Brussels, Nov 19 (EFE) .- Cultivating exotic mushroom species, such as the "shitake", with beer waste is a possible project in the heart of Brussels, where a group of young people has launched produce mushrooms in well-known cavas in the city, now converted into an agri-food innovation center.
It is a "start-up" that has been cooking for three years production technique: waste from a famous Brussels brewery, Cantillon, and other local "brasseries" that minimize the ecological impact of the crop with the aim of contributing to the circular economy.
The initiative, dubbed "Le Champignon de Bruxelles" (The Mushroom of Brussels) is a cooperative created by three young graduates, convinced that cities are also a good place to produce food.
"The majority of food consumption is made in cities, the idea is to produce closer to consumption and reconnect citizens with their food ", explains to the economist Hadrien Velge, one of the founders of the project.
The mushroom greenhouse occupies 750 square meters of the 8,000 that form" Les Caves de Cureghem ", cavas built in the 19th century to give shelter to the animal market in the slaughterhouse, in 1890, and in which, in the 30s, a center for the cultivation of mushrooms.
However, the activity fell into oblivion after the war and the cellars became an underutilized national monument, in which parties and events were organized until the municipal regulations recently prevented it for security reasons.
The "champiñonera" of Brussels has been reborn now with this initiative that seeks to take advantage of this place humid, sheltered from light, which emerges thanks to public support, micro-credits and a crowdfunding campaign, and which, although it is not yet, hopes to be profitable soon.
"For now We produce 1.2 tons of mushrooms per month. They grow mushrooms, a compound based on beer waste, rescued from the urban breweries that proliferate in Brussels, and which replaces wood as the main compound of the "soil" in the mushrooms grow.
"This is a byproduct that is wasted in the cities, tons of organic matter that are thrown in. Here, we transform this organic matter into a product that has a very interesting nutritional value, "says the economist.
Production, according to its promoter, is a simple process completely faithful to the concept of local economy: a Once the beer substrate is generated, the seeds are planted, which the cooperative acquires in a Ghent laboratory, they are put in plastic bags, at 22 degrees and in a dry place, and there "incubate" the mushrooms.
The whole process lasts three months, when the mushrooms are collected and stored in boxes, destined, for now, to organic production stores or Belgian restorers.
"We do not have the ambition to export, it is a product with local destiny and it would be contradictory that we would like to sell mushrooms on the other side of the planet", Velge argues.
The entrepreneur highlights the importance of the project as "reutilizador of unused urban spaces", since the production of mushrooms does not need light or soil of cultivation, to which "a great profitability per square meter" is added, since the plantations can be stacked in shelves.
The "Champignon de Bruxelles" seeks to plant him face, although small scale, to his counterpart in Paris, the popular common mushroom, the most used in the kitchen, which was cultivated for years in the catacombs of the gala capital.
"It is cultivated, but It is bio and natural, we must bear in mind that if we consumed only wild mushrooms we would harm nature because they are necessary for ecosystems ", defends the promoter of the project.
The fact of growing exotic mushrooms responds to the desire to "open a new market" in Belgium, with varieties that "have no competition" and that contribute "something new to the consumer ".
" Shitake ", one of the most consumed mushrooms in Asia, where it is venerated for its supposed anti-tumor properties, is progressively introduced into European gastronomy," and not it is necessary to invent exotic recipes to cook it, it is enough to laminate them to the plate as in our culinary tradition, "says Velge.
The Belgian" mushroom "also produces "nameko", a more viscous and very consumed variety in Japan, which considers it essential to fight infections, and "maitake", of gray color, with a form similar to that of coral, used in Chinese medicine for centuries.
Poland (25.7%), The Netherlands (23.5%), Spain (8.8%), France (8.7%), Ireland (6, European mushroom production, according to data from the European Association of Mushroom Producers (AEPC), which places Belgium as the tenth largest country in the European Union (EU) in terms of volume cultivation (2.5%).
The whole of the AEPC, composed of these countries, plus Denmark and Hungary, produced in 2015 1,11 million tons of mushrooms, 727,000 tons for fresh consumption and 383,000 for processed.