Wild fungi spark new culinary trend in Chinese cuisine

(Xinhua) 09:46, July 13, 2023

KUNMING, July 12 (Xinhua) -- Through the lyrics and melody of a popular song about wild fungi from years past, a cautionary tale unfolds -- "eating red caps, then white stems, and the fate's dirge begins to flow; a dance with danger, a tongue tip adventure, consequences in tow."

The song depicts the perils of indulging in poisonous wild mushrooms in southwest China's Yunnan Province, often dubbed the "kingdom of wild fungi." Such danger becomes especially prevalent when wild fungi hit the market each year, as numerous diners come to Yunnan to savor the mushrooms or purchase them online for their culinary endeavors.

In previous years, there have been incidents where individuals have been hospitalized after consuming poisonous wild mushrooms. Relevant authorities have issued warnings and even provided guidelines indicating the risks associated with toxic wild fungi.

"Taking suillellus luridus, commonly known as the lurid bolete, as an example. It is a conditionally edible wild fungi, and consuming this mushroom uncooked or not fully cooked can cause hallucination or gastrointestinal reaction," said Sun Dafeng, director of Kunming institute of edible fungi, All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives.

Despite these concerns, the increasing dissemination of scientific knowledge and the fresh flavor of Yunnan wild fungi have turned it into a new culinary trend, leading to a rise in its market value.

According to the provincial upgrading and development office of the edible fungi industry, wild edible fungi production soared in 2021, reaching 280,400 tonnes, contributing to an output value of over 21 billion yuan (about 2.9 billion U.S. dollars). Yunnan saw further growth the following year, producing 316,100 tonnes of wild edible fungi, which amounted to an output value of more than 25 billion yuan.

"Yunnan has gained a well-deserved reputation as the 'kingdom of wild fungi,'" Sun said, adding that with over 2,500 known edible fungi species worldwide, China boasts approximately 1,000 species and Yunnan is home to around 900 of them.

Wild mushrooms also play a crucial role in Yunnan's economy. The Yunnan Mushuihua wild mushroom trading center, a specialized market for trading these valuable resources, experiences a daily influx of 20,000 people and facilitates a trading volume of approximately 200 tonnes, according to Zhai Zhanshi, the head of the marketing department at the center.

Various social media platforms have boosted the popularity of wild mushrooms in Yunnan, while continuous improvements in the logistics system have ensured timely delivery and freshness during transportation.

The city of Shangri-La, in the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, stands out as the primary region for matsutake mushroom production, accounting for over 65 percent of the province's total matsutake mushroom output. The Shangri-La matsutake mushroom trading market, the only wild mushroom trading market in China named after matsutake mushrooms, achieves an annual trading volume of over 2,000 tonnes of this mushroom variety.

In the past, matsutake mushrooms from Shangri-La were primarily exported. However, there has been a notable increase in Chinese consumption in recent years.

To ensure the freshness of matsutake mushrooms, the prefecture has collaborated with the Chinese delivery giant SF Express since 2021, introducing a dedicated cargo plane exclusively for transporting matsutake mushrooms, said Li Qingpei, deputy governor of the prefecture, adding that the arrangement allows for swift airlifting of the mushrooms to over 60 cities across China within 24 hours, and to more than 200 cities within 48 hours.

"The promising development of the mushroom industry also stems from and contributes to the improving natural environment," Sun said. "The people of Yunnan appreciate that wild mushrooms are precious gifts from nature. They approach the picking process with a conscious effort to protect the ecology for sustainable development."

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Liang Jun)


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