I once wrote elsewhere, that I would gladly give up much of my culinary heritage for those small wonders – wild mushrooms – that grow in Coorg. From June to September, a sharp pair of eyes and a knowledge of the special places where mushrooms choose to spring up year after year will bring the most exquisite treats to your table. Down silent forest or plantation paths, feet squelching through rain-soaked earth, looking out for a flash of pale, creamy heads glimmering in the dull early morning light under the canopy of trees, we would comb the estate or adjoining grazing grounds for the prized trophies of the hunt: tiny, airy, clusters of nucche kumme, nethele kumme and alandi kumme.Secretive and mysterious, mushrooms have a way of springing up at the same spot every year, in wooded stretches, on barks of trees and sometime, on a rise of grassy field – mushroom hunters stored away this knowledge carefully. In Coorg, we curry mushrooms, fry them lightly, pickle them, and – my favourite – roast them on an open wood fired flame or tava, and rub them with a pinch of salt and chili powder, and finish with lime juice for a heavenly snack. Some varieties of the larger mushrooms, such as nara kumme, that grows on the bark of Jamun trees, are dried and stored for use. The forest hovered close around an earthen pot of mushroom curry, and my aunt recollects how a heated knife was plunged into it before it was eaten, to chase away any forest spirits that might have followed the mushrooms home! Over the years, the huge basket loads that made their way into kitchens dwindled, predictably, as more aggressive farming practices became popular. As the supply waned, our hunts took on the nature of stealthy, military missions, conducted with the motto that all was fair in mushroom hunting and war. My husband remembered many spots from his childhood, and we would lead a party of young nieces and nephews on early morning searches, the house dogs running ahead of us, kicking up wet mud, our rolled up trouser legs soaked to the knees with the heavy morning dew. There was always the shock of excitement, and an involuntary exclamation of triumph, when a cluster of mushrooms was spotted, the children dancing with glee, the dogs running in circles – and then, quickly to work, pulling them loose from the moist, steamy earth, fingers and nails thick with wet mud, their fragrance all around us. Sometimes the treasure lay across the fence, in a neighbour’s territory. Barbed wire was carefully negotiated, stiles crossed, and when baskets filled up, shirts and dresses were turned into makeshift bags. The mushrooms were carried home in triumph, a treat for everyone. Still carrying the scent of the earth, they had a flavour deep, ancient and evocative all at the same time, and every last drop of curry was scraped up with akki ottis. In the unwritten rules of mushrooming, it was definitely, finders, keepers. Wild mushrooms like nucche kumme, alandi kumme, or any of the Coorg wild mushrooms have to be cleaned well, as the mud clings to them. Allandi can be cut into long strips, and small buds can be kept whole. Wild mushrooms should be collected only if you have experience, as many, similar looking species are deadly poisonous. If you cannot get wild mushrooms, cultivated button mushrooms are the best substitute. Button mushrooms can be cut into half, or quarters, according to taste. The images that accompany this post are of mushrooms available in the market, and not wild mushrooms. They are, however, similar in shape and size to various wild mushrooms available in Coorg. At the bottom of the page is a rare image of wild Nara Kumme and the more common Aal or Aalandi Kumme

Thank you for visiting this page. If you read something that you enjoy, or see an image that you like, please take a moment to write a response. Do look out for the recipes of all the food featured here in my upcoming cookbook.

Image Credits: Nithin Sagi
All Food Styling: Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa

Kaveri Ponnapa is a widely published independent writer on food, wine and heritage, based in Bengaluru. Her features appear in leading publications. She graduated with a Master’s Degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

  1. Prashanth says:

    I think my wife was waiting for this recipe,she is a vegetarian and always used to ask me when will Mrs.Ponnapa post a vegetarian recipe.She cooked kumme curry for dinner and it was delicious.And she said it was one of the most simple recipe and yet so tasty.Thanks a lot for sharing the recipe.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Delighted! There are many, equally delicious Coorg recipes with vegetables, which will come along soon, which I hope she will enjoy just as much as this one. We do make a lot of great vegetarian dishes too.

  2. Gagan Ganapati says:

    Hello auntie, thank you for sharing this recipe, tried it and really came out well.
    But i would want to thank you mainly for helping those staying abroad who do not have the luxury of having these delicacies prepared by their mum. One more thing i wanted to say is, well the dish was not “Wild” as the mushrooms came from ASDA!! It was ASDA Mushroom Curry!!

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      ASDA Mushroom Curry – I love the idea, that’s original! ; ). I’m in NYC at the moment, and looking at all the amazing mushrooms around. But they only make me homesick for a good ‘kumme curry’ from Coorg, with akki ottis. And if these recipes work for anyone living abroad, I’m really delighted.

      1. Gagan Ganapati says:

        Yes auntie, it did work. Thank you once again for sharing the recipe. But yes, does make me home sick. My list to my mum on what i fancy eating when I go home, is just growing!! Thank to you!!

  3. Mary Anne says:

    Hello Kaveri.
    Many thanks for your lovely website. I live in New Zealand with my family. I have very strong ties with the Kodava community and LOVE your food.l am looking for the Coorg mushroom pickle recipe. Could you please share this?
    Also since kachampuli is not available, can we substitute with balsamic vinegar?
    Many thanks

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      How nice to hear from you, Mary Anne, and all the way from New Zealand. I’m so glad you like the website, and our food, which is really wonderful, as you know. The mushroom pickle recipe, along with many others will be posted over time, and you can look forward to the best version possible, right here! Since you don’t have kacahampuli, you can use a brown malt vinegar. You will need a little extra to give you the desired sourness. Balsamic does not work, as it has a distinct sweetness that will change the entire character of your Coorg dish.Here’s a link to something I have written about ingredients in Coorg cooking, and substitutes. Hope this answers your question. You can always mail me at kaverikamb@gmail.com https://kaveriponnapa.com/kachampuli.html Warm wishes.Kaveri.

    1. Kaveri Ponnapa says:

      Hi Deepti, all the recipes for the food featured on the blog here, and many more, will be out soon in a book. Do keep reading! Kaveri

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