Monsoon Special Olmi Mushroom: What You Need To Know
Image Credit: Arti Das/Mongabay

When the monsoon showers pick up the pace along the Konkan coast, the months of July and August bring about excitement for Goan locals, thanks to the beginning of the harvest season for wild mushrooms. Known as olmi or alami in Konkani, these mushrooms are one among the many local species found being sold, along with other varieties like toshali, chochyali, shiti, shringar and shendari – to name a few. Legend has it that the olmi mushrooms, found growing on termite hills from Goan forests, are part of a sacred ritual where the snake god must be appeased before harvesting them.

As termite mounds are considered to be sacred, these mushrooms aren’t harvested until the male termite is given a free run of the sacred groves. Since these mushrooms need specific natural conditions to grow, they cannot be cultivated like other species. Although the harvesting of these wild mushrooms are prohibited by law in the state, since the variety is an integral part of the Goans’ monsoon diet, restrictions have since been eased and regulated.

Image Credits: Rajan Parrikar

Olmi mushrooms feature in classic Goan delicacies like the xacuti, tonak and chilli fry and best enjoyed with the local bread known as poee. The harvesting of these mushrooms mainly happen around the western ghats of Goa – in places like Canacona, Sattari and Valpoi. The names of these mushroom varieties are derived basis of their habitat, shape and colour and these olmi mushrooms are often seen being sold wrapped in teak leaves.

Also Read:

Mushroom Foraging: A Hobby With Health Benefits

The tradition of consuming these mushrooms came about in the monsoon due to the scarcity of fish and the need to include a source of protein in diets. Other preparations with these olmi mushrooms include a shallow-fried snack, a comforting soup and a dry sabzi preparation. That said, this mushroom species faces a threat of regrowth due to over-harvesting and pose a threat to the destruction of forest cover, due to there being a lack of decomposing agents present in these mushrooms.

On exploring this further, there is concluding evidence that the symbiotic relationship between the forests and these mushrooms exist due to the termites eating these mushrooms in order to get nutrients like nitrogen and enzymes. Since each of these termite hills are responsible for recycling an average of 500 kilos of organic matter, the soil lush with minerals is hence returned to the forest. Given that the approximate number of termite hills is 800 per hectare of forest area, we stand to lose out on one of the most interesting natural phenomenon of all time.