Collection and Use of Wild Edible Fungi in Nepal
AND HELLE O. LARSEN
Forest and Landscape Denmark, University of Copenhagen, Rolighedsvej 23, 1958 Frederiksberg C,
Institute of Forestry, ComForM, Tribhuvan University, Pokhara, Nepal
SAFE Concern, Kathmandu, Nepal
*Corresponding author, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Collection and Use of Wild Edible Fungi in Nepal. The signiﬁcance of the contribution of
wild edible mushrooms to rural livelihoods is acknowledged, but remains largely unexplored.
This study investigates the collection of wild edible Nepalese fungi, which species are used,
and what are the speciﬁc characteristics of the collectors and the collection. Data were col-
lected using 282 structured questionnaires, interviews, and forest walks in 17 districts, envi-
ronmental household accounts from 413 households in two communities, and a review of
literature. A total of 228 species of wild fungi are conﬁrmed to be used for food, and collec-
tion is most widespread among the high-mountain Tibeto-Nepalese ethnic groups, which
collect an average of 18.1 kilograms (kg) fresh mushrooms per year per household, with
some households collecting as much as 160kg. We found no relation between wealth status
and subsistence collection, although the commercial collectors are predominantly the poor
earning up to six months of unskilled labor salary per season. Given the limited local trade
and occurrence of globally marketed species, the scope for increasing contributions to rural
livelihoods from collection of mushrooms, and risks in relation to this are brieﬂy discussed.
Key Words: Ethnicity, livelihoods, mushrooms, NTFP, South Asia.
In the last few decades, there has been
increasing worldwide attention on the use of wild
edible fungi (FAO 2004). A few species dominate
the world market with an estimated annual value
of more than USD 2 billion (Wang and Hall
2004). Though there is a great deal yet to investi-
gate about it, collection for local consumption
and trade is very important for rural livelihoods in
developing countries (Chen 2004; FAO 2004;
Wang and Hall 2004).
Studies from most regions of the world
document widespread subsistence use of fungi
and mention a conservative estimate of 1,069
mushroom species being used for food (FAO
2004). Most indigenous people of Africa eat
mushrooms; there is documentation that there
are 300 fungi species used for food on the
continent (Rammeloo and Walleyn 1993). It is
estimated that 300 fungi species are used for food
in Mexico (Garibay-Orijel et al. 2006). There is
documentation that 74 species are used in
Mexico’s La Malinche National Park alone
(Montoya et al. 2004). Several case studies
provide information on the use of fungi by indig-
enous groups; for example, the Iban and the
Kelabit of Malaysia use 57 species (Christensen
2002), the Wola people of Papua New Guinea
use 59 species (Sillitoe 1995), and the Zapotecs of
Ixtlan in Mexico use 37 wild edible mushroom
species (Garibay-Orijel et al. 2006). Documenta-
tion of the contribution to livelihoods at the
household level is scarce. Recent attempts to
build rural household accounts comprising total
cash and subsistence income rarely include the
collection of wild fungi (see Shackleton et al.
2002 for an example), possibly because of its
Economic Botany, 62(1), 2008, pp. 12–23
© 2008, by The New York Botanical Garden Press, Bronx, NY 10458-5126 U.S.A.
Received 27 June 2007; accepted 8 October 2007;
published online 29 April 2008.
often relatively small and seasonal contribution.
Dovie et al. (2005), for example, included mush-
rooms in a residual category comprising about
1% of the total forest value.
The bulk of international trade in wild edible
mushrooms includes a small range of species
(Hall et al. 1998; FAO 2004). The overall trend
is for these high-value products to be traded from
Asia to markets in Europe and North America
(FAO 2004; Wang and Hall 2004), with the
exception of Tricholoma matsutake (S. Ito & S.
Imai) Singer, which is traded mainly from Asia
and northwestern North America to Japan (Wang
and Hall 2004; Yun et al. 1997). International
trade provides a very important contribution to
the livelihoods of the collectors (Hamayun et al.
2006). In parts of Tibet and the Yunnan Province
of China, it is estimated that more than half of
the cash income in some rural areas comes from
collecting fungi for export to Japan and Europe
(Chen 2004), and concerns of overexploitation
have been expressed for such areas (Chen 2004;
Wang and Hall 2004). In the producing
countries, collectors generally sell wild edible
mushrooms by the roadside (Harsh et al. 1993;
Rammeloo and Walleyn 1993); wild edible mush-
rooms also can be found in permanent vegetable
markets (Chang and Lee 2004; Moreno-Black et
The cultural signiﬁcance of wild edible mush-
rooms varies. In India, mushroom collection is
generally a last resort for poor people in lean
periods (Harsh et al. 1993); in Cameroun, the
social value of mushrooms is high, though harvest
is small (Dijk et al. 2003). In China, mushrooms
often are presented as gifts due to their nutritional
values (Härkönen 2002); in Mexico, similar
signiﬁcant cultural values are found (Garibay-
Orijel et al. 2007). Some reasons for avoiding
mushrooms are religious, due to fear of poisoning
and the fact that habitats include decaying matter
(Härkönen 2002; Walleyn and Rammeloo 1994).
In Nepal, the most important species of edible
fungi collected for export are morels (mainly
Morchella conica). The estimated amount that is
exported annually is 6 to 26 tons per year with a
total value of USD 387,000 to USD 1,590,000
(Olsen 2005); in several areas, morels have
become the main source of cash income for the
poorest households (Subedi 2001). Apart from
morels, there has been little investigation of the
contribution of fungi to Nepalese livelihoods
(Christensen and Larsen 2005). The most im-
portant studies are by M. K. Adhikari, who
provided a national overview of edible fungi
species, based mainly on observations from the
Kathmandu valley (e.g., Adhikari et al. 1996,
2005; Adhikari and Adhikari 1997; Adhikari
2000). Bhandary (1991) reported the use of 25
species in the Annapurna region of central Nepal;
Bills and Cotter (1989) reported the consump-
tion of Lactarius species from Nepalese montane
conifer forests; and Giri et al. (2005) and Rana
and Giri (2006) documented the use of 23 edible
species from the Khumbu region. Even some
ethnobotanical studies have included a limited
number of edible mushrooms (e.g., Joshi and
The present study further explores the use of
wild edible fungi in Nepal and addresses the
following research questions:
&Which species of fungi are used for food?
&What are the primary habitats of the most
important fungi used?
&How are the collectors of wild edible fungi
characterized in terms of age, sex, ethnicity, and
&What is the importance of wild edible fungi for
&What are the present and potential markets for
wild edible fungi of Nepal?
This study focuses on wild edible mushrooms
in Nepal and excludes species used exclusively for
medicine (such as Cordyceps sinensis). Information
on mushroom collection that was gathered
through interviews and literature was synthesized
into comprehensive datasets dealing with species,
collectors, and contributions to livelihoods. Alto-
gether, information is provided from 150 villages
belonging to 88 Village Development Commit-
tees (VDCs) in 30 of 75 administrative districts,
covering a large part of Nepal (Fig. 1). The study
consisted of the following ﬁve components.
1. Structured questionnaires on species collected,
frequency of collection, areas of collection, and
local market prices were distributed to 282
collectors (111 female and 171 male) in 53
VDCs in 17 districts (Fig. 1)duringthe
13CHRISTENSEN, ET AL . : WILD EDIBLE FUNGI IN NEPAL2008]
summers and autumns 2005 and 2006. Selec-
tion of respondents was purposeful as non-
collectors were not interviewed and collectors
often were identiﬁed based on snowball sam-
pling (Patton 1990). The respondents repre-
sented 14 ethnic groups and all ages from 8 to
90 years, with most between 20 and 50 years
(Table 1). Species recognition by local re-
spondents was based on the authors’photo-
graphs and fresh samples. Species identiﬁcation
was made using standard literature including
Adhikari (2000); Courtecuisse and Duhem
(1994); Hansen and Knudsen (1992,1997,
2000); Hongo and Izawa (1994), and Imazeki
et al. (1988). All names and authors follow the
Index Fungorum (www.indexfungorum.org).
However, it is important to note that the
presented list should not be taken as a taxo-
nomic checklist and most names must be
considered as sensu lato until a comprehensive
world monograph is produced for all species.
Voucher specimens are being processed and will
be deposited in the National Herbarium in
2. Informal interviews and forest walks were
conducted with groups of people in 20 districts
to get an overview of edible species present in
different areas and the ethnicity of collectors.
The species recognition and identiﬁcation
follow the procedure described earlier.
3. The annual mushroom collection by a random
sample of 413 households in two sites was
extracted from quarterly household surveys
gathering total household income data. The
surveys were conducted according to guidelines
provided by the Poverty Environment Net-
work (PEN 2005) initiated by the Centre for
International Forestry Research (CIFOR); the
data gathered included frequency of collection
and amounts collected by each ethnic group as
well as prices. All households were ranked
according to wealth in a participatory wealth
ranking exercise using local wealth indicators as
described by Adams et al. (1997). Of the two
sites, one was located at 2,500 meters (m) in the
high mountains (Lete/Kunjo, Mustang Dis-
trict), and the other was at 300m in the lowlands
(Kankali, Chitwan District). The latter site was
very close to a motor road; whereas the former
was located two days walk from a motor road.
4. In the Mustang district, questionnaires were
administered to eight restaurants along an old
trading route from Tibet to India. This route is
also a tourist trek. Information was gathered
on the use of mushrooms in the restaurants’
menus, buying prices, and yearly consumption.
Districts with suplementary information
Districts with information from structured interviews
Villages with annual house hold survey 100 km
Fig. 1. Map of Nepal showing locations of data collection.
14 ECONOMIC BOTANY [VOL 62
5. Information on (i) species collected, (ii) collec-
tion sites, and (iii) ethnicity of the collectors
was extracted from previous studies (see
Table 2). In some of these studies, information
on all three parameters was not available. For
example, a study might state that Tamangs eat
Boletus edulis but without specifying from
which district the information originates.
Additionally, M. K. Adhikari (“pers. com.”),
A. K. Das (“pers. com.”), N. Pandey (“pers.
com.”), and S. K. Shrestaa (“pers. com.”) have
provided their own unpublished data to the
authors of this study. In combination with this
study’s results, the information from the
literature serves as a basis for estimating the
total number of species collected in Nepal.
Results and Discussion
EDIBLE FUNGI SPECIES COLLECTED IN NEPAL
Overall, we have conﬁrmed that 228 edible
mushroom species are collected in Nepal for
consumption. Of these, 105 were identiﬁed
through the questionnaires and forest walks, and
123 through literature. The most frequently
collected species, Laetiporus sulphureus, was found
to be collected in 14 districts. A total of 69
species were recorded to be collected in more
than one district (Table 2).
Twenty-one of the species commonly used in
Nepal are species that are commonly used all
over the world, e.g. Boletus edulis,Cantharellus
cibarius, and Pleurotus ostreatus sensu lato (FAO
2004). A number of species are used widely in
South Asia, e.g., Astraeus hygrometricus and
Termitomyces heimii (Harsh et al. 1993). A.
hygrometricus is distributed across most continents
(Courtecuisse and Duhem 1994; Imazeki et al.
1988;Lincoff1981), whereas T. heimii is
restricted to South Asia (Pegler and Vanhaecke
1994). A few species are used exclusively in
Nepal, including Lactarius thakalorum and
Amanita chepangiana, both of which might be
endemic to Nepal, and Laccaria vinosoavellana,
Lactarius subpiperatus,andPolyporus badius,
which are more widespread but not reported used
elsewhere. Gyromitra infula,Pholiota squarrosa,
Ramaria spp., and Scleroderma spp. commonly
are eaten in Nepal but are considered poisonous
or non-edible in Europe, North America, and
Japan (Courtecuisse and Duhem 1994; Imazeki
et al. 1988; Lincoff 1981).
Table 1. CHARACTERISTICS OF INCLUDED ETHNIC GROUPS
Origin of ethnic
25 Tibeto-Nepalese Mountains Trade, livestock, agriculture
Brahmin 24 Indo-Nepalese Middle Hills and Terai Agriculture, government service
Chhetri 14 Indo-Nepalese Middle Hills and Terai Agriculture, government service
Dalit 26 Indo-Nepalese Terai, Middle Hills and
Wage labor, smith’s work, porter,
Gurung 38 Tibeto-Nepalese Central Mountains and
Magar 34 Tibeto-Nepalese Central Middle Hills Livestock, agriculture
Newar 29 Tibeto-Nepalese Central Middle Hills Business, agriculture, craftsmanship
Tamang 52 Tibeto-Nepalese Central and Eastern
Agriculture, trade, wage labor
30 Tibeto-Nepalese Central Mountains Trade, livestock, agriculture
10 Tibeto-Nepalese Central and Eastern
Middle Hills and Terai
Agriculture, livestock, shop
keeping, wage labor
Bista, D. B. 2004. People of Nepal. Ratna Pustak Bhandar, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Sub-populations in urban areas are not included as mainly rural dwellers engage in mushroom collection.
Bhotia in the present paper includes a diversity of Tibeto-Nepalese groups including Manangba and Lopa.
Thakali in the present paper include Paunchgaunle.
15CHRISTENSEN, ET AL . : WILD EDIBLE FUNGI IN NEPAL2008]
Table 2. MOST FREQUENTLY USED MUSHROOM SPECIES IN NEPAL.
Species Districts Source of information
Agaricus campestris L. 4 1, 2, 6 GLOBAL
Amanita caesarea (Scop.) Pers. 5 1, 2, 3, 9, 11 China, Turkey, EU, NA
Amanita chepangiana Tulloss & Bhandary 2 1
Amanita fulva (Schaeff.) Fr. 2 2, 4, 9 GLOBAL
Amanita hemibapha (Berk. & Broome)
Sacc. sensu lato. (incl. A. javanica, A. similis)
7 1, 2, 3, 11, 12 AS, AF
Amanita vaginata (Bull.) Lam. 2 1, 2, 8 GLOBAL
Armillaria mellea (Vahl) P. Kumm. sensu lato 5 1, 4, 6, 11, 12 GLOBAL
Astraeus hygrometricus (Pers.) Morgan 3 1 China, India, Thailand
Auricularia auricula-judae (Fr.)
Quél. /A. polytricha (Mont.) Sacc.
7 1, 2, 6, 8, 12 GLOBAL
Boletus bicolor Massee 2 1
Boletus edulis Bull. 3 2, 4, 8, 9 GLOBAL
Bondarzewia berkeleyi (Fr.) Bondartsev & Singer 2 1 AF, NA
Cantharellus cibarius Fr.11 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 11 GLOBAL
Clavulina cinerea (Bull.) J. Schröt. 3 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9 EU, AF, NA
Clavulinopsis fusiformis (Sowerby) Corner 3 5 NA
Coprinus comatus (O.F. Müll.) Pers. 5 1, 5 GLOBAL
Craterellus cornucopioides (L.) Pers. 5 1, 2, 3 GLOBAL
Craterellus odoratus (Schwein.) Fr. 2 1 Thailand, NA
Favolus tenuiculus P. Beauv. 6 1 GLOBAL
Flammulina velutipes (Curtis) Singer 3 1, 6 AS, EU, NA
Gomphus clavatus (Pers.) Gray 4 1, 12 China, Russia, EU, NA
Grifola frondosa (Dicks.) Gray 4 1, 2, 3, 5 AS, EU, NA
Gyromitra infula (Schaeff.) Quél. 2 1 NA, EU
Helvella crispa (Scop.) Fr. 2 1 GLOBAL
Helvella lacunosa Afzel. 3 1 GLOBAL
Hericium erinaceus (Bull.) Pers. 5 1, 3, 4, 5, 11 China, Japan, EU, NA
Hydnum repandum L. 6 1, 2, 12 China, Japan, Turkey, EU, NA
Hypholoma capnoides (Fr.) P. Kumm. 2 11, 12 EU
Laccaria laccata (Scop.) Fr. 7 1, 2, 3, 5 AS, EU, NA
Laccaria vinaceoavellanea Hongo 4 1
Lactarius deliciosus (L.) Gray 3 2, 6, 11 GLOBAL
Lactarius piperatus (L.) Pers. 6 1, 2, 5 GLOBAL
Lactarius subpiperatus Hongo 2 1
Lactarius thakalorum Bills & Cotter 4 1, 7
Lactarius volemus (Fr.) Fr. 11 1, 4, 5, 11 AS, EU, NA
Laetiporus sulphureus (Bull.) Murrill 14 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 11 GLOBAL
Langermannia gigantea (Batsch) Rostk. 2 1, 6 GLOBAL
Lentinula edodes (Berk.) Pegler 2 1, 2 AS
Lentinus tigrinus (Bull.) Fr. 8 1 China
Leucopaxillus giganteus (Sowerby) Singer 2 1, 6 China, Japan, EU
Meripilus giganteus (Pers.) P. Karst. 2 1, 2, 3, 4 EU, NA
Morchella conica Krombh. 7 1, 2 GLOBAL
Morchella esculenta (L.) Pers. 3 1, 2 AS, EU, NA
Pholiota aurivella (Batsch) Fr. 2 2 China, Japan, EU, AF
Pholiota cf. squarrosa (Weigel) P. Kumm. 3 1, 5 China, Japan, EU
Pleurotus cornucopiae (Paulet) Rolland 5 1, 2 China, Japan, Turkey, NA
Pleurotus ostreatus (Jacq.) P. Kumm. sensu lato 5 1, 3 GLOBAL
Polyporus badius (Pers.) Schwein. 3 1, 2, 10
Ramaria aff. versatilis Quél. 2 1 NA
Ramaria botrytis (Pers.) Ricken 6 1, 2, 3, 5 China, India, Japan, EU, NA
Ramaria ﬂava (Schaeff.) Quél. 4 1, 2, 3, 12 Russia, Kyrgyzstan, EU, NA
16 ECONOMIC BOTANY [VOL 62
Because of the limitations of the present study,
it is more than likely that further exploration will
reveal an increase in the total number of fungi
used in Nepal. Several ethnic groups live in
remote and isolated places of the country and
their traditions and uses of fungi may differ from
the studied groups. Also, the general exploration
of the fungal biodiversity is still far from
complete; moreover, further studies of taxonomy
may change the concept of species underlying the
HABITATS OF COLLECTED EDIBLE FUNGI
The altitude of Nepal ranges from near sea
level to more than 8,850m on Mount Everest. It
is reported that mushrooms are collected from
tropical forests to alpine habitats (Table 3). There
were 17 species that were collected in open land,
including agricultural ﬁelds and grazing areas,
while 114 are mycorrhizal species growing in
association with forest trees, 73 species are wood
inhabiting, 20 are forest litter saprophytes, and 4
are associated with termites. Collections took
place in national forests, community-managed
forests, religious forests, and on private land.
Regulation of the mushroom resource was not
reported in any location, nor was overexploitation
considered a problem.
The collection of mushrooms was found to be
most important in high-altitude forest areas where
almost all the households collect mushrooms and
where wild edible mushrooms form an important
part of the diet and provide cash income. Locally,
it was assumed that the popularity of mushrooms
in high-altitude areas was related to a lack of
poisonous mushrooms. Our observations did not
entirely conﬁrm this, but the frequency of
poisonous mushrooms was very low in the Pinus
wallichiana forest compared to the forest types at
lower altitudes. And notably, there are no known
poisonous mushrooms looking like the common-
ly eaten ones in the high-altitude forests. In the
Middle Hills and lowlands, the collection of wild
edible mushrooms generally is less common, and
is more linked to ethnicity (see below). Several
poisonous mushrooms occur, for example Ama-
nita virosa and A. phalloides, which are difﬁcult to
Table 2. (continued).
Species Districts Source of information
Ramaria stricta (Pers.) Quél. 2 1 NA
Rhizopogon luteolus Fr. 2 1, 6 China, Turkey, EU
Russula adusta Krombh. 2 2, 4, 11 Russia, EU
Russula delica Fr. 5 1 GLOBAL
Russula nigricans (Bull.) Fr. 8 1, 2 Thailand, EU, NA
Russula virescens (Schaeff.) Fr. 3 1, 11 AS, EU, AF
Schizophyllum commune Fr. 8 1, 4, 6, 10 AS, AF, NA
Scleroderma cepa Pers. 5 2, 11
Scleroderma polyrhizum (J.F. Gmel.) Pers. 2 2 China
Scleroderma sinnamariense Mont. 3 1
Scleroderma verrucosum (Bull.) Pers. 2 2 China
Suillus granulatus (L.) Roussel 4 1 GLOBAL
Suillus sibiricus (Singer) Singer 3 1, 6 Russia, NA
R. Heim /eurhizus (Berk.) R. Heim
7 1, 2, 3, 5 AS, AF
Termitomyces heimii Natarajan 4 1 China, India, Malaysia
Thelephora sp. 5 1 China
Tricholoma terreum (Schaeff.) Quél. 3 1 AS, EU
Xerula radicata (Relhan) Dörfelt 5 1, 2, 5, 6, 11 GLOBAL
1: Present study; 2: Adhikari 2000; 3: Adhikari and Adhikari 1997; 4: Adhikari et al. 1996; 5: Adhikari et al. 2005;6:
Bhandary 1991; 7: Bills and Cotter 1989; 8: Giri et al. 2005; 9: Joshi and Joshi 1999; 10: Kharel and Rajbhandary 2005;
11: Pandey et al. 2006; 12: Rana and Giri 2006.
Places where the species are known to be eaten. AS: Asia (more than four countries), EU: European Union, AF: Africa,
NA: North America, SA: South America, GLOBAL: more than three continents. Courtecuisse and Duhem 1994; FAO
2004; Imazeki et al. 1988; Lincoff 1981.
17CHRISTENSEN, ET AL . : WILD EDIBLE FUNGI IN NEPAL2008]
distinguish from commonly-eaten species such as
Amanita caesarea, A. chepangiana, and A. hemi-
bapha). Every year lethal poisoning caused by
fungi is reported.
COLLECTORS AND COLLECTION
According to the questionnaires, the purpose of
mushroom collection was predominantly for food
(100%), followed by medicine (21%), gifts
(13%) and sale (7%). Among the ethnic groups
included in the questionnaire survey, the Bhotia,
Newar, and Thakali were most dedicated to the
collection of wild edible mushrooms in terms of
number of species collected and in terms of the
time individual collectors spent for collection
(Table 4). The total number of species collected
by different ethnic groups shows a somewhat
different picture, where the Tamang followed by
Magar and Gurung collect most species (Table 5).
These three ethnic groups inhabit large and
diverse areas compared to, for example, the
Thakali; therefore the Tamang, Magar, and
Gurung encounter a wider range of mushrooms.
In districts where the Bhotia and Thakali are
the largest ethnic groups, collection of mush-
rooms is common in almost all households
regardless of ethnic group. Communities domi-
nated by the Brahmins are generally less interest-
ed in the collection of wild edible mushrooms.
Members of the Dalit ethnic group are found in
almost all parts of Nepal; for many of them,
collecting wild mushrooms is very important both
for their diet and for generating cash income.
However, they seem to depend largely on local
traditions from dominating groups in the local
societies. In areas with long traditions for
collection of mushrooms, Dalits often are among
Table 3. NUMBER OF WILD EDIBLE FUNGI REPORTED TO BE COLLECTED IN DIFFERENT ECO-REGIONS OF NEPAL
COMPILED FROM ALL INFORMATION IN THE STUDY.
No. of species
Dry Sub-alpine forest (3000–4000 meters—m): Juniperus spp., Pinus wallichiana,Betula utilis 39
Temperate Coniferous forest (2500–3000m): Pinus wallichiana, Tsuga dumosa, Abies spp. 66
Temperate Broadleaved forest (2000–2500m): Quercus spp., Alnus nepalensis 54
Subtropical Coniferous forest (1000–2000m): Pinus roxburghii 56
Subtropical Broadleaved forest (1000–2000m): Schima wallichii, Castanopsis spp. 54
Tropical Broadleaved forest (100–1000m): Shorea robusta, Bombax ceiba 37
Based on TISC. 2002. Forest and Vegetation Types of Nepal. Tree Improvement and Silviculture Component,
Document Series 105, Kathmandu, Nepal.
A species can occur in more then one eco-region.
Table 4. TIME SPENT ON COLLECTION AND NUMBER OF WILD EDIBLE MUSHROOMS BY INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW
RESPONDENTS,BY ETHNIC GROUP.
Time spent on collection Number of species collected
1 week to
in season (%)
6 species (%)
Bhotia 25 –96 4 –16 84
Brahmin 24 54 46 –29 25 46
Chhetri 14 21 57 21 –29 71
Dalits 26 23 62 15 8 27 65
Gurung 38 34 63 3 8 37 55
Magar 34 21 50 29 3 18 79
Newar 29 3 97 ––793
Tamang 52 19 62 19 –25 75
Thakali 30 3 83 13 ––100
Other 10 10 80 10 –10 90
All 282 19 70 12 6 21 73
18 ECONOMIC BOTANY [VOL 62
the most dedicated collectors, whereas in areas
with no traditions for mushroom collection, the
Dalits do not engage in this activity. These
observations are corroborated by the household
accounting study in the high mountains and in
the lowlands (Table 6). It was reported that the
Brahmins do not collect mushrooms because of
their traditional religious standing as priests. It
was widely held that “mushrooms should not be
eaten by married Brahmins,”and that they are
not supposed to drink fermented products or eat
mushrooms that generally grow in “rotten and
The questionnaire survey indicated that there
are no differences between women and men in
terms of the number of mushroom species
collected for subsistence and the amount of time
spent on collection. Dedicated collectors, that is,
those who exclusively collect mushrooms on their
excursions, generally were observed to be children
and disabled (children aged 8 to 15 years knew as
many mushroom species as adults), whereas
women and men collected mushrooms along
with ﬁrewood gathering and/or herding activities.
This differs from the observation by Bills and
Cotter (1989) that among the Thakali, it is
mostly the women who collect fungi. There are
no general patterns regarding the sex and age of
subsistence mushroom collectors reported from
other parts of the world. Härkönen (2002), for
example, found children and women to be the
most common collectors in Tanzania and men to
be the main collectors in Hunan, China. In the
present study, we observed that the collection of
mushrooms for trade was mainly undertaken by
men. This is also reported from Africa (Rammeloo
and Walleyn 1993), and supports a general
tendency that men are relatively more involved
in the generation of cash income (Neumann and
According to the household accounts, the
annual collection varied from an average of 18.1
kilograms (kg) (standard deviation [SD] 14.4 kg)
in the high mountains to 3.3 kg (SD 3.7 kg) in
the lowlands, with no signiﬁcant difference
between the assorted ethnic groups engaging in
collection. The variation between households was
large, with 3% of the mountain households
collecting more than 100 kg per year (maximum
160 kg) and 7% collecting more than 50 kg per
year. The highly dedicated collectors were mainly
Dalit and most of what they collected was sold to
hotels and other local buyers. The most dedicated
Table 5. NUMBER OF MUSHROOM SPECIES COLLECTED
BY DIFFERENT ETHNIC GROUPS COMPILED FROM ALL IN-
FORMATION IN THE STUDY.
Ethnic group No. of species
Table 6. PERCENTAGE OF MUSHROOM COLLECTORS (COLL.) BY ETHNIC GROUP AMONG A RANDOM SAMPLE OF
HOUSEHOLDS (HH) IN TWO DISTRICTS OF NEPAL.
Area Lowlands (Chitwan District) High mountains (Mustang District)
Ethnic group # HH # Coll. % #HH #Coll. %
Brahmin 55 2 4 –– –
Chhetri 55 15 27 1 1 100
Dalit 20 7 35 63 56 89
Gurung 30 14 47 2 2 100
Magar 23 8 35 31 30 97
Newar 12 3 25 –– –
Tamang 8 6 75 –– –
Thakali –– –91 82 90
Other 21 3 14 1 1 100
Total 224 58 26 189 172 91
19CHRISTENSEN, ET AL . : WILD EDIBLE FUNGI IN NEPAL2008]
collectors earned between NPR 2,000 and NPR
12,000 (Nepalese Rupees, equal to USD 28-171)
per year from selling mushrooms, corresponding
to one to six months’salary for an unskilled
laborer (the local exchange rate at the time was
about NPR 70 per USD 1).
In the Nepalese lowlands and in parts of India,
mushrooms commonly are regarded as a “poor
man’s meat”(Harsh et al. 1993); whereas in the
Nepalese high mountains, they are considered as
an important and prestigious part of the culture.
Data from the household accounting study show
that in none of the two communities were the
poorest the most dedicated mushroom collectors
(Table 7). The most dedicated collectors are
classiﬁed as “medium”in the wealth ranking.
This indicates that many poor are not in a
position to collect mushrooms as they have to
engage in wage labor activities.
Relatively few mushrooms are traded in Nepal.
Of the random sample of households participat-
ing in the household accounting study, 10% from
the high mountains and none from the lowlands
had sold mushrooms within the last year. Of the
respondents to the questionnaires, 33 (11%) had
sold mushrooms. Those selling mushrooms were
generally poor, whereas no trends with regard to
the sex of collector or the collector’s ethnic group
were observed. Except for morels that are
exported through well-established channels via
Kathmandu and India to Europe, all wild edible
mushrooms are traded in informal local markets
that are spontaneous and irregular. Generally,
collectors carry the day’s harvest to the local
market where they stay for a short period to sell
the products before leaving. Other studies have
reported marketing in baskets in Kathmandu
(Adhikari and Adhikari 1997; Adhikari 2000).
In the Mustang District, hotels are important
buyers as the local demand for dishes containing
mushrooms is high. Hotel owners occasionally
provide advance money for a future mushroom
harvest in a system similar to the much more
well-established medicinal plant marketing chan-
nels (Olsen and Helles 1997). Hotel guests
Table 7. PERCENTAGE OF MUSHROOM COLLECTORS (COLL.) BY WEALTH GROUP AMONG A RANDOM SAMPLE OF
HOUSEHOLDS (HH) IN TWO DISTRICTS OF NEPAL.
Area Lowlands (Kankali, Chitwan District) High mountains (Lete/Kunjo, Mustang District)
Wealth group # HH # Coll. % #HH #Coll. %
Rich 8 3 38 56 51 93
Medium 144 42 29 104 98 95
Poor 72 13 18 29 23 86
Total 224 58 26 189 172 91
Table 8. MUSHROOM PRICES IN LOCAL NEPALESE MARKETS.
Species Price/kilogram fresh weight USD
District with information
Laccaria spp. 0.4–1.8 Baglung, Lamjung, Manang, Kaski, Kathmandu
Cantharellus cibarius 0.7–1.5 Mustang
Lactarius thakalorum 0.7–2.1 Mustang
Russula delica 0.7–1.5 Mustang
Tricholoma terreum 0.7–1.5 Mustang
Morchella conica 2.9–11.4 Dolpo, Mustang
Lateriporus sulphureus 0.6–8.1 Kathmandu, Mustang
Ramaria spp. 0.6–1.9 Kathmandu, Mustang
Termitomyces heimii 2.1–2.9 Chitwan, Morang, Sunsari
Grifola frondosa 1.4–2.1 Kathmandu
NPR 70 = USD 1 (average local exchange rate in 1996).
All measures are calculated back to 1 kg of fresh weight by using following unit conversions based on own observation: 1
pathi (volume) = 400 g dried fungi; 1 pathi = 700 g fresh fungi, 1 g dried fungi = 10 g fresh fungi.
20 ECONOMIC BOTANY [VOL 62
requesting the mushroom dishes are tourists and
Hindu pilgrims as well as local travelers.
Few mushrooms species are sold in dried form.
Dried Ramaria spp. was found in several stores at
NPR 100 per 100 grams (g), and dried Morchella
conica is available at NPR 3,000 to NPR 7,000
per kg. The local market prices for 1 kg of fresh
mushrooms are generally the same regardless of
species: in the high mountains 1 kg goes for NPR
96–97, in the lowlands for NPR 53, and near
Kathmandu for NPR 69. For some species, indi-
vidual prices were reported (Table 8). Adhikari
and Adhikari (1997) reported 1995 prices from
urban markets ranging from USD 0.50 to USD
1.50/kg fresh weight.
Several species that are important on the
international market are not traded or only traded
locally in Nepal. Species with potential are Boletus
edulis,Cantharellus cibarius,Craterellus cornuco-
pioides, and Lactarius deliciosus. Major challenges
for the commercialization of these potential
species are a lack of standardized quality control,
access to the global market, and the need of
guidance for sustainable harvest. A risk related to
increased commercialization is that it may have an
unfavorable effect for the subsistence collectors,
many of whom are women (Neumann and Hirsh
2000). Similarly, the present de facto open access
to the mushrooms may be challenged by inﬂuen-
tial individuals excluding traditional collectors
from the resource (Dove 1994). Community-
based forest management systems, widespread in
Nepal, potentially could play a key role in
addressing these risks. Ensuring that subsistence
collectors would have continuous access to the
resource could be built into regulations governing
the resource; the exclusion of poor local collectors
to the resource may be addressed through
strengthening local marketing channels to enable
sale close to the resource.
Wild edible fungi are consumed all over Nepal
and this study documented the use of 228 species
among Nepalese households. Collection was
found most popular among the ethnic groups of
the high mountains where the majority of the
households collect on average 18 kg per year and
dedicated collectors earn up to six months’
unskilled labor salary per season. Contrary to
widespread assumptions, households of all wealth
classes engage equally in mushroom collection for
subsistence and, in accordance with other studies,
primarily it is the poor that undertake commercial
collection. With the exception of morels, the
trade of wild edible mushrooms is poorly inves-
tigated and seems limited. Increased cash income
earnings could be derived from both increased
levels of local trade and export of other species
than morels; this would require coordinated entry
in the world market and standardized quality
control. Some potential risks in relation to
increased commercialization of wild edible mush-
rooms in Nepal are overexploitation of the
resource and the exclusion of the already disad-
vantaged groups. Avoiding these risks will require,
inter alia, formal strengthening of local rights to
the resource and strengthening or establishment
of local level marketing channels.
We are grateful to all the respondents who
took time to participate in the questionnaires,
interviews, and forest walks; we also are grateful
to Dr. M. K. Adhikari, Dr. A. K. Das, Ms. N.
Pandey, and Mr. S. K. Shresta for providing us
access to their unpublished data. The ComForM
project (Danida) is acknowledged for the access to
the household accounting data. Dr. Carsten
Smith Olsen, Dr. Henrik Meilby, and Dr. Jacob
Heilmann-Clausen provided valuable comments
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