07-04-2021 by Leni Frau
Come the rains, Kenya is showcasing a new culinary asset: mushrooms.
Global climate change, which partly affects Kenya, has both positive and negative effects on the fertile land on the African equator.
One of these, given the increasingly close temporal and climatic link between the big rains between May and July and the small rains of October and November, is the presence of edible mushrooms on Kenyan soil.
So the local population, as well as foreigners who are already familiar with the pleasures of the palate, are also beginning to cultivate a passion for mushrooms, even if there is not yet a culture for recognising the good ones from the poisonous ones, with institutions gearing up to launch an information campaign and avoid unpleasant episodes caused by a lack of knowledge of this natural resource.
In the meantime, packages of mushrooms, chanterelles and mushroom-like mushrooms are appearing in national supermarkets.
For some, the origin is indicated (from Eldoret, above all, but also from the forests around Nairobi), others come from African countries not far away (the delicious Rwandan "Portobella", with tasty capsules that can also be grilled), but often some bear no indication at all and most probably have not undergone any special checks by the health office.
This year the rains have not really stopped, although since February we have seen a rise in temperatures which has accompanied two months of drought. However, the forests and vegetation have benefited from the humidity and the mushroom trade has increased.
Even in Kenya, there are good, edible mushrooms, some of which are rare and precious.
They may not be as prized and fragrant as porcini, but they have the pleasant texture and good taste similar to some of the varieties we can find in our country.
Chanterelles, chanterelles, prickly pears and champignons are abundant in Kenya's forests and can be found, for example, in the Taita Hills or the Arabuko Sokoke Forest near Watamu.
In the boutique at the entrance to the forest, you can sometimes find mushroom-like mushrooms that don't really taste like much, but are not to be ignored for a risotto.
From Naivasha, on the other hand, come good champignons, which are excellent sautéed, fried or fried.
But the most prized and unusual one comes from the Rift Valley, in the Luhya lands.
It is the obukufuma, a mushroom that the local people have always picked and cooked, after drying and smoking it, and which the international Slow Food Foundation wants to protect, along with other rare resources of this wonderful land.
Dried, it vaguely resembles a cep, with a greyish crown and white stalk, which can reach up to 40 centimetres in height (the cap is up to 30 centimetres in diameter). Luhya people usually smoke it because it can last up to six months, and use it to flavour soups or mix it with maize or beans.
Obukufuma is harvested during the morning hours in the Epanga Valley and generally in the forests of Vihiga County in northwestern Kenya.
Obukufuma also has an important meaning for the local community.
Those who find mushrooms are considered virtuous and lucky, while those who dream of them but do not find them may have problems in their families.
Obukufuma mushrooms grow naturally on fertile soils and are harvested both for sale and for home consumption, but they are becoming increasingly rare due to civilisation and fertilisers used close to the forests.
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