- Miscellaneous: mushrooms
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: farmer to farmer, focus group, on-farm/ranch research
- Farm Business Management: market study, marketing management, value added
- Natural Resources/Environment: afforestation, biodiversity
- Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
- Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities
Forest cultivation of shiitake mushrooms can make use of marginal lands to create supplemental income pursuant of small farm viability. With some up-front labor inputs, shiitake cultivation is a low-risk enterprise opportunity. This investigation seeks to contribute to product development and best management practices for this novel forest enterprise by evaluating antioxidant capacity and consumers’ perception of shiitake mushrooms, grown using different log-species substrates. Consumer perception will be evaluated using discrimination tests, preference tests, and focus groups to evaluate resulting qualities from specific practitioner decisions. Bio-chemical analysis will describe specific chemical classes that have been associated with human health, specifically, polyphenols, flavonoids, and antioxidant activity. Contrasting biochemical qualities and sensory attributes is novel approach in the assessment of food quality. The results of this work will create greater knowledge capital for mushroom growers to more efficiently market their product, plan production systems more appropriately for their select demographic, and give growers more ammunition in branding and creating a niche for their unique product, not only as a gourmet food item, but also as a functional food.
Project objectives from proposal:
The objectives of this work are to expand on existing work from the Mudge Lab, that identifies log-species substrates that may be used for shiitake cultivation. Results, to date, describe commensurate production level from alternative log-species substrates. This project seeks to evaluate the practitioner decision on choice of log-species substrate on the resulting quality of forest grown shiitake mushrooms. Quality of mushrooms will be assessed through an integrated approach of methods of biochemistry and product development.
The detailed objectives of this work are:
· Quantify chemical classes that contribute to the antioxidant capacity of forest grown mushrooms
· Evaluate consumer’s ability to discriminate between shiitake mushrooms grown on different log species.
· Determine if the consumer can discriminate or have preference for mushrooms produced on different log species substrates.
· Based on preceding sensory results, determine if there are contributing taste factors that influence the ability to discriminate.
· Identify particular keywords or descriptors that differentiate mushrooms grown on different logspecies.
· Distribute results of work through manual of best management practices, Cultivation of Shiitake as an Agroforestry Crop for New England, stand alone publication and grower networks/meetings.