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QUALITY how growers and their pickers should judge 
This is intended for growers, but jobbers, chefs,
wholesale, and retail produce people should be able
to learn many things as well. Retail customers may also
learn.
 
When to pick for quality
 
     The gray area on this page is just a drawing. but if you cut freshly
picked oyster mushrooms from the edge of the cap to the stem, the cut
surface should have approximately that shape. We might say that the edge
of the blade should appear to be a hook. Variety and other factors can affect
color, but also as the drawing suggests, the blade should generally have some color.
I have heard growers claim that they wait until later to pick because the mushrooms
will grow larger and weigh more. It is true that they will continue to grow in size, but they will rather suddenly lose weight when they become slightly larger.
     That loss of weight is the loss of spores to the air. The spores are the most important part of the mushroom. First, the spores are part of the food that people want to eat and the weight that will be sold. There is an even more important human factor for picking before the spores are lost. Spores in the air cause hay fever and asthma. Pickers, packers, and other employees are put at risk by poor picking management. So the grower who tries to have the largest possible mushrooms by waiting to pick will lose yield and may pay extra for sickened employees.
     If the grower sells to sophisticated buyers, he will also get a lower price for his older mushrooms. The buyer will know that the older mushrooms will not have as long a shelf life and soon they will lose their appeal, even to the unsophisticated. A mushroom has only one reason for existence, to distribute spores. When there are no more spores its usefulness is over and it will begin to deteriorate. In nature there are exceptions: shelf fungi and similar mushrooms. However, they are woody and they are physical support for subsequent growth of spore bearing tissue.
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