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Rainy season marks the abundance of natural mushrooms in Laos

The rains bring the season for rural residents to enjoy collecting a variety of forest products to eat or sell along the country’s roadsides, especially fresh mushrooms and bamboo shoots.

Hed puak mushrooms line the stall of a local vendor who’s selling them along a roadside in the south of the country.

Laos is known as a country with over 40 percent of its land covered by forest and the beginning of the rainy season provides a good chance for most rural villagers to take advantage of this as well as to start working in their rice fields anew.
Meanwhile, a wide variety of forest products also apear along with sweet air and water from the rainfalls.
Earlier this month, myself and some other Vientiane Times staff had a chance to travel to the southern region of the country, driving along Road No 13 South, where we saw many local residents along the roadsides happily selling their mushrooms and other forest products to passers-by.
Drivers also stopped their vehicles and enjoyed buying organic, natural products to bring home to cook in their favourite style of local food like dishes from the mushrooms; Hed Puak, Hed Phor and Hed Langok, as it’s the only time of the year that these kinds of mushroom are available.
Even relatives and friends from Vientiane ordered me to buy Hed Puak, Hed Langok and Hed Phor mushrooms which they could then cook into a sauce or soup.
After we passed through Borikhamxay province onto other southern provinces of the country, there were a lot more mushrooms, bamboo shoots and other forest products along the roadsides, especially if you were to stop at the local markets where you could find many more natural products such as frogs, insects, fish, crabs and natural vegetables.
Much further south, when driving along the road from Pakxe district of Champassak province to Nongnokkhien International Checkpoint between Laos and Cambodia, one can see local vendors along both sides of the road hanging their mushrooms in plastic bags, on chairs, wooden tables and on tree branches, especially Hed Langok.
We stopped our van to buy mushrooms here, where a bag of Hed Langok was 5,000 kip and small bag of Hed Puak was 10,000 kip or you can bargain with venders when buying lots of mushrooms. But you would need to measure the weight of your purchase yourself to compare with market prices as these vendors didn’t have scales.
It may have been only road users stopping their vehicles to buy mushrooms and other forest products the day we were purchasing goods but local sellers often buy natural products here to further sell in bigger local markets.
We also had a chance to visit a colleague’s family, Mr Khamphuey, who came to visit his mother’s land in Napo village, Khong district in Champassak province.
Mr Khamphuey’s sister said that “During this time of the year, there are a lot of natural mushrooms growing on our land and in nearby forests and you can come here at just the right time to try our favourite mushrooms, Hed Puak and Langok.”
The sister and other members of the family went to work cooking soup and sauce from these particular mushrooms, later serving to us and other friends for dinner.
Mr Xay, a resident of Lattanland village, Keysonphomvihane district in Savannakhet province said “the locals in Savannakhet like to cook Hed Puak into sauces, soups and fried dishes, while the Hed Langok and Hed Phor mushrooms will only be for soups with a bit of tiew leaf (cratexylon prunifolium) from a tree that gives the soup a sour taste, while Hed Phor are cooked with fish and then steamed in banana leaves.”
Mrs Jon who is a Luang Prabang resident who was also visiting Khong district said that “There are many mushrooms available here and I buy a lot of these mushrooms, especially Hed Puak. I have to steam Hed Puak in order to keep it longer, while I also make it into somhadphuak, steamed mushrooms with garlic and a bit of rice to make it sour.”
Most of these abundant natural products are very useful for rural villagers in supporting their livelihoods but to keep it sustainable they will need help from the government to help protect the forests and biodiversity of the country for the next generation.
It has been recognised that about eighty percent of the Lao population lives in rural areas and they greatly depend on forests and forest products as well as the landscape. Forest products are a key food source and a pillar of their livelihoods as part of their income comes from selling forest products and non-timber resources.
Therefore a country rich in biodiversity with thick forests can only help these rural residents earn more income and a chance to say good bye to poverty following the government’s target to eradicate poverty by 2020.
Moreover, the Lao government will continue to work toward fulfilling their policy to return the country’s forest cover to 70 percent by 2020.



By Times Reporters
(Latest Update June 14, 2017)

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