Providing Healthy Food through Mushroom Cultivation
Malarkoddy Sundaram, an ex-teacher from Kuala Ketil, Kedah, who is determined to keep learning even after her retirement, channelled her energy into exploring mushroom cultivation.
In between engaging herself to teach moral and religious lessons to children in nearby schools, she tried her hands at farming. In 2021, she experimented withfertigation farming methods.
She realised it was fraught with challenges that were not revealed to her earlier by the person who convinced her to venture into one.
Upon realising the non-feasibility and high maintenance risk of the fertigation farming method, she had to abandon it to prevent further losses. However, that did not deter her from picking up new skills.
This time she picked up mushroom cultivation on a small scale and proved that perseverance pays off.
Unlike other mushroom cultivators who buy mushroom chunks to grow mushrooms, Malarkoddy had learned to make her own mushroom chunks. That way, she is aware of what she is adding to make the chunks, and it’s cost-effective too.
The main ingredient used by Malarkoddy inmushroom cultivation is sawdust, sourced from rubber trees.
The conversation with the teacher went back to the period before the 1980s in Malaysia, when most Malaysians still lived in areas flanked by vegetation.
“Some of us would have experienced the sprouting of edible mushrooms on the soil after the previous day’s downpour, and it was an excitement to collect those fresh mushrooms. Those living in the rubber plantations experienced this very often,” recalled Malarkoddy.
Nature has its own way of blooming and bestowing, a trait that is increasingly diminishing as a result of rampant development.
Malarkoddy said the government, in an effort to promote this industry among young entrepreneurs, gives courses on mushroom cultivation. Mushroom cultivation machines are distributed to those who show proof that they have mastered the art of cultivating mushrooms.
Despite having learned all the techniques for cultivating mushrooms, Malarkoddy still prefers to do it the traditional way.
“The machine designed for the purpose has to be set at a certain temperature, and one has to strictly follow the rules to ensure the mushrooms spawn out properly.
“My own experiments convinced me that even without those machines, I could cultivate mushrooms. So, at the moment, I will stick to the traditional method. Furthermore, it’s cost-effective,” explained Malarkoddy.
“In our family, we frequently use mushrooms in cooking. The balance, we supply to the nearby restaurant. Mushrooms in the form of soup, fritters and curry are all appetizing. It is also healthy due to its high level of nutrients, including minerals and protein,” said Malarkoddy.
Owing to her experience, Malarkoddy is also willing to guide those who want to try their hands at mushroom cultivation.
METHODS OF CULTIVATING MUSHROOM
Malarkoddy cultivates mushrooms for her own consumption and distributes the rest to those in need. She explained the methods of cultivating mushrooms.
Ingredients needed for making mushroom chunks:
Sawdust (preferably from rubber trees) – 50 kg
Rice bran – 5 kg
Calcium carbonate (for agricultural use) – ½ kg
- Mix sawdust, rice bran, and calcium carbonate together. Add water and mix again thoroughly. Take a handful of the mixture and press it between your palms; it should hold together but crumble when you let go. This is the right consistency.
- Put the mixture in the plastic bag as shown in the picture. Compress to remove the air and close the lid tightly. Each plastic bag holds roughly 1 kg of the mixture.
- Fill ¼ of a barrel with water. Place a metal grill on the bottom of the barrel. Arrange the mixture-filled plastics on the grill. The water is then allowed to boil on high heat for 1 hour, followed by 6 hours on low heat. The purpose of boiling is to kill all the bacteria and unwanted pathogens that may impede the growth of the mushroom later.
- After boiling the mixture, let it fully cool. The following day, when the mixture is fully cooled, open the lid and sow the seeds.
- After this, arrange the mushroom bags on a shelf designed for this purpose in a room with a slightly lower than normal room temperature.
- The seeds start sprouting after 30 to 45 days. After the sprouting, the mushrooms start growing fast and can be harvested within 1 week. After the first harvest, the mushroom chunks are left on the shelf to spawn again. The chunks last for 4-6 months, and during that period, mushrooms can be harvested up to 5 times.