AVONDALE—A mushroom growing display, raw material exhibit, research equipment, social media fun and much more will be on hand at the famous mushroom booth at this year’s 103rd Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg, Jan. 5 to Jan. 12, 2019.

This year, the mushroom booth has plenty of interactive exhibits for visitors.

• Growing Display: The upgraded mushroom growing display features a wide variety of mushrooms, from well-known white and brown button mushrooms to specialty mushrooms like Shiitake and Oyster to exotic mushrooms like Pom Poms and more. Visitors will not only be able to see and touch the mushrooms, with PA mushroom growers on hand to answer questions about the growing process.

• Raw Materials: Mushrooms are grown in a substrate made up of several raw materials. Many of the raw materials used for mushroom substrate like straw, hay, cocoa shells, gypsum and more will be in the booth where visitors can learn about how efficiently the mushroom industry recycles its raw materials to other industries.

• Research: Have you ever seen a mushroom spore up close? Mushroom researchers from Penn State will be on hand in the booth with microscopes and other research equipment to give visitors a different ‘view’ of mushrooms!

• PAFunGuy1: Visitors can get social in the mushroom booth! Make sure to stop by the social station at the mush-room, take a photo using the PAFunGuy1 Instagram frames, post to your social media account and get a mushroom T-shirt (while supplies last)!

• Kids: Visiting the PA Farm Show with kids? Stop by the mushroom for a mushroom-themed coloring book complete with mushroom characters!

Pennsylvania Mushroom Farming History

Pennsylvania mushroom growers have William Swayne to thank for the long tradition of mushroom growing in the state. A successful florist in Kennett Square, PA, he conceived the idea of growing mushrooms beneath his greenhouse benches. The results were encouraging enough to make him decide that a separate building would make it possible to control the growing conditions for mushrooms. He built the first mushroom house in the area and made it a commercial success. Soon others joined in their own mushroom growing businesses and the ‘Mushroom Capital of the World’ was born.

Today, most of the 53 mushroom farms are family owned and operated; many are multi-generational operations continuing the businesses created by their great grandparents.

The life of a cultivated mushroom requires sterile conditions, so the entire growing process begins in a laboratory. The spores, or natural “seeds” of the mushroom, are so tiny that a person cannot handle them. Instead, lab personnel inoculate sterile cereal grains with the spores and incubate them until they develop into a viable product. These grains become “spawn,” which can then be sown like seed.

Meanwhile, at the farm, growers carefully prepare the basic growing medium for mushroom production. Called substrate, it’s a key material in mushroom production. The substrate is made up of recycled materials like hay, straw, corn cobs, cocoa shells and horse or chicken manure. Once the substrate has been prepared and pasteurized to kill any pests, the material is placed in wooden trays or beds and mixed with the spawn. A top layer of peat moss is added. From this point, it takes about three weeks to produce the first mushrooms for harvest. Throughout the growing period, mushroom farmers play the role of Mother Nature, manipulating water, airflow, temperature fluctuation and more to maximize mushroom growth. Mushrooms mature at varying times, so picking by hand is continuous for two to three weeks.

 Research shows that people who eat mushrooms have better diet quality and increased intake of some nutrients, making them the go-to ingredient for delicious family meals. It’s never been easier to use mushrooms to transform meals, starting with those that may already be in the weekly rotation. Simply chop mushrooms to match the texture of ground meat – beef, pork, chicken, turkey (or tofu) – and use in place of some of the meat in recipes such as burgers, tacos, meatloaf, lasagna, pasta sauce, or meatballs to make every day dishes more healthful and delicious. This technique is referred to as The Blend. Visit the mushroom booth in the food court to try your very own blended burger and other mushroom specialties.

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