While they might not completely satisfy the Middle East vegetarian, Iraq’s Kurds have found a lucrative new way to cash in on year-round crops, which require no chemicals or pesticides: they have turned to mushroom farming, reports the local paper rudaw.
In the Kurdistan region of Iraq vegetarians could only get natural mushrooms in the spring. Now the locals are excited: Mariwan Ali, who advocates a vegetarian diet, according to the paper, has an easy answer for those who ask him, if we don’t eat meat, what should we eat? “Eat mushrooms,” he says. “Mushrooms compensate for meat.”
Local growers are also interested in opening mushroom restaurants to help cultivate a taste for the food which is still considered relatively exotic in Iraq.
The whole business of mushroom farming in Iraq hit the news last year when the Iraq Business newspaper reported the country’s first mushroom farm in Mosul. They grow wild in Iran, but are still considered an exotic food. The farm was first started in 2009 by Majeed Hamid Sallal and located in Ras al-Jadda neighborhood of the northern Iraqi city and it is considered one of the country’s most innovative agricultural projects.
“But growing mushrooms requires special conditions,” he told the business newspaper. “And for these reasons they thought that my project would fail. Nobody encouraged me to carry on.”
Following international standards for growing white mushrooms, he first studied the growing techniques in Aleppo, Syria where mushrooms have been growing successfully. Although mushrooms require no pesticides to grow, they do need to be sterilized to avoid harmful bacteria that might be lurking in the compost.
And what is particularly special about Sallal’s mushroom project is that it’s one hundred percent local – except for the seeds which are bought internationally. Most Middle Eastern countries rely on international aid and expertise for novel agriculture projects these days.
Located in Ninewa, Iraw’s wheat and barley producing region, the region is also known as Nineveh, a city mentioned in the Bible – where Jonah was to go and make people repent. This was after escaping the mouth of the whale. (magic truffles anyone?)
This place may seem magical in many ways and with water shortages, mushroom farming may be the future of this biblical region. Plus mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D.
Mushroom farm in China via Ivan Walsh