Lhüvevolü Explores Unique Shiitake Mushroom Cultivation In Nagaland
Image Credit: Shiitake Mushroom Farming | Image Credit: YouTube, Noal Farm

Known for their robust flavour, deep-rooted history, and potential health benefits, shiitake mushrooms have attained global recognition. They are not only recommended by health experts for their vitamin B5 and dietary copper content, but chefs also praise them for their savoury and meaty taste. These mushrooms can be used in a variety of foods like soups, risottos, broths, and seasonings, enhancing their flavour. Now, a 37-year-old mass communication graduate, Lhüvevolü A. Rhakho, from Nagaland’s Phek district, is exploring the cultivation of shiitake mushrooms. 

In 2019, Lhüvevolü A. Rhakho started experimenting with different recipes to get her family to eat healthier. She came across a few recipes that suggested the use of mushrooms. Although she was experimenting with mushrooms to pass the time, she met and interacted with the famed Dr. Sosang Longkumer of Konger Agritech, who finally gave her the push to explore mushroom farming in detail. 

Dr. Sosang Longkumer is regarded as the father of introducing shiitake mushrooms in Nagaland in 2018. This step aided the emergence of ‘mushroom-preneurs’ in the Northeastern state. Shiitake mushrooms mainly thrive in East Asia. By teaching the farmers how to grow them, he seeded hope for the cultivation of the ongoing availability of mushrooms. 

The versatility of growing methods has contributed to their widespread availability and increased consumption. Lhüvevolü opted for shiitake because it was simpler and easier to produce than other mushrooms. Besides, the taste of the mushrooms grown here was much better than those grown elsewhere. This is the reason why the shiitake revolution in Nagaland took off faster than anyone could have ever imagined. 

Although they have historically been produced on sawdust logs in other regions of the world, Nagaland significantly uses different techniques. According to an article published by The Better India, Lhüvevolü uses oak logs, which contribute to superior flavour and more medicinal value. 

Lhüvevolü’s initiative, ‘Native Organics, motivates the farmers to cultivate these mushrooms by giving them oak saplings. ‘Native Organics’ has helped smallholder farmers by establishing market connections. Selling shiitake mushrooms generates income to control her seasonal expenses. The items include smoked shiitake mushroom powders, chutneys, and flakes, as well as other similar items that sell for Rs 500 for a 75 gram jar. 

Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories and fat, making them a great addition to a variety of diets. They are a notable source of B vitamins, including B6 and pantothenic acid, which play crucial roles in energy metabolism and cognitive function. Additionally, shiitake mushrooms are rich in dietary fibre, aiding in digestion and promoting a healthy gut. What sets them apart is their high concentration of compounds like ergosterol, which can convert to vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, thus contributing to bone health and immune system support. 

Shiitake mushrooms are loaded with health benefits, and some of them are: 

  • Aids Heart Health

These mushrooms are virtually free of cholesterol and low in saturated fat, making them a heart-friendly food choice. Additionally, they contain compounds like eritadenine that have been linked to reduced levels of cholesterol in the bloodstream. The presence of dietary fibre in shiitake mushrooms can aid in managing cholesterol levels and promoting a healthy cardiovascular system. The presence of sterols helps block cholesterol absorption from the gut, thus lowering cholesterol levels in the body. 

  • Boost Immune System 

These mushrooms contain a variety of bioactive compounds, notably beta-glucans, which are known to have immunomodulatory effects. Beta-glucans can stimulate certain immune cells, enhancing their ability to defend the body against infections and diseases. Moreover, shiitake mushrooms contain compounds like lentinan, which has been known for its potential to enhance the immune response. The presence of antioxidants, such as selenium and various vitamins, in these mushrooms further contributes to immune support by reducing oxidative stress and inflammation. 

  • Anti-Cancer Properties  

Shiitake mushrooms contain compounds such as lentinan, which is a type of beta-glucan that has demonstrated immune-boosting and tumour-inhibiting effects in various studies. Lentinan is believed to enhance the activity of certain immune cells, potentially aiding the body in recognising and targeting cancer cells. Moreover, shiitake mushrooms contain other bioactive substances like eritadenine and various antioxidants, which collectively contribute to their potential cancer-fighting abilities. 

  • Strengthen Bones

Rich in minerals like copper, zinc, and manganese, these mushrooms play a role in the formation of bone tissue and maintaining bone density. However, what sets shiitake mushrooms apart is their ability to naturally produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight due to their ergosterol content. Vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption, a mineral crucial for building and maintaining strong bones.