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The Yoruba And Their Fungi

In some parts of the Yoruba lands the word for fungus or mushroom is Olu [anything that is more prominent or which rises higher than any other thing in its environment], because mushrooms are easily distinguished from the surrounding plants. In other regions the word osun is used. This is derived from sun [sprout], for mushrooms appear suddenly in the fields.

The Yoruba fungal names are based on various features, such as taste, shape, growth habit, texture or habitat. Takele [ta=distinguish + okele=morsel; hence a mushroom which makes a delicious meal] is the species Termitomyces clypeatus. The species of this genus grow in association with termite nests and a number of them are valued as food. Takele also goes by the names olu-esunsun [esunsun=winged termite] and, because it appears at the beginning of the rainy season, olu-abojose [ba=with + ojo=rain + se=begin].

This is also the time when yams of the previous year are rare and very expensive and the appearance of this mushroom indicates that new yams should be available in two or so months. Ewe [expand] is Termitomyces robustus and the mushroom caps, globular at first, expand and open out to become almost flat. While ewe is the most popular edible mushroom Oso reported that the people in the town of Efon Alaye traditionally did not eat ewe and there is a story to explain this.

Courtesy: Oso , BA (1976)

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