This section is from the book "Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc.", by George Francis Atkinson. Also available from Amazon: Studies of American Fungi: Mushrooms, Edible, Poisonous, Etc..
In the packing room the mushrooms are prepared for shipment to market. The method at present usually employed is to ship them in baskets. The baskets vary in size, according to the market to which the mushrooms are to be shipped. They hold from three, to four, five, six, or ten pounds each. The larger baskets are only used where the mushrooms are shipped directly to the consumers. When the customer requires a large number of mushrooms, they can be shipped in these larger baskets. Where they are shipped to commission merchants, and the final market is not known to the packer, they are usually packed in small baskets, three to four or five pounds. The baskets are sometimes lined with paper; that is, at the time of the packing the paper is placed in the basket, one or two thicknesses of paper. The number of layers of paper depends somewhat upon the conditions of transportation. The greater amount of paper affords some protection from cold, in cold weather, and some protection from the evaporation of the moisture, in dry weather. When the basket is filled with the required quantity of mushrooms, which is usually determined first by weight, the surplus paper is folded over them. This is covered in most cases by thin board strips, which are provided for basket shipment of vegetables of this kind. In some cases, however, where shipped directly to customers so that the baskets soon reach their destination, additional heavy paper, instead of the board, may be placed over and around the larger part of the basket, and then tied down neatly with cord.
Some growers do not give any attention to placing the mushrooms in the baskets. The stems are cut off in the packing room, they are thrown into the weighing pan, and when the beam tips at three, or four, or five pounds, as the case may be, the mushrooms are emptied into the baskets, leveled down, and the baskets closed for shipment. Others use more care in the packing of the mushrooms; especially is this the case on the part of those who pick the mushrooms when they are somewhat larger and more open, though the practice of placing the mushrooms in a basket is followed even by those who pick before the mushrooms are open. In placing them, one mushroom is taken at a time and put stem downward into the basket, until the bottom is covered with one layer, and then successive layers are placed on top of these. The upper layers in the basket then present a very neat and attractive appearance. In thus placing the mushrooms in the basket, if there are any mushrooms which are quite large, they are placed in the bottom. The custom of the operator here is different from that of the grower of apples, or of other fruit, where the larger and finer samples are often placed on top, the smaller ones being covered below. It is a curious fact, however, that this practice of placing the largest mushrooms below in the basket is due to the fact that usually the larger mushrooms are not considered so marketable.
View in packing room, Akron "tunnel," N. Y. Mushroom Co.; placing mushrooms in basket. Copyright.
There are several reasons why the larger mushrooms are not considered so desirable or marketable as the medium-sized or smaller ones. In the first place, the larger mushrooms, under certain conditions, especially those grown in house culture at a comparatively high temperature, are apt to be very ripe, so that the gills are black from over-ripe spores, and are thus somewhat unsightly. Those grown at a lower temperature, as is the case in some mines, do not blacken so soon, and are therefore apt to be free from this objection. Another objection, however, is on the part of the restaurant owner where mushrooms are served. In serving the mushrooms broiled on toast, the medium-sized one is more desirable from the standpoint of the restaurant owner, in that two medium-sized ones might be sufficient to serve two persons, while one quite large one, weighing perhaps the same as the two medium ones, would only be sufficient to serve one person at the same price, unless the large mushroom was cut in two. If this were done, however, the customer would object to being served with half a mushroom, and the appearance of a half mushroom served in this way is not attractive.