With the rain plentiful these days and the season having begun for the most sough-after Sisi Shamu (Chanterelles) and other edible mushrooms, many mushroom collectors can be seen these days foraging the forest of Thimphu and Paro areas.
Farmers, housewives and office goers comprise the group of collectors that forage the forest floor. They say Chanterelles fetch good price in the market. As such, the yellow mushroom, which is also considered a local delicacy, can be seen be at the markets and being sold on roadsides these days.
About 250 grams of Sisi Shamu cost Nu 300-350. The price goes up to Nu 1,200-1,400 per kilogram. However, the prices are cheaper in Paro and on the roadsides as 250 grams of the mushroom cost Nu 200-250.
A mushroom vendor at the Centenary Farmers’ Market (CFM), Tshomo, who buys mushrooms from local people from Thimphu and Paro, says it’s a lucrative business.
“Customers rush for the Sisi Shamu,” she added.
Meanwhile, the popularity of the Chanterelles could one day lead to the extinction of the fungi.
According to experts, the unsustainable harvesting practices of Sisi Shamu could one day lead to its extinction.
National Mushroom Centre’s senior mushroom officer Norbu said there are chances of Sise Shamu getting extinct given the rush among people.
“Unlike Shitake mushroom, Sisi Shamu cannot be grown in farms. There are more mushroom collectors and there is a big chance of extinction if we don’t practice sustainable harvesting,” he said.
Norbu said their research to grow Sisi Shamu in farms failed, while it is done in a few European countries.
“While mushroom collectors are being trained on sustainable harvesting, given the number of people collecting, it will be an uphill task for the centre to manage. We even educate farmers how to go about with sustainable harvesting,” he said.
Norbu says that even expatriate laborers are collecting the mushroom given its demand.
“We even kept a time for the farmers to collect the mushroom during the season and further we have a plan to discuss with the Department of Forest on how to go about with sustainable harvesting of the mushroom,” he said.
According to the Mushroom Centre, the amount of Sisi Shamu and other edible mushrooms are already on the decline. Compared to last year, this year is expected to be better due to an abundant rain, but the trend of mushroom growing is decreasing every year.
Even according to collectors, the mushroom doesn’t grow like in the past and it’s hard to even get a kilogram of mushroom in a day.
Yoezer from Gidakom, who has been depending on mushrooms for extra cash income and sells vegetable on roadside, said collection is becoming more difficult every year. “The quantity I collect is decreasing every year,” he said.
Ap Drupchu, a 73-year-old from Babesa, said Sisi Shamu was collected only for self consumption in the past. “Because of the price it fetches, more people are collecting it these days,” he said.
Ap Drupchu could collect enough for a meal in an hour a decade ago. “Now you can’t get the same amount in a day,” he said. “The mushroom is disappearing.”
According to the Mushroom Centre, the Chanterelles are relatively high in vitamin C, potassium and are among the richest sources of vitamin D. Scientific research has suggested that the golden Chanterelles may have potent insecticidal properties that are harmless to humans and yet protect the mushroom body against insects and other potentially harmful organisms.
Kinley Yonten from Thimphu