18 July 2021

Mushroom Hunting Around Thimphu

When I told my wife I was going mushroom hunting over the weekend, she was so terrified. I could see right in her eyes that she saw me being attacked by a bear and poisoned by a mushroom. Since I am writing this blog, you know I have survived both. 

When we talk about mushroom foraging, the first thing that dominates our mind is mushroom poisoning. I understand my wife's apprehension, but then I am guided by a pearl of ancient wisdom that says, if you don't know a mushroom, assume it's poisonous

Two Mushroom Hunters

My friend Tashi Namgay and I had this planned a long time ago. We waited till this weekend to make the trip. My adventurous mother was going to join us, but she left for Haa a few days ago. She guided us to go after the 10th day of the 6th month, which is traditionally believed to be a ripe time for mushrooming. We went two days ahead of the auspicious timing, but since Tashi knew a few hotspots, we gathered quite a load of mushroom. 
Discovering Chimpa (liver) Shamo at one of the 'nests.'

Talking about the mushroom hotspots, it's the jargon of the mushroom pickers, which are marked spots where they found a good number of a certain type of mushroom and come back to the same spot each year. They call it their mushroom 'nest'. They will keep it a secret, just like I do not mention our nest in this post. I am grateful to Tashi Namgay for trusting me enough to reveal his nest to me. 

This trip was enriching in two beautiful ways;

  1. Taking us out of the stressful Thimphu life and soaking us in the rain and dews drops from every plant we touched. Even if we didn't find any mushrooms, I would return home happier knowing I have done a good hike in the woods.
  2. The woods around Thimphu is so rich in mushrooms that it was a field trip in itself. We spent hours photographing and discussing mushrooms. Tashi Namgay got himself enlightened on two mushrooms I knew so well, coming from Haa. In return, coming from Bumthang, he educated me on two mushrooms that I never thought we edible. We learned so much from each other. 

We took a local guide who was an old friend of Tashi's. They have been together on their previous trip, and they helped each other remember their 'nests'. They shared how they kicked the poisonous-looking "Chimpa Shamo" during their last trip, which happens to be my favourite mushroom. It can be prepared as curry or salad. It can also be dried and consumed later. To prove how crazy I was about that mushroom that tastes so much like liver, I prepared a salad at our guide's place right after our trip. The two of them relished the new taste for the first time. Tashi Namgay couldn't stop himself from sharing a social media post on that story:


Tashi's Two Mushrooms

Following are the two mushrooms that Tashi educated me on:

Gongdo Shamo
Later at night, we prepared the only piece we got for his wife, a vegetarian. It can also be barbecued with a tiny bit of butter and a pinch of salt. 

Khempa Shamo
This khempa Shamo looked so poisonous to me, but both my teammates confirmed that it's deceiving tasty and goes so well with ema-datshi. 

My Two Mushrooms

These are the two I educated Tashi and his friend on;

My Beloved Chempa Shamo

Lumbob Shamo (in Haa)

The Chempa Shamo Salad

Dry Mushroom

Following are the two types of mushrooms all of us knew well. They are best served dried. We got plenty of them. Ga-shamo is especially was infested with worms, but then that's how it's known to be dried and consumed in the next season. However, we made sure that we picked the ones that are not yet attacked by the worms. As of now, they are drying at my place. 

Shaw-namcho Shamo

Ga-shamo

Poison Mushroom

And finally, I must admit that I don't know enough about the following mushrooms, neither do my two friends. Therefore, with the guidance of ancient wisdom, let's assume them as simply inedible or, worse poisonous. 

#1


#2

#3

#4

#5


#6

#7

#8

#9


#10


#11


#12


#13

#14

Bear Attack

I didn't talk much about the bear attacks in this post because I have little knowledge of bears. This is the bear season for sure. We have seen footprints and bear scats in various places. We saw the fruit-bearing plants being ransacked, which can only be done by bears. 

I can only confidently say that you must go in groups and make your presence felt by making sounds from time to time. Elders told us that any wild animal including bears, don't like encounters with humans. They will avoid if they knew we were around. The attacks happen when we run into each other suddenly. Their attacks are mostly in self-defence. Of course, they cannot prove that in a court of law. 

Anyway, the fear of bear attack is serious and so is mushroom poisoning. It's good to be adventurous but it's more important to be alive. 

Be careful out there. 

4 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. No 12 is edible. It is abundant in my locality. When it is young,it is perfect for azay.

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