Promote sustainable and free harvesting
5 mins read

Promote sustainable and free harvesting

In the last week of June, three people died and 16 others fell ill after consuming wild mushroom curry in Makwanpur district of Bagmati province. Such incidents are common during the monsoon season as people lack knowledge about wild mushrooms. The security personnel in Makwanpur district have advised against eating wild mushrooms. However, this is not a solution. We need to create more awareness about our edible wild species.

According to available data, wild mushrooms of Nepal belong to 108 families, 357 genera and 1,291 species. Among these, there are 159 edible mushrooms, 74 medicinal mushrooms and 100 poisonous mushrooms.

Nepal’s traditional diet, rich in fresh, local ingredients, promotes health and well-being through nutrient-dense foods such as lentils, vegetables and whole grains, as well as probiotic-rich fermented foods. However, the growing trend towards Western eating habits, often involving processed and packaged foods, raises concerns about losing the benefits of our own nutritious foods. It is crucial to ask whether these new habits are actually improving our health or compromising it by increasing the risk of chronic diseases and environmental impact. Supporting our traditional foods promotes better health, sustainability and cultural heritage.

Foraging, the practice of searching for and collecting wild food resources, is deeply rooted in Nepalese culture. Seasonal foraging yields a wide variety of wild edible plants such as ferns, fiddlehead ferns, wild asparagus, and yarsagumba (a medicinal mushroom). Each season brings a new bounty of fruits and vegetables, mostly organic and naturally provided by Mother Nature. Many believe that eating wild and seasonal foods can greatly improve health, reducing the need for medical visits.

Foraging is practiced all over the world. In the UK, foragers harvest wild garlic and dill, which can evoke nostalgia for similar Nepalese herbs like chyapi. Foraging one’s own food is said to limit one’s carbon footprint and help preserve the natural landscape. If done correctly, it reconnects us to nature while limiting our impact on our natural environment. Humans must actively participate in environmental change, even on this small scale.

Harvesting should be modest, done with consideration for the plants, fungi and the delicate balance of biodiversity in the different habitats. This practice should be carried out by a thoughtful, informed person who knows the area.

Harvesting yarsagumba is not a sustainable practice, and local governments and protected area authorities are asking residents to reduce this unsustainable practice. Sustainable harvesting is essential to ensure that future generations can also benefit from these natural resources. It involves thoughtful harvesting practices that do not deplete the ecosystem, ensuring that plants and fungi can continue to thrive.

In Nepal, the products collected include:

Ferns and fiddleheads: Popular in many Nepalese dishes, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Wild asparagus (Kurilo): Known for its medicinal properties and high nutrient content.

Yarsagumba: A rare and valuable mushroom used in traditional medicine for its supposed health benefits.

Wild berries and fruits:Different types are harvested seasonally, providing essential vitamins and antioxidants.

By emphasizing foraging in our diet, we promote health, preserve biodiversity, and maintain cultural practices. Practicing sustainable foraging ensures that these natural treasures remain available for future generations.

Edible and medicinal plants in Nepal

· Githa (Dioscorea bulbifera): Often harvested during the monsoon season.

· Bhyakur (Dioscorea deltoidea): Generally available during monsoon season.

· Tarul (Dioscorea alata): Harvested in winter, especially around Maghe Sankranti.

· Taro (Colocasia esculenta): Available during monsoon and early fall.

· Chiuri fruit (Diploknema butyracea): Harvested from late summer to early fall.

· Kaphal (Myrica esculenta): Found at mid to high elevations, harvested from late spring to early summer.

· Wild Lemon (Bimiro): Available during monsoon season.

· Wild Strawberries: Found in hilly areas, available from late spring to early summer.

· Amala (Phyllanthus emblica): Available in winter.

· Chutro (Berberis asiatica): Harvested in autumn.

· Siltimur (Zanthoxylum armatum): harvested during the monsoon.

· Timur (Zanthoxylum armatum): Available from late summer to early fall.

· Kurilo (Asparagus racemosus): Found in spring.

· Ban Lasun (Allium wallichii): Available during monsoon season.

· Wild mushrooms: harvested during the monsoon season.

· Ausadi: The mother of fermented ingredients. Ausadi, a blend of wild herbs and roots, plays a crucial role in the fermentation process for making traditional liquors in various communities across Nepal. This tradition is deeply rooted in cultural practices and is passed down from generation to generation. Each region may have its own unique blend of herbs, contributing to the distinct flavors of their homemade liquors. This practice showcases Nepal’s rich biodiversity and knowledge of local flora.

These gathered plants and fruits not only provide food, but also have considerable medicinal and cultural significance. They reflect the deep connection between the Nepalese people and their natural environment, highlighting sustainable living practices that have been maintained for centuries.

The author is a UK-based research and development manager