Delicious mushrooms, which are extremely nutritious too, have earned a special place in the Malayali platter. The continental cuisine boasts of rich and varied dishes in which mushrooms are the primary ingredient. In Kerala, mushrooms are mostly produced on commercial basis in farms. However, many varieties of mushrooms are naturally grown in the woods. They grow in abundance on tree barks, roots and on the surfaces of huge rocks as well. The naturally grown mushrooms were obviously the most favourite food of the early man.
The mushrooms are known as kumil, kooke, aabe, kuka, alumbu and kummayam in the local dialects in many forest regions. Many communities living in the forests consume around 16 different varieties of mushrooms that are grown there. However, they are careful not to eat every variety of mushroom or fungus that is seen around the woods. The tribal people can easily recognize the mushrooms that are fit for consumption and the ones that shouldn't be eaten. Perumatty kumil, pittam kumil, kangankali kumil, thatu kumil, puttukuminu, muthukuminu, tharikuminu, pillukumman, chankkakumman, perikalikumman, maradambe, kattayambe, keekkanambe, pandarakuka, arikuka and chundimukkuka are some of the tasty mushroom varieties that are consumed by the tribal communities.
The pani community mostly collects bigger mushrooms like kariyilakoon or kuttikandam and kakkanakali. The mushrooms which grow after the bamboo woods are destroyed are called the ‘mulankoonu’. Koovakoon sprouts out when a patch of the trees, in a forest area, are cleared. The mushrooms that grow on tree stumps are called thuttikoon. Some mushrooms are named after the trees on which they grow. They are also called kathukumman. Karadikumman has a bitter flavour. Pullukumman is grown along with the grass. Chakkakumman is widely grown during the months of April and May, when the jackfruits are in season. Mushrooms that grow along the sides of termite mounds are called arikumman. Chavalakumman grows on decayed leaves.
Here is a unique recipe of a tribal dish made with mushrooms: