Translated from Kokborok by Manisha Debbarma
Northeast India is a treasure trove of flora and fauna. There are 19 tribes in Tripura, most of which live in or near forest areas and depend on the forest for their food and livelihood. Many tribals collect forest produce and sell them in local markets. Among this produce is mushroom.
There are a variety of mushrooms available in Tripura, but one of the most common ones is straw mushroom. In most of the regions, mushrooms grow during the monsoon season, but straw mushroom (Volvariella volvacea) can be cultivated at any time, and doesn’t need a particular season to grow. They mostly grow in subtropical climates with high rainfall. Cultivating and selling straw mushrooms is a viable source of income for tribals in Tripura.
A lot of small mushroom farms can be seen in the tribal villages of Tripura. To practice this type of cultivation, paddy straws are cut into pieces and dried in the sun. They are then burned and soaked in a water tank for 24 hours. This water also contains lime and bleaching powder, which keeps the water clean, the mushrooms fresh, and kills bacteria. Bleaching powder also rots the straws, and only if the straws are rotten will the mushrooms bloom properly.
After this time period, the straws and mushroom seeds are mixed and packed or wrapped in paper. Once packed, they are suspended from the ceiling for a period of 15 days, and they sprayed on a daily basis. In winters, spraying isn’t needed as much, only 2-3 times a day, but during summers, they are sprayed with water up to six times a day.
After 30-35 days of cultivation, the mushroom is ready to be harvested. Packed straws can be kept for upto 80 days. Every year, tribals in Tripura keep the straw after harvesting rice to use it for this purpose.
This is how the tribals in Tripura practice mushroom cultivation and provide it to nearby tribal villages and support their families in turn. Although straw mushrooms are cultivated and sold in local markets, I think the mushrooms that bloom in the soil and on trees are much tastier! You must try these mushrooms when you visit Tripura, we cook them in delicious ways!
Note: This article has been written as a part of the Adivasi Awaaz project, with the support of Misereor and Prayog Samaj Sevi Sanstha.