Your search keywords:

Promoting sustainable and free foraging

Promoting sustainable and free foraging

In the last week of June, three people died and 16 others fell ill after consuming wild mushroom curry in Makwanpur district in Bagmati Province. These incidents are common during the monsoon season as people lack knowledge about wild mushrooms. The district security personnel of Makwanpur advised against eating wild mushrooms. However, this is not a solution. We need more awareness about our wild edible species.

According to available data, wild mushrooms in Nepal belong to 108 families, 357 genera, and 1,291 species. Among these, there are 159 edible mushrooms, 74 medicinal mushrooms, and 100 poisonous mushrooms.

Nepal’s traditional diet, rich in fresh, locally sourced ingredients, promotes health and well-being through nutrient-dense foods like lentils, vegetables, and whole grains, along with probiotic-rich fermented items. However, the growing trend of adopting Western dietary habits, often involving processed and packaged foods, raises concerns about losing the benefits of our own nutritious foods. It’s crucial to question if these new habits truly improve our health or if they compromise it by increasing the risk of chronic diseases and environmental impact. Supporting our traditional foods fosters better health, sustainability, and cultural heritage.

Foraging, the practice of searching for and collecting wild food resources, has a deep-rooted culture in Nepal. Seasonal foraging yields a diverse array of wild edibles such as ferns, fiddlehead ferns, wild asparagus, and yarsagumba (a medicinal fungus). Every season brings a new bounty of fruits and vegetables, mostly organic and naturally provided by Mother Nature. Many believe that consuming wild, seasonal foods can greatly enhance health, reducing the need for medical visits.

Foraging is practiced globally, with foragers in the UK harvesting wild garlic and dill, which can evoke nostalgia for similar Nepali herbs like chyapi. It’s said that foraging for your own food limits your carbon footprint and helps to maintain the natural landscape. Done correctly, it reconnects us to nature while limiting our impact on our natural surroundings. Humans need to be an active part of changing the environment—even on this small scale.

Foraging should be modest, carried out with an understanding of the plants, fungi, and the delicate balance of biodiversity within different habitats. This practice needs to be done by someone thoughtful, informed, with knowledge of the local area.

The practice of foraging yarsagumba is not sustainable, and the local governments and protected areas authorities are charging people to reduce this unsustainable way of foraging. Sustainable foraging is crucial to ensure that future generations can also experience and benefit from these natural resources. It involves mindful collection practices that do not deplete the ecosystem, ensuring plants and fungi can continue to thrive.

In Nepal, foraged produce includes:

Ferns and fiddlehead ferns: Popular in many Nepali dishes, rich in vitamins and minerals.

 Wild asparagus (Kurilo): Known for its medicinal properties and high nutrient content.

 Yarsagumba: A rare and valuable fungus used in traditional medicine for its purported health benefits.

Wild berries and fruits: Various types are collected seasonally, providing essential vitamins and antioxidants.

Emphasizing foraging within our diets supports health, maintains biodiversity, and preserves cultural practices. Practicing sustainable foraging ensures these natural treasures remain available for future generations.

Edible and medicinal plants in Nepal

·  Githa (Dioscorea bulbifera): Often foraged during the monsoon season.

·  Bhyakur (Dioscorea deltoidea): Typically available in the monsoon season.

·  Tarul (Dioscorea alata): Harvested in the winter, especially around Maghe Sankranti.

·  Taro (Colocasia esculenta): Available during the monsoon and early autumn.

·  Chiuri Fruit (Diploknema butyracea): Collected in late summer to early autumn.

·  Kaphal (Myrica esculenta): Found in mid to high altitudes, foraged in late spring to early summer.

·  Wild Lemon (Bimiro): Available during the monsoon season.

·  Wild Strawberries: Found in hilly regions, available in late spring to early summer.

·  Amala (Phyllanthus emblica): Available in winter.

·  Chutro (Berberis asiatica): Collected in the autumn.

·  Siltimur (Zanthoxylum armatum): Foraged in the monsoon season.

·  Timur (Zanthoxylum armatum): Available in late summer to early autumn.

·  Kurilo (Asparagus racemosus): Found in spring.

·  Ban Lasun (Allium wallichii): Available in the monsoon season.

·  Wild Mushrooms: Collected during the monsoon season.

·  Ausadi: the mother of fermenting ingredients. Ausadi, a mixture of wild herbs and roots, plays a crucial role in the fermentation process for making traditional liquors across various communities in Nepal. This tradition is deeply rooted in cultural practices and is passed down through generations. Each region might have its own unique blend of herbs, contributing to the distinct flavors of their homemade liquors. This practice showcases the rich biodiversity of Nepal and the knowledge of local flora.

These foraged plants and fruits not only provide food but also have significant medicinal and cultural importance. They reflect the deep connection between the people of Nepal and their natural environment, highlighting sustainable living practices that have been maintained for centuries.

The author is UK-based R&D chef