely to grow specialty mushrooms like trumpet mushrooms, lion’s mane mushrooms, and black pearl mushrooms.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), mushroom growers in the U.S. raised and sold 816 million pounds of mushrooms in the 2019-2020 crop year; the value of sales for that crop was $1.15 billion. In 2020, Florida mushroom growers raised 12.8 million pounds of Agaricus-type mushrooms, which include common white mushrooms and portabella mushrooms.
Choosing, Storing and Using Mushrooms
Mushrooms are a low-calorie source of protein and fiber, making them a great way to get more vegetables in your diet. They are an excellent source of B vitamins, like riboflavin, niacin, and pantothenic acid, which are necessary for overall good health and well-being. They also contain other essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are also a good source of vitamin D, which helps the body to absorb calcium, according to The Mushroom Council.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) offers tips for choosing, storing, and using mushrooms. When buying mushrooms, look for those that are free of blemishes like bruising, tearing or soft spots. Caps and stems should be firm, not dried or shriveled. Don’t wash mushrooms until you are ready to use them, and they should be only lightly washed because they will readily absorb water. Store unpackaged mushrooms in a paper bag for up to three days in the refrigerator away from foods with strong smells.
Mushrooms can be eaten raw or cooked by sauteing, roasting, grilling, or adding to your favorite dish.