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In August 2019 Bhutan Network held four successful mushroom workshops for our Bhutanese partners and all those interested in mushrooms. Initially our Bhutan Network partners KNC and Tang Farmers formally requested us to organize a mushroom workshop in their rural communities. In the end, we felt extremely touched and overwhelmed by the huge interest and number of our Bhutanese “mushroaming” partners and friends. It led to memorable moments and plans for similar future events. New friendships were made and a lively exchange of knowledge took place during often long days of mushroom hunting in the sub-tropical and leech infested broad-leaf forests of Zhemgang and equally in the the sub-alpine forest of Bumthang. The evenings were spent with joint cooking sessions of several mushroom species previously unknown as edible in Bhutan. The participants exchanged recipes and prepared delicious mushroom meals that were eaten together, accompanied by discussions surrounding the identification of different types of mushrooms found by our participants.
This grassroots initiative was made possible only with the generous help of our Bhutan Network supporters and community. The last fund raising doubts were solved when mycologist Daniel Winkler from Mushroaming.com very generously decided to share his invaluable insights pro-bono to our Bhutanese partners, most of whom are local farmers who try to make ends meet by looking into new sustainable ways of marketing local products.
The Netcapped King Bolete
The “greatest hit” clearly was the revelation that the Netcapped King bolete (Boletus reticuloceps), growing rather abundantly in Ura, is considered an excellent edible mushroom, closely related to highly esteemed Porcini or King bolete – Boletus edulis, in Europe and North America!
So far, this delicious mushroom has been considered inedible and even gets kicked over by Bhutanese mushroomers. However, Daniel explained to our OFEP-candidate Ongmo from the Tang Farmers group how to dry and prepare this highly sought after mushroom. In turn, Daniel gained many new insights into local mushroom collection and how various mushrooms are prepared for consumption in different localities. Often times with chili and cheese!
The following aspects were widely discussed during lectures and practical sessions:
– The correct identification of wild edible mushrooms, including widening the knowledge base, i.e. porcini (Boletus reticuloceps) are locally not known as edible though being choice edibles. In addition they are of high value for the international gourmet mushroom market.
– Familiarity with the habitat of specific culinary mushrooms, i.e. tree association of ectomycorrhizal mushrooms such as porcini with spruce.
– Sustainable collection practices, i.e. fungal “infanticide”, leaving over-mature mushrooms undisturbed, avoiding the use of plastic bags.
– Proper collection, e.g. cleaning right when picking, processing of mushrooms right after harvest, selecting for quality classes etc.
– Appropriate packaging and storage (e.g. best materials, how to avoid spoilage and insect infestation)
At the end of every workshop it became clear that mushrooming is a very contagious and enjoyable activity that brings people together! We hope that we were able to inspire some of the young (and old) farmers on how to market local mushrooms.
We also felt extremely honored to have been invited for a lecture and meetings with the principals, teachers and students of Yebilaptsa Central School in Zhemgang, Tang Central School and Ura Central School in Bumthang. The schools offered great venues to inspire young future mushroomers!
Last but not least this would not have been possible with our many supporters in Bhutan including our local representative Karma Lhazom and our local guide Sonam Chophel.