There are a variety of tasty mushrooms that can be purchased at any local grocery store. Over the course of human history mankind has learned to cultivate various forms of edible mushrooms for consumption. However, there are some mushroom species that people love to eat, but have never been cultivated by humans. One such type of edible mushroom is known as “termitomyces”. As you can guess from the name, these mushrooms are associated with termites. These mushrooms are not cultivated by termites, but they grow on forested land that is considered sacred due to the many termite mounds that can be found in the forested region. This makes termitomyces mushrooms an expensive delicacy in the area of western India where they are grown.
Every summer during the monsoon season in the state of Goa located in India heavy rains cause termitomyces mushrooms to grow in certain areas near the western coast. These mushrooms are highly sought after for their taste and also for their rarity, as termitomyces mushrooms can only be collected and sold to consumers for a few weeks out of the year in July and August. The act of collecting these mushrooms for profit may seem innocent enough. However, the problem lies in where exactly the termitomyces mushrooms are grown. As it happens termitomyces mushrooms only grow on areas of forested land that are rich in termite mounds, or termite “hills”. The twenty eight different species of termitomyces mushrooms discovered so far can only grow on termite mound-soil. These termite hills are considered sacred in Indian folklore.
In India termite hills are believed by some to contain the spirit of the venerated goddess known as Santeri. Termite hills are considered sacred for many reasons in Indian folklore. Due to these beliefs, which date back to the neolithic period, the termite hills of Goa have traditionally gone undisturbed. Now, due to the high demand for termitomyces mushrooms, villagers in Goa are picking the mushrooms and selling them at high prices on the street. This recent trend is not only considered sacrilegious by some, but the constant picking of mushrooms is resulting in damage to the ecosystem containing the termite hills. In response to this ecological knowledge, the state government in Goa has forbade people from setting foot on the termite hills, but this has not stopped many termitomyces mushroom profiteers from removing the mushrooms anyway..
If you were visiting the state of Goa in India, would you be willing to purchase termitomyces mushrooms despite the legality surrounding the mushrooms removal from sacred termite hills?
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