Ark of taste
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Obukufuma, or obukusuma as it is also called, is a large mushroom variety of the Termitomyces genus. It has a greyish crown and white underside. The crown can grow up to 30 cm in diameter, and the stem can be as long as 45 cm. It is usually picked fresh during the morning hours, cleaned and sundried. It is then smoked and cooked when completely dry. When smoked it can also be stored for over six months. In some cases it can also be cooked fresh. Obukufuma mushrooms can be cooked alone or can be mixed with the leaves of cowpea plants and eaten as a vegetable with maize or sorghum.   Obukufumas grow wild around Epanga Valley and surrounding areas in North Bunyore in Vihiga county of Western Kenya. This mushroom variety has important meaning to the local people. Among the Luhya of Western Kenya, the first one to see a mushroom is thought to have good luck. On the other hand, dreaming about mushrooms is a sign of ill health to occur to a close person. When someone spots a mushroom before it is mature, he covers it with some moist grass and nobody else can pick that particular mushroom.   This mushroom variety is not collected in large numbers. Only about 5 kg is harvested per season. Obukufumas grow on naturally fertile ground and are collected both for sale and for home consumption. The increased use of artificial fertilizers on farmlands has reduced the availability of the mushrooms. Reduced fallow periods also lessen the accumulation of organic matter that encourages the obukufuma growth. In addition, destruction of large termite nests to clear land for cultivation has also negatively affected the obukufuma’s habitat. The local termites live in symbiosis with the fungi, transporting the mushroom spores to their nests and depositing them on chewed woody debris. There the fungi grow digesting, the cellulose and lignin, leaving behind a sugary substance consumed by the termites.  Each rainy season on and near the mounds, the large mushrooms grow, but the destruction of the mounds means the loss of the mushrooms and their spores.

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Indigenous community:Luhya