CityNews – Hed thob (hed poh), the bulbous little black mushrooms, considered such a delicacy in the north as well as standing accused of causing much of the annual pollution, is now in season. This controversial mushroom, of the barometer earthstar family (onomatopoeically named after the sound of it popping and releasing its delicious earth-flavoured juices in the mouth) is only gathered once a year and cannot be grown commercially.
Many gatherers find it easier to simply burn brush, as hed thob thrive in recently burnt areas, revealing their perky little heads in the ashes, a practice which is contributing – to arguably varying degrees – to the North’s annual haze problems.
This year lovers of hed thob are flocking to the market at Chiang Mai Gate to buy these mushrooms which they will then turn into soups, fry or boil. However, for the first time ever the prices are becoming prohibitive for many at 200 baht per litre, causing many to turn away, unable to afford the steep prices, or for vendors to sell them in smaller portions.
The vendors claim that it is the beginning of the season and it still hard to collect many mushrooms, most of which are grown in low density forests far from Chiang Mai city, hence the high prices. However, they are going to have to reconsider their prices since, while demand is still very high, many buyers simply walk away because they cannot afford them. Many locals believe that getting to eat hed thob is like receiving merit in the mouth, and look forward to this once-a-year treat as a very special occasion.
The rains are late this year and this has also impacted the numbers of mushrooms harvested. That combined with the fact that hed thob are best eaten within a day or so (unless frozen), vendors cannot afford to have left over stock.
While there are some locations, mostly outside the city centre, where hed thob can be found for 150 baht per litre (around half a kg), some vendors are pricing them as high as 300 baht per litre.