Himachal Pradesh treasures many precious natural and wild things including black pepper, Shilajeet, walnuts, tea etc., some of which are as expensive as gold. Found in the deodar woods at an altitude above 7000 feet mainly in Chamba, Shimla, Mandi and Kullu districts, the Gucchi also known as Morel Mushroom is one such ingredient which costs more than Rs 10,000 for a kilogram. Scientifically known as Morchella Esculenta, these mushrooms are always in great demand despite their luxury pricing. Gucchi mushrooms grow wild only in some mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh after the snowfall period.
The collection of these expensive mushrooms, which requires patience and consistent labour, starts in the Spring season till May. The locals in these regions spend their whole day wandering through risky areas and sometimes digging through thick layers of snow to find these wild mushrooms. Gucchi usually grows on the logs of rotten wood or decaying leaves and even in humus soil. Interestingly, it hardly grows in the same spot the next season and may show up anywhere. Even with keen observation and sharp sight, the villagers often miss them, which makes it a stressful process to find them.
There are some stories attached to Gucchi mushrooms, like for instance, it is believed that the growth of mushrooms multiply in the thundering and lighting prone areas and also that they grow best in the areas that have undergone a forest fire. But the mysterious growth of guchchi mushrooms remains as ambiguous as the search for it.
Medical properties in Gucchi
Rich in Vitamin B complex, vitamin D and essential amino acids, the Guchhis have an uncommon cis-3-amino-l-proline in them. They contain polysaccharides which have several medical properties including antiviral, immunoregulatory, anti-tumour growth effects and resistance to fatigue. Having antioxidant effects, these mushrooms help prevent heart disease and colorectal cancer. They are also rich in minerals including potassium, zinc and iron and are also an abundant source of selenium which prevents free radical formations. These wild mushrooms also have the potential of reducing the risk of breast and prostate cancer.
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