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Mushroom of Bishnupur that costs more than mutton

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It is a typical weekday morning at Bishnupur market. People move on busily and the entire place is buzzing with activity: shouts, screams, buyers haggling with hawkers, shopkeepers vying for prospective buyers’ attention. But amid this din, in a corner a big crowd huddlessurrounding a roadside hawker and waits patiently for their turn. The woman on the other side is selling Karan Chhatu! But what is Karan Chhatu that makes it a star food! You will be surprised when we say it is just a wild mushroom!

A rare mushroom found in the jungles of Bishnupur during autumn, just after the rains subside. Locals swear by its heavenly taste and are even willing to go beyond their means to buy this precious commodity at an exorbitant rate of almost 600 rupees per kg.The mushroom is easy to prepare and connoisseurs of this food say, Karar Chhatu can defeat any fish, chicken and even mutton preparations, hands down. People wait for the entire year, for autumn to arrive, when they can formally start consuming Karar Chhatu aka Durga Chhatu. It is usually sold from the time of Jeetashtami (held in September-October) till Trayodashi (the 13th day after Mahalaya). 

This Chhatu grows for a very short time and has a very short shelf life, growing in the junglesof red laterite soil under big shady trees. It is very rich in protein but this Chhatu grows in the wild. Although other types of mushrooms can be cultivated, efforts to grow Karan Chhatu in agricultural fields has failed. Perhaps that is why this rare mushroom has gained popularity. 

Locals await patiently for this time of the year to renew their annual love affair with Karan Chhatu. This mushroom is gradually becoming a hot favourite item with tourists as well,who swear by its delicious taste. Poor villagers wait for the rest of the year to harvest Karan Chhatu inautumn and sell it in the market. These men and women brave wild elephants and snakes as theyenter deep into the jungles to collect fresh Chhatu. The mushroom is a boon for the villagers and a source of sustenance for them.