Thursday 29 September 2011

Thousand Dollar Fungus: The Guchchi

While searching for information on different types of edible mushrooms, I have accidentally come across the strange name “Guchchi” a very demanding produce of the nature in national and international market according to Times of India.
 It is learnt that it is the fruiting body of fungus under genus Morcella known as gastronomer’s delight.
 Himachal Pradesh and adjoining states of India is fortunate to have one of the richest natural resource of Guchchi, the saprophytic fungus of smokey odor in taste.

Distribution of Guchchi:

Guchchi is found in Narkand village of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand, India according to Times of India. Recently, I have come to know that in Pakistan also it exists and found in Swat and Kaghan regions according to Herbs- Treat and Taste blog.

Brief botanical description of Guchchi:-

Guchchi belongs to Morcella genus of fungus; it is also called ‘Sponge Mushroom’ because of its ridged reticulate fruiting body cone which looks like a mushroom with a sponge cap.
 It grows in High Mountain at 9000ft. According of Times of India, Guchchi grows on stumps, logs of decaying wood, decaying leaves or humus soil in a cluster form.
 The fungus is black in low height and turns brown and then brackish or off white at greater heights.Guchchi grows after good snowfall leading good moisture in soil and atmosphere that enhance growth of Guchchi.
 It is normally found at height 5000ft to 10000ft especially when snow melts and dies during onset of monsoon. According to botanist, fungus also grows in ground as well as trees where the mighty Deodar and Kail forest flourish.

Harvesting of collection time of Guchchi:

Collection time is March to May. However, after harvest, fungus is strung together in small garlands about a foot and hung over hearth where they dry up in a week because of smoke and heat. It is also known to be highly nutritious and delicious.
 News reports indicate that the landless person of Himachal Pradesh collects the wild Guchchi and cure it for sale in the market. During season, people of the state earn up to rupees 50,000 in two or three months.

 Market demands

Guchchi commands a very high price in national and international market. As it is considered as gastronomer’s delight and it has great demands in five star hotels of the country and elsewhere.
 In  India, it sells for about rupees 15000 per kilogram and in US and Europe; it sells for 500 US Dollars per kilogram according to Times of India.

Bottle necks

It is said that it is not possible to have commercial farming like button mushroom because most research has not been done.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

My real experience of Ecological damage

Our honored organization like IPCC (Inter Governmental Panel for Climate Change) is the authority to speak about climate change, ecological damage and its affects on our planet earth.
  However, I am here to give small presentation though not scientific paper but my real life experience which given me some insights in ecological imbalance and I hope this is one such part that converge upon with increasing phenomenon in this direction.
    I was born in one small village called Mirza under south District of Tripura, India and my village was completely depending on Agriculture for livelihood of people of the village.
    Agriculture, as I could remember being rooted to the agriculture farming was subsistence type. Nevertheless, I understand the yield level as compare to these days were much higher.
   Agriculture was completely dependent upon the monsoonal rainfall but best utilizer of monsoonal rainfall could reap good harvest sufficient to maintain year long requirement of food staff.
    At that time, one important aspect was that live stock that is cattle rearing was common by every family and thereby people could utilize drought animal for ploughing and milch cow feeds daily requirement of milk.
    Since, livestock rearing was common by every farming and non-farming families, cattle manures was easily available for use / application in the field. Even, cattle rearing were easy because there was abundant Pasteur land for grazing the cattle.
    Another aspect, I remember was although, agriculture farming was dependent on rainfall but there were paddy lands that were water logged perennially supporting small aquatic fauna in the shallow water, the drainage channel was never dry but always with flowing water supporting different species of fishes or other Arthropods to exists.
    However, as I grow from small child to teen to adult, agriculture production started declining that I could not understand at that time but now I could correlate the sequence of change that took place at the time.
    The change I could correlate are declining production of agriculture out put, decline in number of cattle population, cattle manure become scarce to apply in the farm field, rainfall pattern change and finally department of agriculture’s intervention.
   The decline in production level was attributed to decrease of soil fertility due to continuous cropping, rainfall pattern change and lack of manures and application of chemical fertilizers.
    Now, the department had been able to provide soil nutrient supplement, supply in the form of chemical fertilizer but application of manures could not be restored because cattle population had already dwindled.
    The affect of live stock population in the area was radically changed due external demands that posed on the area. Now, the farmers had no option but to rely on chemical fertilizers for improving the soil fertility and agriculture productivity.
    It had some how managed to give some output but after some time production again plummeted to the lowest level. In the meantime, insect pests menace had become a cause of concern again, farmers had to resort in using chemical pesticides.
      Now the net result is; agriculture out put remain in the lowest level but other ecological damage that brought with the sudden and un-scientific switch over of modern agriculture.
   The whole rice ecosystem got damaged, different species of small fishes that were the part of the Rice ecosystem started disappearing, different species of snails and mollusks and crabs that were used for table purpose also started slowly to their destination for extinction.
   In addition, different species of arthropods and frog have disappeared. Now-a-days, no birds could be seen in the paddy field preying small insects.
     That is the sort of ecological damage men could bring in his / her pursuit to betterment but disturbing the surrounding environment.
   I can assure that no body area for reporting any such presence of different specifies of fishes and arthropods of rice ecosystem because that had already extinct from the area.
    Now, no rice ecosystem could be seen as there is no waterlogged place to be termed as Rice ecosystem where different flora and fauna can thrive.
    Now the whole area or region, climatic change has brought may crop field barren due to erratic rainfall. In my own experience, while we were in the farming profession, we once faced drought like situation but now it is common because our upland paddy field has become fallow for long period due to want of rain.
   This is my real experience the climate change and ecological damage has challenged us.

Monday 26 September 2011

Saffron: The Empress of all spices

India the land of all Spices has always been the centre of attraction by outsiders since time immemorial for her bountiful natural resources with much exclusiveness.
 There was a time, a spice that had created much attention to the people of other countries and that is none other than the BLACK PEPPER; the KING of all spices.
 History witnessed that having a grain of BLACK PEPPER was considered to be the most fortunate one but with the passage of time, this has slowly transformed to public domain and now it is available to all.  
But, now in the 21st Century also some spices has still made its formidable position to be considered as most exclusive products.  And, it is SAFFRON that has made itself in the lists of exclusive category.
 If, black pepper is known as KING of all spices then SAFFRON should be considered as EMPRESS of all SPICES because it is the spice that has demanded highest market prices of all time.
It reminds me the present trends of the some exclusive products, in the World, some objects, objectives and practices are considered to be exclusive and being exclusive, demands exorbitant attention from all.
Of course, some say, it is brand exclusiveness, some same say, its brand’s monopoly, what ever may be the reason, exclusiveness drives more attention and finally, you know!
May point of discussion is the exclusiveness of Saffron; the spice of dessert snack as I understand fetches highest price in India and World market.
 The exorbitant price has made it difficult for a common man to ever taste Saffron to their taste bud. I had a chance to taste few pieces of Saffron but what type of taste or flavor it emits did not give with those quantities of Saffron I tasted.
 What it signifies is the skyrocketing price it fetches in national and international market.
Now, precisely what is that saffron, saffron is spice derived from the flower of the Saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) and it produced in India, Greece, Iran, Spain and Japan.
 Saffron crop is grown in the soil with good organic matter content in the spring season. This crop requires good and well distributed rainfall for optimum yield.
   Unit yield is reported to be very low, agriculture Journal indicates that stigma of the flower is harvested and dried for final product and to produce a gram of Saffron requires more than 150 stigmas of the flowers. And, it could be the reason the spice fetches skyrocketing price.
     This spice although fetches skyrocketing price but it has not been tried to popularize in large scale cultivation in India and else where.
    In India, it is grown in Kashmir in small scale area and it has not been fully explored till date. In Jammu and Kashmir, recent media reports indicate that the Government is taking keen interest in popularizing the Saffron.
     My point of view is; price factor is due to small scale production and exclusivity which is skyrocketing the saffron price in national and International market. 
    As it is known facts that it can be grown in drier part like Iran to colder region of Kashmir so the crop can be tried in several regions of the country.
    The Government should take pro-active steps to popularize the Saffron cultivation so that farmers see the diversification of their farm activities and so are economic up-liftmen.
    Let the people relish the taste and enjoy the mouth watering aroma.