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Tribals in central India use mushroom stalks to ward off chills and cold
One of the great acumen of those living close to nature is that they know exactly when nature offers a gift.
Soon after the first shower in the month of Shravana, which usually falls between July and August, tribal women along the hilly border of Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh set out for long walks in the thick forests, poking around the roots of bamboo clumps. They look for palm-sized, white, flower-like mushrooms that would have popped up the previous night.
Velu satye, as the bamboo mushroom (Dictyophora) is called in the Gondi language, is highly perishable. It has to be plucked before noon and cooked within seven to eight hours of plucking, said Desirbai Ghatghoomar of Tembli village in Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra. “Else, it turns black, starts crumbling and loses flavour,” she cautioned.
On days when Ghatghoomar chances upon stacks of bamboo mushroom, she takes them to the nearby market. Of late, the musty, earthy smell of the mushroom has become a seasonal favourite among urban gourmets. “But they do not know how to appreciate it,” she rued. They stir-fry the fleshy caps and use them in spicy curries, but discard the hard fibre stalks. The stalks, Ghatghoomar said, are difficult to cook but have the same flavour and nutrition as the cap. Since the mushroom blooms only during Shravana, tribal women in the region cut the stalks into strips, carefully dry them in fitful sunshine and save for later use.
Towards September-October, when winter sets in, and the southwest monsoon is yet to leave the hilly terrain, mothers bring out the dried bamboo mushroom stalks to make aaran. The deliciously spicy soup not only acts as a stimulant, it also wards off chills and cramps brought on by the damp weather, said Kumari Jamkatan of Korchi village in Gadchiroli while showing how to prepare the soup. Many prefer the taste of the stem soup to the fresh mushroom curry, she said. Aaran is usually served as an accompaniment to lunch or dinner, and sipped hot between bites.
Even the dried stems do not have a long shelf-life and are consumed during the last days of heavy rains in September and early October. Then follows the long wait till August next year when the flower-like mushroom pops up again.
For seasoning (optional)
Pound the dried mushroom stems with a stone or wooden pestle till reduced to powder. Sieve the powder and pound the large particles again till fine. Pour some water in a pan and add the powder. Keep stirring to avoid lumps. Add more water to attain the desired consistency as soup will thicken on cooking. Put the pan on flame. Add salt and turmeric and bring it to boil.
Add finely chopped onion, ginger-garlic paste, mango flakes and green chillies. Simmer till onion and mango flakes are soft and the ingredients are well blended. Keep stirring intermittently. You can fry onion and ginger-garlic paste in a little oil before adding to the soup. Season it the usual way. Sprinkle coriander leaves and serve hot.
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