Rugra on a rain high - Mushroom demand shoots up in holy month of Shravan
|Mushrooms on sale at Kutchery Chowk in Ranchi. Picture by Hardeep Singh|
Packed with goodness, the once humble rugra — a variety of button mushrooms — is now much sought after by homemakers and chefs alike as a healthy alternative to animal protein.
And the fact that there has been a bumper harvest this year has only increased its popularity and people are willing to pay the price.
A kilo of the produce is selling for Rs 180 to Rs 200 in the cities.
According to scientists at the ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region in Ranchi’s Palandu, local vendors are selling upto 10 quintals of rugra per day in the state, compared to a measly 3-4 quintals last year.
Last year, prices were higher too following poor production, and the mushrooms sold for Rs 200 to Rs 250 per kg. The edible fungus grows extensively in the forests of Bundu, Chaibasa (Bandgaon) and Lohardaga, near sal and teak trees from where they are dug out by tribals after thunderstorms.
Scientists attributed the bumper harvest to the rainfall pattern.
“This year due to intermittent rainfall, production was high and locals got plenty of opportunity to dig for rugra. Last year, heavy rainfall did not allow the mushrooms to grow and they remained embedded deep in the soil,” said Jai Prakash Sharma, principal scientist at ICAR.
He added that last year, the mushrooms were available in the local market for a month. But this year, vendors are expected to do brisk business right up to September.
“It is popular because it tastes like meat and is also highly nutritious. They are rich in vitamins and minerals,” he said.
Kutchery Market is where most Ranchi residents land up to buy rugra.
“Due to its high nutritive value, we eat it frequently. It’s costlier than chicken, which costs Rs 100 per kg. Now, chicken is also cheaper because many abstain from eating non-vegetarian food in the month of Shravan,” said government employee Mahesh Kumar, a regular rugra buyer.
Rugra seller Saraswati Devi, who earns Rs 3,000-Rs 4,000 per day just selling the mushrooms, was happy.
“We bring it from Bundu where it grows in plenty near sal trees. It takes hours to dig the soil to get this. This rainy season we are selling almost 10kg per day as compared to last year,” she said.