In June and July, during harvesting times, going out in search of mushrooms is a great event for our community. If you go to our mountains on those days, you will see many entire families out together searching for mushrooms. I remember, since I was very little, going out to the mountains with my maternal grandfather and grandmother and my seven siblings to pick mushrooms. We'd take something to eat and stay out all day. We would leave at six in the morning, and not return to the house until about four in the afternoon. I have very nice memories of this activity, which is very traditional in our region of Oaxaca Mexico.
I’m going to share with you the four types of mushrooms that exist here in Suchilquitongo. The first are called air mushrooms. These are round, fluffy mushrooms (as if they’re filled with cotton). They’re born mainly in the month of June with the first rains. The sign for air mushrooms is when it storms, these mushrooms are born when enough air comes with the rain. If it storms all night, with water and wind, the next morning you can go looking for them and you will find them. They’re called air mushrooms because these mushrooms don’t grow without enough wind. These mushrooms have a very rich taste. We eat them in green mole, which is made from maize dough, epazote, and tomato. We also eat them fried with onion and chili.
There’s another type of mushroom we call little hat or little bird. These are small brown mushrooms that are high in protein. Eating them is like eating beef. They’re born in the middle of June after a whole month of heavy rains. If it’s a year of very distant rains (for example it rains today and then a few days pass and it rains again, or it rains only once a week), then these mushrooms will not grow because when they do they’re burnt by the sun. It has to rain every day in a row for a full month for these mushrooms to grow.
Closer to the hills, in the cloud forest where there are pines and oaks, another fungus is born that we call red fungus or oak fungus. They’re orange in color and quite large. The cup of this mushroom has a diameter of about 15 centimeters and its stem is about 3 centimeters in diameter. They are born in the roots of the oaks and pines during the middle of June when there’s a lot of rain. They’re not well known here in Suchil, but those of us who do know them eat them often.
The zeta fungus also grows in Suchil. There’s a type of tree here that we call cazahuate (which means hunt). Zeta mushrooms are born in the wild when this tree rots, or can be cultivated when you cut off a branch and let that wood rot. In our community, Nancy (an engineer and participant in one of the innovation workshops) has a farm in which she produces and sells zeta mushrooms. This fungus can be eaten in a variety of foods, such as egg sauce, pork rind sauce, and rib sauce. You can also make them in green mole or yellow mole. Roasted and fried zetas are also very tasty. The zeta mushroom is very popular because it aids the digestive system, especially people who have problems with gas, constipation, colitis, or gastritis. In addition, it’s fat-free and high in protein.
If one day you visit Oaxaca, or my town, and it’s mushroom season, I recommend you go out to look for mushrooms with your friends. It’s a very fun activity. I also invite you to visit my community, to try the mushrooms that we have here and share one of our meals.