mushrooms-and-snails

It has become almost an annual ritual, one which I approach with eager anticipation combined with fear for my demise. I am referring to the mushroom season in Ghana – the time of the year when wild mushrooms are in abundance. The mushrooms provide a unique source of ready cash for many people, both old and young, who live in forested areas of the country where wild mushrooms can be found. Mushroom hunters go out each morning before dawn  to those places where they know the mushrooms can be found and bring them back for sale, usually on the roadside to passing travelers.

Some of these short term sales people are spontaneous and in for the quick sale, with only a few mushrooms to sell. Young school boys most often fall into this category, hoping to make a bit of spending money before they head off to classes for the day. Others are much more organized, offering a range of types and sizes often attractively displayed on wooden trays.

Mushroom season is also snail season and where you find one, you will most likely find the other. Forest snails are large with shells measuring up to six inches (15 centimetres) in length. They are also very flavourful and are a delicacy to be enjoyed.

My anticipation is of course for the scrumptious meals which I will enjoy at the end of the journey. Fresh wild mushrooms and snails are great in local soups when served with my favourite meal of fufu. The mushrooms also add great flavour to pizza toppings and spaghetti sauces.

As with many things in life, there is a downside, and now I refer to my trepidation mentioned earlier. My wife and I traverse often between Busua, on the coast where our hotel is located, and her home village in the Ashanti Region, where many of the best mushrooms are found. Unlike the ubiquitous fast food places in North America which display signboards well before you reach their location, mushroom sellers show up at the most unlikely locations along the road and without any warning.

At this time of year, Comfort is focused on her mushroom purchases while I am keeping my attention on safely navigating us to our destination. It is not unusual for us to be clipping along at a nice pace, often times just after I have finally managed to pass a slow moving truck that we have followed for many miles, when, without warning, Comfort will  exclaim “Oh, there are some nice ones!!!” with the expectation that we will abruptly stop so that she can apply her substantial negotiating skills to acquiring more mushrooms to add to the growing pile that she has assembled by her feet on the passenger side. Lorries suddenly appear at our rear and narrowly swerve around us, and the slow moving truck that we have just passed grinds his way by, the driver no doubt enjoying a certain satisfaction from knowing that slow and steady does indeed win the race, and that it will be many miles before I will find a safe place to pass him again.

Experience has taught me that refusing to stop may be a bigger danger to my health than an unplanned and unsafe stop, and so I have learned to grit my teeth, hold my breath, and roll as safely as I can to the side of the highway. Each year, we go through the same experience, and I must admit, we are still quite alive, and yes, I do enjoy the delicacy of those wild mushrooms. There is one more bonus – the guests who eat in the dining room of our hotel also get to enjoy that same delicacy, and I am sure that they are grateful for Comfort’s persistent roadside stops even if they are unaware of the price my nerves have paid!!

Advertisements