‘Nilamanga’ – a rare herb disguised as mango!
Kottakkal: Though ‘Nilamanga’ resembles ‘manga’ (Malayalam word for mango) both in name and shape, it has no connection with mango at all. In fact, ‘Nilamanga’ is a medicinal mushroom found in termite colonies and underground. The name came from its shape that resembles tender mango with a stem.
Rarely seen nowadays, this mushroom is unknown to many. Those who want to take a look at it can find the dried ‘Nilamanga’ kept in a bottle at Peramangalloor Mana at Ongallur in Pattambi. Parameswaran Namboothiri who resides at the Mana said that they found the bottle when the ground was tilled for renovating the Bhadrakali temple here two years ago.
The householders consulted a traditional medicinal practitioner and ensured that it is ‘Nilamanga’ and preserved it. Last week, a travellers group called ‘Mamankam’ had visited the Mana. Sainath Menon, one of its members, took a picture of ‘Nilamanga’ and posted on Facebook and then it was widely noticed, Parameswaran Namboothiri said.
Sainath had included scientific information about Nilamanga collected from the book ‘Oushadha Koonukal’ published by M. S. Swaminathan Foundation in Puthurvayal in Wayanad. Scientifically named as Sclerotium stipitatum, ‘Nilamanga’ is also locally known as ‘Chithal Kizhangu’.
As the mushroom grows in debris and termite colonies, it is favourite food of termites. During the Malayalam months of Mithunam and Karkidakam, some black filaments are seen coming out of the ground. ‘Nilamanga’ is the source of these filaments.
‘Nilamanga’ is rarely seen these days due to overuse of chemical pesticides and fertilisers. The mushroom is said to be a good medicine for cough, jaundice, stomach ache, ear ache, eye diseases, vomiting and body pain, according to the book ‘Oushadha Koonukal’.