Friday, April 18, 2008

Mushrooms in Africa

The rainy season has begun, and last week I noticed a huge yellow/brown mushroom growing outside our flat at the University of Ghana. A couple of days ago I bought some lovely local mushrooms (see the picture to the right) and cooked them in a simple stew . They were a lovely, meaty texture, hardier than most of the mushrooms we get in State College, Pennsylvania, even portabellas, and with a wonderfully delicate, almost smoky flavor.

I realized that I've no idea what kind of mushrooms grow in the wild here. Or where they grow. A little checking on the internet turned up a document that lists African mushrooms by their scientific names (but with nothing about Ghana or most of western Africa, and also, their technical names didn't help me much). More excitingly, I discovered an announcement about an upcoming conference: the Second African conference on Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms, to be held in Accra November 17-21, 2008. It's being organized jointly by CSIR--Ghana's Food Research Institute, and Accra Polytechnic. Sounds like a wonderful idea, and when I see what papers are being submitted, I'll know who to go to to ask my questions. Anyone who can tell us anything about mushrooms from any part of Africa, we're interested in hearing from you.

An Ethiopian woman once told me that mushrooms are not commonly eaten in her part of the country, where they are known as "the hyena's umbrella."