Mushrooms: The food of the gods during Shravan

Miguel Braganza

In Goa and the rest of the Konkan region, the local mushrooms, Termitomyces sp, are found in association with abandoned termitoria or anthills that are worshipped as the representation of the Earth Goddess, Sateri. The name of the goddess itself is derived from the Konkani word “Sater” or ‘Roinn” meaning termitarium. Mushrooms have been called the food of the gods even by the Greeks. The medicinal and nutritional values of mushrooms are a legend. Some even have hallucinating properties, while others glow in the night. Research has been on for four decades to try and cultivate the Termitomyces mushrooms. Fortunately for us, many other mushroom species can be cultivated.

The Dhingri or Oyster mushroom, Pleurotus sajor caju, is the easiest to cultivate under ambient conditions in Goa, especially during the monsoon period. When the temperature rises above 35 degrees Celsius, it is better to grow the Milky White mushroom, Calocybe indica, that is cultivated by Commodore Anant Naryanan in Vasco but not yet commercialised.  The European or Button mushrooms, Agaricus bisporus, is cultivated commercially in Bhuipal-Canacona by Sangam Anand Kurade and available in the market under the brand name of Zuari Mushrooms. Paddy Straw mushroom has also been grown in Goa but it is not found economical.

Oyster mushrooms are 100 per cent vegetarian. They are rich in vitamins C and B complex. The niacin content is about ten times higher than any other vegetables. This is a critical food for vegans, who often suffer from vitamin B deficiency. Protein content varies between 1.6 to 2.5 per cent and they are practically free from carbohydrates. They have most of the mineral salts required by the human body such as potassium, sodium, phosphorus, iron and calcium.

The process of growing mushrooms is also quite uncomplicated. Mushroom spawn is easily available at the Mushroom Laboratory [contact number (0832) 2285325] of the Goa Directorate of Agriculture at Ela Farm, Old Goa. Prathama Rane is a very helpful person and will guide even a newcomer on how to grow mushrooms.

The iron content in these mushrooms is higher than the iron present in meat. The potassium in oyster mushrooms is high enough to act as a preventive for heart disease and hypertension. Oyster mushrooms are also suitable for the diet of people with obesity, diabetes because of their low carbohydrate content. Persons suffering from high blood pressure can consume oyster mushrooms because they are low in sodium, too. These mushrooms can be grown round the year in Goa and are ready from start to harvest in 25 to 35 days, taking a little longer during the warmer months. [NT]