Rugra: A Rare Mushroom of Jharkhand

rugra mushroom

India is a land of diversified crop. India’s climate supports huge number of vegetation. The diverse agroclimatic zone of country favors large number of different agriculture produce. It ranges from wide variety of fruits and vegetable. Some of the fruit and vegetables grow best in that particular area only and thus it gets familiarize with the area. Many fruits got Geographical Indication that is GI tag also, such as Nagpur orange, Allahabad Surkh Guava, Vazhaukulam Pineapple, Tezpur litchi, Shahi litchi of Bihar, Gir Kesar Mango of Gujrat, Nashik Grapes etc. The type of food grown in different area depends on culture and tradition of that particular area. In fact, there is always a fusion of food with the tradition. Also, the change in diversification of food is related with the cropping pattern which is the outcome of several factors like availability of irrigation, rainfall, soil conditions, available technology, demand of people, land holding, government policies etc. Apart from these factors, there are wide varieties of herbs, medicinal plant, shrubs and trees which our mother earth nourishes naturally. We should be thankful to our ancestors for conserving the natural vegetation from years and years.

About Jharkhand

Jharkhand is located in northeastern part of our country. It consists of Chota Nagpur plateau which flourish Jharkhand with hills and valleys. Jharkhand has three well defined seasons. The cold-weather season fall during November to February whereas the hot weather season extend from March to mid- June. Jharkhand receives its rainfall mainly from Southwest monsoon. It receives a good rainfall from 1000 mm in the west central part of state to 1500 mm in southwest part. July and August is the peak month of rainfall in this state. About one-fourth of Jharkhand is densely covered with forest. Jharkhand is also called as “land of forest”. Deciduous forest is the natural vegetation of Jharkhand which consist of tree like Sal (Shorea robusta), Asan (Terminalia tomentosa), Mahua tree (Madhuca longifolia), bamboo etc. The other tree which are mostly found in plain area includes Banyan tree (Ficus benghalensis), Piapal tree (Ficus religiosa), Palmyra palm (Borassus flabellifer) etc. Majority of the population, around two-fifth consists of people belonging to the Scheduled Tribes and Schedules Castes which form the group of indigenous people. People living in the nearby regions of forest are actively engaged in forest activities such as collection of food, timber, leaves etc. The important forest products derived from different tree species are lac, fibres, floss, medicine etc.  They use forest resources to make different things. These include bamboo products such as bamboo basket, Soop, broom and datman of Karanz and Sal, dona and pattal from Sal leaves, make handcrafts from wood, liquor from mahua flower etc.

Edible mushroom

The state of Jharkhand is equipped with adequate amount of surface and ground water, well fertile land and moderate climate. All of them creates a well-defined platform for agriculture sector. The major crops of Jharkhand are maize, rice, wheat and chickpea. The land of Jharkhand is embedded with mineral and core. In fact, Chota Nagpur Plateau accounts for richest mineral belt in India. Apart from core and minerals, the land of Jharkhand nurture a rare mushroom called as Rugra or Putu in common language. The edible mushroom which are found in Jharkhand includes Macrolepiota procera (Bada Khukhri), Termitomyces clypeatus (Namak Khukhri), Lentinula spp. (Bansh Khukhri), Volvariella spp. (Pagla Khukhri), T. albuminosa, T. heimii (Chirko, Bada khukhri, Patiyari), Lycoperdon spp. (Rugra or Phutka or Puttu), Calvatia, Geastrum, Boletus edulis (Jamun khukri), Agaricus spp. (Button mushroom), Calocybe (Milky mushroom), Ganoderma (Medicinal mushroom) etc. The important mushroom species are Pleurotus spp., Calocybe indica and Volvariella spp. Button mushroom is not much popular in this region.


Rugra Mushroom

Rugra, a variety of edible mushroom grows naturally in some places of Jharkhand. So this mushroom is indigenous to Jharkhand. In Ranchi, the capital of Jharkhand, one can easily spot Rugra in local markets. The tribal Santhali and Oraon woman gather at these local markets to sell this palatable mushroom. Rugra externally looks oval in shape as small white camphor ball, rough textured, consisting of an outer covering shell and a soft yolk like black inner material which gives a unique taste to this mushroom. The month of monsoon is considered to be a holy month (Shravan) of Lord Shiva and people abstain from eating non-vegetarian. So, people love to buy it as an alternative option to meat because it tastes like a non vegetarian dish. Rugra is washed well before cooking to remove the coating of soil. People make curry from it and enjoy with chapatti or rice. Rugra is certainly a gift of nature for food lover. The local vendor sells it at a cost of Rs 150-200 per kg. The season of Rugra is limited to few days and it comes only in a year. This is primarily the reason why people are ready to pay whatever price asked. The selling of Rugra is drastically dropped due to pandemic. According to ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region, Palandu, local vendor used to sell upto 6-8 quintal of Rugra per day. Rugra seller earns Rs 2000-4000 per day. Rugra is not only tasty but also constitutes higher protein, vitamins and minerals than other mushroom with almost zero carbohydrates. It is highly recommended for heart and diabetic patients.


Location and Climatic conditions

Unlike other species of Mushroom which grow above the ground, it is found below the ground, specifically under Sal tree. The dense Sal forest of Bundu, Tamar, Pithoria, Chaibasa, Lohardaga and some other areas in and around the state capital exclusively provides ambient moist and humid condition to grow this mushroom. These regions receive an average heavy rainfall (350 cm) in the month of July with a good sunlight and temperature around 30°C, which set an ideal condition. The decaying leaves make rich humus for the growth of mushroom. The local people also believe that the thundering during monsoon season provides nitrogen dioxide (NO2) to the soil for efficient uptake of nutrients by this mushroom. The local women walk out early morning in search of Rugra around the Sal tree. They can visualize the mushroom by tracing the site of previously harvested lot. It grows naturally around the canopies of Sal tree under the soil at a depth of 3-5 cm. The women simply dig a few inches of top layer of the soil with their finger and collect it in a wooden basket. The wooden basket gets filled with a kilogram of Rugra in just one hour.

Threats to Rugra

A very interesting fact about Rugra is that it is not cultivated in any region commercially. It grows naturally well on the onset of first monsoon around Sal tree. But in recent years, due to change in climatic conditions, decrease in rainfall and rise in temperature, the production is declining year by year. Additionally, much of the forests are now being destroyed due to mining and construction activities resulting in its less availability. Another reason which accounts a threat to Rugra is displacement of local tribal towards town or engagement of them in other activities. Sadly, this mushroom is fast disappearing from the dense forest of Jharkhand. Now, another important point of Rugra is that it is highly perishable and should be cook within eight hours of harvesting. The perishable nature of Rugra makes it difficult to export outside the state. It is very rare that people of outside state have even heard about this delicious mushroom.

A ray of hope

The Government of Jharkhand under the Rural Development has registered a State Level Nodal Agency as Jharkhand State Watershed Mission (JSWM) on 17th July, 2009 under Society Registration Act 21, 1860 for implementation of Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) under Common Guidelines for Watershed Development Projects, Govt. of India 2008. JSWM- Mushroom cultivation takes initiative to encourage local villagers to adopt mushroom cultivation. The villagers, especially women join shelf help group (SHG) to learn cultivation of Oyster mushroom and earn upto Rs 15000 to 20000 per month. This type of effort is much needed for promoting Rugra mushroom. All India Coordinated Research Project on Mushroom (AICRPM) came into existence in 6th Five Year Plan on 1st April, 1983. The Ranchi Centre under AICRPM was recognized as Mushroom Research and Training Centre on April 05, 2003. It provide R & D support in the state and also has museum to display different technologies, organizes seminar and meetings, provide training etc.

Rugra is perishable, technique and methodologies has to be develop for exporting it into other states. Students of Birla Institute of Technology are doing study on this front to enhance the shelf life of mushroom. In the monsoon season, Rugra support lots of local vendors in terms of running their livelihood. But till now it is not emerged as a crop to be grown commercially. There is an urgent need to develop research towards its cultivation and domestication. If proper care is given, this can boost the economy of farmer. Birsa agricultural university, only Agriculture University in the state is also making its effort to raise the production. Moreover, there is a need to add value addition to this product.

The local restaurant and hotels must include it in their menu to popularize this mouthwatering eatable mushroom. There is not much of research done to know the exact nutritional status of Rugra. In recent times, collaboration between ICAR Research Complex for Eastern Region, Palandu and Directorate of Mushroom Research ICAR, Cambaghat, Himachal Pradesh has been made to take up the research towards conservation of this rare mushroom. Let’s hope that we will continue to enjoy this unbeatable taste of Jharkhand “Veg mutton”. Rugra, a delightful gift of nature is endemic to Jharkhand; step must be taken to conserve this native delicacy.

Author details

Anshu Kumar

Ph.D. Research Scholar, Department of Plant Pathology, Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya, Mohanpur, West Bengal - 741252, India

E-Mail: anshu.goons@gmail.com

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