The Gomphus Paradox of Meghalaya: Wild Edible Fungus or a Poisonous Mushroom?
Wild edible mushrooms form an integral part of the local cuisine among the ethnic Khasi tribe of Meghalaya. Edible macrofungi collected from their wild habitats are sold extensively in the traditional rural markets of the east Khasi hills of Meghalaya. Among the mushroom species consumed as local delicacy, the consumption of Gomphus is particularly interesting owing to the fact that members of this genus have been reported to be poisonous. Molecular characterization of the mushroom specimens collected from the local markets showing morphological resemblance to Gomphus spp. using the fungi-specific primers nu-SSU-0817–5 and nu-SSU-1536–3 revealed them to be related to Gomphus floccosus. Consumption of this species is not recommended owing to the presence of norcaperatic acid which is indicated in the development of gastrointestinal disorders with delayed onset of typical symptoms like nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The consumption of this poisonous mushroom by the ethnic population without any apparent harm may be hypothesized to reduced toxicity of the specific local strain available in the region, indigenous cooking practices and methodology or even to genetic resistance to the mushroom toxin among the local population. Efforts are currently being made to document the norcaperatic acid levels, traditional knowledge relating to the usage of this species and also to develop molecular tools for proper taxonomic identification of the regional strains collected from the traditional markets and natural habitats. The chapter deals with collection of Gomphus spp. from the traditional markets of Meghalaya, to document the morphological characteristics of the collected specimens, to evaluate the antimicrobial activity of crude metabolites against selected pathogenic bacterial strains and to carry out their molecular characterization.
KeywordsWild edible mushroom Khasi tribe Traditional rural markets Gomphus floccosus Poisonous mushroom Meghalaya India
The study formed a part of the work under research project sanctioned by DST, Govt of India.
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