Nigeria has all the indices for greatness so one wonders why it is not great. Some have pointed at poor leadership and followership, corruption, poverty etc as culprits but one tends to agree with a popular Nollywood actor.
Nigeria is blessed with abundant natural and human resources, highly talented and resourceful people, high quality natural resources, yet, it seems to be moving round and round in circles. In this interview with Professor John Aroye Okhuoya, Professor of Mycology and Director, African Centre for Mushroom Research and Technology Innovation, University of Benin, he speaks on how Nigeria can partake of the multi-million dollar mushroom industry.
I had my first degree in Microbiology here. I was one of the first 100 students of the University of Benin when it was Midwestern Institute of Technology. Thereafter, I worked briefly in the Rubber Research Institute and then went abroad for my PhD. I came back in 1981 and started lecturing in 1983 in the Department of Botany (now Department of Plant Biology and Biotechnology, University of Benin. I became a professor in 1995. I have been training undergraduate and post-graduate students in Mushroom Science.
grew up in the rural area and we used to go for mushroom hunting in the village, collecting wild mushrooms for sale in the evenings. My father gave me some information on the different mushrooms that we ate. That was how the interest came. I have developed this area of research over the years and at a point, we felt that this university should be a reference point. We introduced Mushroom Science in our curriculum.
At undergraduate level, we have Introduction to Mushroom Science, and then I developed a master’s and PhD programmes in Mushroom Science. Mushroom production is still very low in Nigeria hence many of our people still depend on collection of mushrooms from the wild.
This is fraught with the danger of collecting poisonous with edible ones. Commercial farming holds the key to the eventual elimination of occasional mushroom poisoning in our population.
Categories of mushrooms:
There are four main categories of mushrooms.Edible mushrooms (those you can eat as food);Medicinal mushrooms used in taking care of certain ailments; Poisonous mushrooms (these are deadly). There are also mushrooms that are both medicinal as well as edible. Then the last category is the Miscellaneous group which contains mushrooms whose values are not yet established.
Edible mushrooms are rich in protein, B-vitamins and contain moderate amount of vitamin C. They are, however, low in carbohydrate and are generally preferred to fresh vegetables because weight for weight, the body absorbs all of mushrooms eaten without wastes. Common edible species in Nigeria arePleurotus tuber-regium or tuberous mushroom(very common in South-East and used in cooking egusi soup. It produces tuber in the dry season and then in the rainy season, they break the ground and begin to produce fruiting bodies.
The tuber, referred to as sclerotium, is the form the mushroom uses to hibernate in order to survive the harsh conditions of the dry season. In our folklores, it is believed that for the native doctor to see the future, he will have to make a paste of the tuber, and rub his eyes and he will see visions.) Other edible species are: Lentinus squarrosulus, Auricularia auricula, Lepiota sp, Termitomyces spp, Volvoriella esculenta, Lycoperdon spp among others.
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