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Here I would love to share with you our travels and adventures as international mushroom consultants. MEMOIRS about husband Pieter Vedder, who was a SCIENTIFIC PIONEER in Mushroom Cultivation Education. His practical handbook is in 8 languages and is called the MUSHROOM BIBLE: https://mariettesbacktobasics.blogspot.com/2018/03/1978-pjc-vedders-modern-mushroom.html

Monday, July 6, 2020

My Reply to Growing Pains by Geoff Ganney in The Mushroom Journal

Geoff Ganney wrote in his diary on April 5 that he was cleaning up among the pickers' knives. Well, what's so exciting about picking knives. First, we identified 8 different types, some long, others short, very thin, thicker but all blunt. Furthermore, some had plastic grips, other wooden grips and some had no grip at all. They were all terribly dirty. Some were bent or twisted, none were straight. Result; differently cut mushrooms.

Has anyone ever studied the best weight, length, blade shape, handle material and degree of sharpness of the knife, the most important tool a picker has?
My hand with the world's BEST mushroom picking knife...
Sure, I did write him a letter, stating that most harvesters will be far better with the knife than with the pen; so I would speak for MANY!
The Mushroom Journal of August 1989 Number 200 with my reply printed...
My reply:
14th July
Mushrooms disappeared, gave me time to study a most thought-provoking letter from Mariet Vedder which now follows:
Dear Geoff
After reading your 'Growing Pains' in the May issue of the Mushroom Journal, I would like to respond to what you wrote about your experience of April the 5th; your philosophy about a picker's knife.
Indeed, I have studied the most important tool a mushroom picker has, perhaps a little closer than most of your readers.
First of all, I would like to explain why I'm so interested in what you wrote about harvesting in general and the cheap, but nevertheless very important, tool; the knife.
At the age of 14, I was already picking mushrooms at the small farm of my friend's parents in Horst, the Netherlands, to help them out.
Since then I have spent a big part of my life in mushroom houses; picking mushrooms myself, training pickers on farms all over the globe and introducing new harvesting techniques and methods to improve the efficiency and also the quality of the product. We all know that mushroom growing is not that easy and more and more developing into a science. To improve the business we organize con-
ferences and courses, we write books and magazines and sometimes we have open house to show off some good first breaks. There even is a kind of mushroom doctor; Geoff Ganney, specialized in Growing headaches.
Amazing for me is that at these conferences or in these books or magazines, famous experts are talking or writing about compost, supplementing, cac'ing, deep scratching and the use of chlorine and the ideal CO₂ concentration and hybrids and virus and marketing, but so far... I have always missed harvesting.
It seems that when we get to this, in my opinion, most delicate and important part of the mushroom business, almost everybody is backing off; having no interest.
Do the owners/managers of a mushroom farm forget that the pickers are eating away almost 60-70% of the labour-pie?
Don't they realize that a harvester can influence the quality of the product more than any other growing factor?
We send our growers - area managers, compost guys etc. to courses and meetings, sometimes even overseas.
Do we have any serious training program for the biggest work force, the harvesters?
Are the mushroom growers dozing off?
They mechanized and computerized to the fullest, but most of them overlooked in my opinion, one of the most important (and also expensive) areas. 
It seems to be below the level of the designer-owner of a farm to discuss with the pickers how to create the best harvesting conditions.
We do the utmost to get the mushrooms on the beds and very little to get them off properly.
May I offer your readers a suggestion Geoff...?
The best way to recognize the daily problems in the harvesting area is; let the boss/manager pick mushrooms himself for half a day or more. Then he will figure out that indeed it is very unpleasant to constantly get a wet shoulder from that dripping plastic air duct, or a stiff neck as the result of the high air velocity in the aisle.
He never before realized that it isn't that much fun to sit on your knees on a catwalk for hours to collect the white gold. 
That indeed the distance between the two beds was that little and that lowest bed so close to the floor. 
How frustrating it can be to pick just 12 kg an hour with hard work, because of mushrooms with a piece weight of 160 in a kilogram and most of them almost open already, and somebody is asking if that room ever will be finished.
The boss then will figure out that there is actually more light in his toilet than in the growing rooms where 15 or 24 people are working for so many hours.
A king-size bed maybe wonderful during night time but for picking the mushrooms at the center of a bed, one should know that the maximum width should not extend 140 - 145 cm.
By picking himself he too will realize how unpleasant and itchy it is to have compost in your hair and neck because of poor construction of the sideboards or sloppy filling.
Perhaps he never before realized that there are that many spots in the room with puddles of water on the floor. Not good for controlling blotch but very unpleasant to stay in too!
He will figure out that this stepladder is not as handy as he thought it was; that the space on the platform of the lorry is indeed very limited and that climbing on the wooden trays goes far beyond his physical capability. 
After that half day picking he perhaps will understand much better why many harvesters are constantly looking for other jobs.
Sorry Geoff, I almost forgot to tell you more about the knife. In my opinion and I've quite a bit of experience, the best mushroom picker's knife is made by Diogenes - Werk - Herder & Sohn
Postfach 11 02 27
5650 Solingen 11
W. Germany
Phone: (0212) 7 70 71 - 73 Telex No. 8514 492 dio
Order No. 4602 for mushroom knife
Don't think the above information is still valid... But click here for thisBEST Champignon plukmesje - Mushroom picking knife 
If the mushroom growers in the more developed countries want to continue their business in the future, they'll have to pay more attention and have to spend quite a bit of money to improve the harvesting situation. Although the Dutch developed a system for mechanized harvesting, we all now that for a high quality, fresh market product, we still need human hands. For as little as approximately two German Marks we at least can put a good picker's knife in those hands.
Mariet Vedder - Van den Munckhof
The Mushroom Journal June 1990 No. 210
When we get to harvesting everyone backs off
We make no apologies for repeating this most interesting letter from MARIET VEDDER, first published by Geoff Ganney in Journal 200, August 1989.
The Mushroom Journal October 1998 Number 585
Growing Pains in Retrospect 9
After almost twenty-five years, I suppose we can't complain that Geoff Ganney has decided to call it a day as far as Growing Pains is concerned. Over the years, we have enjoyed being educated by one of the industry's best-known elder statesmen as he shared with us the trials and tribulations of mushroom growing, and sometimes the joys, in a diary prepared with the expressive phrases, wry comments and dry wit for which he is known. The column certainly generated a great deal of comment and debate over the years and will be missed; readers often told us it was the first page they turned to. Look out for a new feature in the coming months. This month, Peter Flegg looks back over the history of Geoff Ganney's Growing Pains. ~Trudy Johnston, Editor in Chief
Growing Pains in Retrospect
By Peter Flegg
From time to time Geoff passed on to his readers the benefit of detailed comment and advice from well-known mushroom personalities. Among those with whom he shared this column have been Sylvia Hensby who took issue with him on the effect of green mould. Mariet Vedder who wrote him a detailed letter on the skills of picking mushrooms and John Fletcher who wrote about evaporation.
To drive his points home he would frequently deliver short, snappy sayings...

Hope some of you enjoyed reading this!

My next post: 
Techniques for Harvesting Quality Mushrooms  & Gratitude to Mushrooms Canada | more information and links to videos from both of us, husband Pieter about Mushroom Growing and me about Harvesting at Technology Transfer Seminar


  1. Hallo Mariette,
    es ist wirklich sehr interessant, diese ganzen Artikel zu lesen über die Pilzzucht!
    Hab einen wundervollen Tag!
    ♥️ Allerliebste Grüße, Claudia ♥️

    1. Dearest Claudia,
      Interessant ist es ja nur für diejenigen die damit beschäftigt sind!
      Liebe Grüße,

  2. Hello Mariette, The right tools are so important. As with the brass mouthpieces I wrote about, invisible or minor differences can have a major effect on performance. Perhaps some knives suit certain people's hands better. You are also correct about planning the size and shape of the mushroom beds. Orchards have been completely overhauled to provide maximum yield and efficiency. The trend had been towards using dwarf trees for convenience in spraying and picking.

    1. Dearest Jim,
      Even if some knives suit certain people's hands better, the purpose is for cutting mushrooms and the curve needs to match the human thumb for correct cutting motions or else you will cut in your own flesh! But you know the little difference and the often major impact on performance. Sure the size and height of trees is a daily recurring impact on efficiency.

  3. Nunca he recogido hongos y por tanto ignoro cual es la mejor manera de recogerlos. Los suelo comprar del supermercado y tengo la garantía de que son comestibles.


    1. Querida Antónia,
      No se trata de recoger setas en la naturaleza, sino de cosecharlas de manera más eficiente dentro de las casas de setas. Sin hematomas ni dañarlos ya que son muy delicados. ¡Tienes varios productores en España, donde el libro en español de mi marido se usa con tanta frecuencia!

  4. Hi Mariette. It's a very detailed and informative letter with knowledge based on the experience! No wonder it was well appreciated and repeated :-) It's a great suggestion to let bosses and managers pick mushrooms themselves. In order to understand the situation and make improvements, one must go to the actual site and learn!
    Thank you for sharing, Mariette. Have a great day!

    1. Dearest Tamago,
      Yes, indeed I know all the little details about achieving the highest top quality without bruises and blemishes. There are others that do well, but they lack any writing skills. Thank goodness, I got them both.

  5. Dearest Mariette,
    Your thoughts on harvesting should apply across the board to all harvesting situations. Harvesting is the link between the grower and the buyer. Not enough attention is paid to the process. How fast, how cheaply (which of course are important) can a product be picked appears to be the final criteria.
    Toes crossed you and Pieter are enjoying summer, even with all the lockdowns.......*s*

    1. Dearest Suzi,
      Yes you are right and the harvesters therefore are the most important people in that production chain! They can make or break the quality, the presentation of unblemished and neatly graded mushrooms and prevent diseases by keeping up strict hygiene. But they need to be taught. How do you learn to play the piano on your own or from someone who has no clue either?
      We have been very busy so far for producing our 446 pages scientific/practical book.

  6. Liebe Mariette,
    Alles Liebe

    1. Liebe Elisabeth,
      Danke für deinen Besuch hier.
      Liebe Grüße,

  7. Hello dear Mariette!
    Although I have no knowledge of mushroom harvesting or what knife needs to be cut, I found all the information and publications in the magazines very interesting. Thank you for sharing ! Have a great week! Stay safe! Hugs!

    1. Dearest Dimi,
      Well, it is quite an art for doing this job right as it involves moving the fingers of the left hand individually and only musicians or those that type blind with ten fingers are able to. It can be learned though!

  8. Gosh I know so much more about mushrooms and mushroom picking than I ever did before Mariette, I didn't realise how important the picking knife is but thinking about it it's like everything, the tools and equipment are 100% vitally important ✨

    1. Dearest Grace,
      Yes, just like the best instrument, it sure does have a tremendous impact on the performance.
      Thanks for your visit!

  9. Als je de hele dag champignons moet plukken is goed gereedschap natuurlijk belangrijk. En de champignon moet natuurlijk op zijn best geoogst worden. Dat de bazen ook eens op de werkvloer staan lijkt me sowieso een goed idee.
    Fijne dag en lieve groet!

    1. Beste Willy,
      Ja, juist en ook met voldoende licht erbij.
      Vaak is er een gebrek aan communicatie en men veronderstelt dat íedereen dit zo maar kan. Je speelt toch ook niet zo maar piano?

  10. True! A mushroom knife is an important tool, even for those who collect natural mushrooms. The season starts soon ;-)

    1. Dearest Anne,
      It sure is very important.
      Oh my, your summer sounds to be short indeed... autumn on the doorstep already.

  11. What a cool knife, just it looks cool. I don't like mushrooms but I do like cute cool knives

    1. Dearest Jo-Anne,
      A very cleverly designed knife indeed for being able to harvest super fast!


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