The prices of a rare and wild Himalayan mushroom that is a much exported delicacy have gone up sharply to as much as Rs.5,000 a kg due to low yield this year.
Locally called ‘guchhi’, this wild mushroom is found in the damp and dark forests of Himachal Pradesh at heights of 1,800 metres to 3,000 metres above sea level.
It cannot be cultivated and has to be spotted in the wild by sharp-eyed specialist highlander guchhi hunters who sell the grey mushroom at high prices in Shimla, Chandigarh and Delhi markets.
“Far less guchhi mushroom has arrived this year in the Shimla market as the season draws to a close, which is why a kilogram is fetching up to Rs.5,000 as compared to around Rs.3,000 last year,” said Nar Singh Dass, a guchhi merchant in Shimla.
“The rates are even higher in markets outside the state. Since we do not find any customers to buy this highly expensive vegetable here, we always send it to Delhi from where much of it is exported to Europe and America while the rest is used by five star hotels,” Dass said.
According to government officials, the production of guchhi mushroom in the state varies between 2,000 kg to around 5,000 kg. But this year, the yield is expected to be one of the lowest.
The much sought after wild mushroom begins to sprout in spring and continues to do so till early summer in the highlands of Shimla, Kullu, Kinnaur, Sirmaur, Chamba and Mandi districts.
Folklore has it that the more the flashes of thunder in spring the more chances of finding this elusive mushroom. Some determined guchhi hunters remain away for weeks to scour the mountains and valleys for guchhi before returning with their collections.
“You have to have an excellent eyesight and a lot of stamina and patience to find guchhi. It is found in wet and shady forest floors and always grows solitary; rarely will you find it in a cluster,” Balak Ram, a guchhi collector, told IANS.
Once dried, the mushroom is ready. This mouth-watering vegetable then becomes a delicacy, some even call it the most expensive food in the country.
Villagers say a cold and snowy winter followed by a wet spring and of course plenty of flashes of thunder means more guchhi will be found.
But this year the winter was warm and dry. While the spring was wet, there wasn’t much thunder and that could have led to one of the lowest yields of this rare Himalayan mushroom, they say. a