back a couple of young men ventured into a relatively new
realm, an area which had yet to find its roots in Dhaka. It
was the hobby of mushrooming, the pursuit of growing mushrooms.
The avant-garde pair are Shameem and Ashim, both university
students and eager to share their vision with the rest of
to the American Heritage Dictionary a mushroom is any of various
fleshy fungi of the class Basidiomycota, characteristically
having an umbrella-shaped cap borne on a stalk, especially
any of the edible kinds, as those of the genus Agaricus.
To continue with our pursuit of general knowledge, mushrooms
are the soft delicate white fruit body of fleshy fungi. The
real plant is the microscopic fine thread-like body that grows
on the substratum or under the surface of soil, depending
upon the variety. The two main categories of mushrooms that
are particularly relevant for lay people to know about are
the edible and "the other type." The "other
type" is only for those who find good health and life
a burden. The poisonous variety of mushrooms is commonly known
produce our own mushroom," says a confident Shameem,
"We have a farm in Agargaon where we grow them in a properly
controlled environment." Shameem and Ashim have started
production in their own little hatchery. Taking care of their
supply side chain was easy. The harder part involved getting
a country totally dependent on fish, meat and vegetables to
change its taste buds and acquire a liking for this fascinating
fungi. For many Bangladeshis, mushrooms have been associated
in the past with frogs and umbrellas, neither considered very
palatable. The desire to familiarise the city with the wonders
of the mushroom gave birth to the company "Smiling Mushroom"
and the slogan of the innovative duo is "The Fresh Mushroom
Supplier At Your Door".
present-day Dhakaite seems 'fungally' disinclined, this epicurean
delight is enormously popular in the rest of the world. There
are companies specialising in using gourmet and medicinal
mushrooms to improve the health of the planet and its people.
There are mushroom shows and shops and magazines specialising
in skills to grow your own mushrooms. As for websites and
articles on mushroom and its cultivation, they have mushroomed
all around. You don't have to know Mycology (the study of
the fungi) or be a mycologist (a botanist who studies fungi)
or even see the mushroom through eyes of fungal lust. If you
like experimenting with the wonders that nature has provided
and titillating your taste buds at the same time, mushrooms
are for you.
have been around for a long while and during the ancient Greek
and Roman times, they were considered delicacies that went
hand in hand with only the royal classes. The edible mushroom
with its high source of proteins, carbohydrates, salts and
a variety of vitamins provides a good addition to one's daily
diet. If we were to place it on the food-chain, it could easily
find a comfortable spot right between veggies and meat products.
Due to high protein and mineral contents and low caloric value,
it is recommended to heart patients.
cultivation in Bangladesh is a relatively recent phenomenon
and only a few small-scale farms are pursuing it. The A-B-C
of growing mushroom is mainly in getting the right raw materials
and setting the right environment ... something like a 'mood'
music. The first thing that we need is a seed (or spawn) which
basically comes in a polythene packet. Raw materials for the
seed includes a composite mixture of rice straw and husk,
waste from cotton and saw-dust. Other agro-residues are required
in certain breeds of mushrooms. Each seed lasts for almost
90 days and during that period, each single seed produces
200 to 250 grammes of mushroom. They can be plucked every
two to three days. Mushrooms are usually grown, after slicing
that polythene packet and then leaving them in thatched huts,
in a temperature of about 24°C while in infancy and about
15°C while it's in its fruiting stage.
Ramadan, Shameem and Ashim have opened up a little iftar stall
beside Prescription Aid to familiarise the travellers of Banani
Number 11 Road with mushrooms. "Smiling Mushroom"
is what the big banner that decorates the little stall they
have set up, reads. And take one guess as to what the key
ingredient in all their items is. "I went to the barber's
shop one day and asked my barber if he knew what a mushroom
was, out of utter curiosity," says a well-groomed Shameem,
flaunting his haircut. "I had to spend a half hour lecturing
the barber about the positive sides of mushroom."
move a little on to the menu of Smiling Mushroom. The first
item that stands out is the mushroom-fish-fingers, a little
less filling, especially at iftar time. Well, this was something
like an amuse-bouche rather than the hors-d'oeuvre, but the
taste simply sets you in the mood for what you are about to
encounter next. Other items in the list are mushroom prawn,
sizzling mushroom chicken shashlik and mushroom beef
shashlik, chicken mushroom chop, beef mushroom kebab
and many more. To finish this wonderful cuisine line-up off,
there is mushroom jilapi. I tried it and well it
reading this article you go wild about mushrooms, be warned.
Do not pick your own unless you can positively identify the
edible from the poisonous one. Of the twenty mushroom species
growing wild in Bangladesh, five or six are poisonous. The
consumption of the wrong mushroom can be hazardous to your
health. Leave it to the experts or just queue up at the Smiling
(R) thedailystar.net 2004