Applied to the commercial mushroom world, the phrase edible mushrooms applies to multiple mushroom orders and species.
To some, edible mushrooms refers to specialty mushrooms such as the porcini mushroom with the ten inch cap shown in the top picture. Dried or fresh, porcini adds an earthy flavor to many menus.
At the other end of the commercial spectrum, others think button mushrooms, the now common product that sits packaged on grocery shelves across the country, when edible mushrooms enters the conversation.
Types of Mushrooms
Commercial mushroom farming in the United States dates back to the activities of early 21st century entrepreneurs in Southeastern Pennsylvania.
As the industry approaches its one hundredth anniversary, recent United States Department of Agriculture statistics explains some of the industry's longevity.
Between 1965 and 2010, American per capita consumption for fresh and processed mushrooms increased from 0.69 pounds/person to current estimates of 3.84 pounds/person.
Over that same thirty five year time span, American mushroom preferences expanded. Starting with the industry's basic button mushroom, Americans began exploring many mushroom varieties.
By the 2010/2011 crop season, aggregate mushroom production statistics showed that button mushroom production (all fresh and processed varieties of Agaricus mushrooms) reached a shade under one billion pounds (844,893,000 pounds).
By comparison, specialty mushroom farming produced a much smaller 18,174,000 pounds during the same time frame.
The chart compares specialty mushroom production over the past twenty years, showing growth in all three categories, shiitake mushrooms, oyster mushrooms and other specialty mushrooms, with oyster mushroom popularity recently surpassing shiitake mushroom popularity.
The legend differentiates mushrooms using the letters D for demand, or total sales, and S for total supply. The small to almost non-existent gap between the darker and lighter color blue, green and red lines indicates a healthy specialty mushroom industry where farmers sell as many mushrooms as they can grow.
The scalability of specialty mushroom farming accounts for some of its success. Mushroom growing kits, especially for shiitake and oyster mushrooms, can easily be purchased at many local garden shops and ecommerce sites.
Whether grown singularly, as a hobby grow on a windowsill, or grown in groups of hundreds in an indoor mushroom farming operation, specialty mushroom farming done correctly, can produce continuous fresh harvests over the course of a typical crop year.
The scope of North American specialty mushrooms extends beyond the major market varieties. Each season, public forest lands are open to the public, for the purpose of mushroom harvesting.
The list of fresh harvested mushrooms reads like a menu from an upscale restaurant, with culinary delights including matsutake mushrooms, truffles and morels.
Source: Mushroom Industry Report (94003) August 31, 2011
© 2012 Patricia A. Michaels