Mushrooms are food consumed by people with different culinary traditions. Earthy flavored mushrooms are a natural source of sustenance for people and forest dwellers, especially during times of scarcity in non-wood forest products.
Meghalaya is a state rich in wild edible mushrooms. Local folks of the Khasi Hills collect them from forest areas. These locals have been documented for their traditional knowledge and ethnic relevance. The ethnic tribal population have extensive ethnomycological knowledge based on the edible mushrooms they sell in the local markets. Throughout history, these people have learnt and gathered practical knowledge on how to identify mushrooms that are edible and know which to avoid.
Studies Conducted on Wild Edible Mushrooms of Meghalaya
Ethnomycological studies have been conducted by the North Eastern Hill University Shillong on mushroom availability in the forest areas of East Khasi Hills of Meghalaya, covering Mawsmai, Jingkiengmawkdok, Shillong peak and Mawphlang. The study covered months of April to October 2011. Information on these local mushrooms were gathered based on few parameters – wild habitat, market price, availability, local name and culinary name. Interviews with local sellers were conducted for documentation and studies on these mushrooms.
There are about 11 different species of wild edible mushrooms that were identified in Meghalaya, based on morphology, that belong to 9 genera and 8 families. Some of the wild traditional mushrooms available in these local areas are given in the table below.
Specie such as Clavulina spp. is abundantly available whereas Albatrellus specie is rare in the local market. (Source)
Identification of Wild Edible Mushrooms
Edible Mushrooms are identified on the basis of their morphological characters. Characters of mushroom differ depending on species group. Most of the wild mushrooms can be distinguished from their look-alike species through macro features such as their body form, cap, spore- bearing surface, stipe, veils and odor.
Identification by Hymenphore: It is the structure on which spores are formed.
(Gilled Mushrooms and Bolete Body Forms)
Identification by cap features:
Identification using hymennophore features:
Identification using stipe features:
Identification using taxonomic features:
Traditional Harvest Method of Wild Edible Mushrooms
Throughout the month of April to October wild edible mushrooms collected from forest and meadows are transported to the local market areas by wrapping them in banana leaves (bio-degradable) and la-met (local name) Pyrnium pubinerve leaves.
Local mushroom gatherers have good knowledge and can differentiate the edible mushrooms from the poisonous ones. Locally, poisonous mushrooms are called “tit buit” in Khasi which means allergy-causing mushrooms.
Different Edible Mushroom Species of Meghalaya
Wild edible mushrooms collected from local markets of Est Khasi district of Meghalaya (a. Gomphus floccosus, b. Tricholoma viridiolivaceum, c. Craterellus odoratus, d. Lactarius volemus, e. Cantharellus cibarius, f. Tricholoma saponaceum, g. Tricholoma sp, h. Laccaria lateritia, i. Albatrellus sp, j. Ramaria sp, k. Clavulina sp.
Wild Edible Mushrooms sold in Local Markets
A mushroom specie, Gomphous flocossus described as an inedible fungus by other mycologist was widely prevalent in the local markets. Specie such as Albatrellus spp, was the rarest and only collected from Iewduh (Bara Bazaar) during the month of September. About 96% of the local seller are tribal women who also shared traditional mycological knowledge for the study.” Source
Mushroom are sold in the local markets both in dried and fresh forms.
Uses of Wild Edible Mushrooms in Local cuisines
Mushrooms are widely used in local indigenous cuisines and enjoyed as delicacies.
- “Syrwa tit” (Mushroom soup): Mushrooms are thoroughly washed and excess water is removed. These are then cut into small pieces and kept in a clean bowl. The mushrooms are fried with butter, salt, black pepper, chilli and garlic paste and cooked. After cooking for about 20 minutes, hot water is added and the mushrooms are boiled and simmered till the mixture becomes dense. Some locals prefer adding mustard green leaves, locally called “lai patta” or “tyrso” to the soup.
- “Tit tung bad doh sniang” (Mushroom with pork): Mushroom specie Lactarius volemus is cooked with black sesame seeds and pork. The pork is first boiled separately with garlic. Chopped onion, garlic, ginger, hot chili, sesame seed are mixed and sautéd in hot oil. Chopped pieces of tomatoes and mushrooms are then added. Salt, turmeric, pepper and a bit of sugar are added as per taste. When the mushrooms are half cooked, the stock with pork is added and boiled till the dish is fully cooked.
- “Tit tyngab bad tungtap” (Mushroom with fermented fish): A mushroom specie Laccaria lateritia Malencon is cooked with “tungtap”, a traditionally fermented fish product of Meghalaya. The mushrooms and fermented fish are boiled together with sliced potato, garlic, ginger and salt. Chopped chilli and coriander are added for garnishing and served with rice.
Among the different varieties of mushroom available in the market, Clavulina sp is a commonly consumed mushroom by the local people. It’s prepared with garlic, ginger and other condiments. These mushrooms are also chopped into smaller pieces and used to make dumplings or added in other local dishes to enhance the flavor.
Some locals cook mushrooms with bamboo shoot or “lung siej” and red hot chilli “sohmynken byrwa”. Indigenous tribes of Meghalaya use a traditional technique called the “narsuh” for cooking these mushrooms. A small rod with a wooden handle is used. The tip of the rod is heated until red hot. The rod is then immediately placed into a bowl of cooked mushrooms. Heat from the rod is believed to destroy harmful elements from the mushrooms, if present.
None of these species have been exploited commercially. They are only sold in local markets based on seasonal availability. Economic potential of trading these wild mushrooms remains untapped. If done properly, the value of this food resource can go a long way in uplifting the lives of farmers. Read about a lady mushroom farmer we had featured on our blog.
Growing urbanization and industrialization have caused risk to wild habitats of these mushrooms, an important aspect why there is a need for their documentation.
After our exploration into the world of wild mushrooms, we at Zizira can totally appreciate the importance of proper documentation of this traditional ethnomycology, to safeguard the ethnic knowledge of the local people. Do you agree?
Do you know of any wild edible mushroom yet to be documented? We are always curious to know more! Let us know in the comment section below.