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National Mushroom Month kicks off with media outreach

Kennett Square, PA, bills itself as the Mushroom Capitol of the World, and producers there grow about 65 percent of the nation’s mushrooms. In the early 1980s, annual dinners were held there, and in 1985 the gatherings became more formalized with the Mushroom Festival, a celebration held the second weekend of September each year in downtown Kennett Square.

Starting in 1992, official proclamations of September as Mushroom Month from the U.S. secretary of agriculture and the governor of Pennsylvania added more formal recognition and notoriety.

SNA-04Sampling mushroom recipes at the School Nutrition Association Annual National Conference in Denver. (Photo courtesy of the Mushroom Council)The Mushroom Council is composed of fresh market producers or importers who average more than 500,000 pounds of mushrooms produced or imported annually. The American Mushroom Institute is the voluntary, national trade association that represents domestic growers, packers, shippers, processors and companies that provide goods and services for mushroom production.

Over the past 10 years the Mushroom Festival has given more than $500,000 back to local organizations in the form of grants and donations.

To celebrate National Mushroom Month the council will conduct media outreach to include features editors to share recipes and cooking tips, including those developed for its Swapability initiative, and education, health and nutrition editors to share information about mushrooms’ role in the new school nutrition guidelines.

Digital support of National Mushroom Month will include 30 Days of Mushroom Facts & Tips on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, blogger contributors to share recipes and cooking tips on Mushroom Channel blog, and feature recipes on Facebook and to highlight mushrooms’ versatility.

National Mushroom Month will lead into Mushroom Council’s October Pink campaign. Retailers will stock pink mushroom tills from mid-September to mid-November to participate in the nationwide program. The campaign supports research on the potential cancer-fighting benefits of mushrooms to the City of Hope.

Bart Minor, president of the Mushroom Council, said that the council will be exhibiting at the Food & Nutrition Conference Expo in Philadelphia on October 6-9.

“Attendees will visit a nearby farm in Kennett Square to see how mushrooms are grown and learn more about their many health benefits including, vitamin D, weight management, antioxidants and immunity,” said Mr. Minor.

Joe Caldwell, vice president of Monterey Mushrooms headquartered in Watsonville, CA, is the chairperson of the Mushroom Council. He told The Produce News that the mushroom industry has a great nutritional story to talk about.

“Mushrooms have always been known for what they don’t have,” said Mr. Caldwell. “They have no fat, are low in sodium, have no cholesterol, are very low in calories and low in carbohydrates. But now we’re seeing how much mushrooms do have. They are higher in antioxidants than anyone thought, and are high in vitamin D, which we didn’t even know a few years ago. Mushrooms are beginning to be recognized for what they are: a nutritional powerhouse.”

Mr. Caldwell explained that it takes a long time for nutritional data and facts to be revealed because the investigative process and verification of findings is a long process that involves many agencies. Research begun a decade ago is now producing strong data that is based on fact.

“One of the goals of the Mushroom Council is to get consumers to keep mushrooms in their refrigerators along with carrots, celery and onions,” Mr. Caldwell went on to say. “People never have to be concerned about them going bad and having to throw them away because they work in every meal of the day and in an unlimited number of recipes.”

He added that the industry is thinking about and discussing all of the possibilities that the future holds for the Swapability initiative.

“The concept is a winner, and it will lead to big places in the future,” said Mr. Caldwell.