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Continuing with our journey into the caves of Saumur … People in the area did not just live in caves, they use it to store wine and to grow mushroom. See earlier post here about the museum.

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The caves provide an environment of high humidity and constant temperature that is perfect for growing mushroom. Many of the caves were once part of a quarry. This facility at the museum produces four types of mushrooms commercially: white or brown button mushrooms, shiitakes, oyster mushrooms including the yellow pleurotes and blue foot mushrooms aka blewits (something new for us).

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Using a plastic culture bag is the preferred way, as it is more flexible and prevents the spread of pests.

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The white button mushroom or champignon de Paris (Agaricus bisporous) were first cultivated in the disused quarries in the Paris region, and then in the late 19th century, they moved to the Loire Valley.

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Apparently, more than half of the mushrooms cultivated in France come from this area and Anjou (just a bit downstream of the Loire river).

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The facility aims to provide ample ventilation (otherwise the mushroom will become deformed !), temperature at 10 to 18 degrees celsius, 14 degree being the optimal, and 85 to 90% humidity.

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Shiitake or 冬菇 (Lentinus edodes), also known as black mushroom or oak mushroomare grown in the caves on substrates that were hung and resembled tree trunks.

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Apparently, they are slow growing and do not appear until 2 to 5 years after inoculation. The growers stimulate growth by exposing the culture to shock, such as sharp change in temperature, mechanical vibration (including artificial thunder ? That’s what it said on the explanatory notes on the wall) or soaking in water.

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Pleurotus ostreatus or 蠔菇, the oyster mushroom, are mainly cultivated in large polyethylene bags stuffed with hay, sawdust, wood chips, etc in layers, and spawn sown between these layers.

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Pleurotus citrinopileatus, the golden oyster mushroom (tamogitake in Japanese) is the other type of pleurotes that are grown in this facility.

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The last type of mushroom cultivated here is Clitocybe nuda (also recognized as Lepista nuda and Tricholoma nudum, commonly known as the wood blewit or blue stalk mushroom). We know nothing about it. According to Wikipedia, it is an edible mushroom, found in both coniferous and deciduous woodlands. It is a fairly distinctive mushroom that is widely eaten, though there is some caution about edibility. Nevertheless it has been cultivated in Britain, the Netherlands and France. … Blewits can be eaten as a cream sauce or sautéed in butter, but it is important not to eat them raw, which could lead to indigestion. They can also be cooked like tripe or as omelette filling, and wood blewits also make good stewing mushrooms. They have a strong flavour, so they combine well with leeks or onions. They were not in season or something … as this is all I could find in the tunnels.

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Back to sunshine, the museum shop offers freshly picked mushroom for sale or as a snack. If it was our last day before heading home, we would have bought some.

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It was an interesting and unique visit.

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