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A carnival for foodies

By Mike Peters ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-03-26 07:38:30

Coming up roses

Edible roses and sugar cane have long been a happy marriage in Yunnan province, where a growers' cooperative includes about 200 members and has a total cultivated area of 666,666 square meters. The cooperative also conducts research and develops new products, such as rose sugar, rose jam, rose lozenges, rose drinks, fresh juices, bath salts and even a rose liqueur. Once a largely local snack, rose sugar can now be bought online, but the ultimate sweetness can be captured in village markets around Dali. It looks like fudge, but don't eat the luscious cubes like candy: The sugar is dense and intense. Use as baking sugar or break some off for a nicely floral cup of tea-preferably made with Yunnan pu'er.

Fungi fun

More than 600 types of mushrooms are found in Yunnan province, including about 25 famous edible species found across the entire province. Many will appear during the upcoming rainy season in late spring; harvesting trips combine nice hikes with tasty rewards.

Morels, prized for their striking appearance and delicate flavor, generally can be gathered from early April to late May and from August and September after a rain. Locals like to cook morels in a hotpot with other mushrooms, chicken or Yunnan ham, in addition to some fresh greens, or fry them with Yunnan ham.

Boletus mushrooms are not only tasty but prized in Chinese medicine for their health and medicinal benefits. "B. edulis is well suited for many health related issues but won't give you funny dreams!" says professor Zhou Dequn, a faculty member of the Kunming Institute of Technology and a widely published mushroom expert. Growing season: June to September.

Matsutakes rank among the world's priciest mushrooms, thanks to the Japanese passion for this delicacy. Japan consumes about 3,000 tons per year, Zhou says, of which one-third comes from Yunnan. Locals like matsutakes in hotpot, while Japanese prefer to grill them with mixed spices.

Termitomyces eurhizus was first recorded in China 400 years ago. This symbiotic fungus, growing in association with termites and their nests, cannot be farmed and is only harvested in the wild. Yunnan cooks like to fry the mushroom with the local ham or use it in soup.

Truffles, like matsutakes, are big business. There are more than 60 truffle species around the world, including 35 in China. The fruiting season is late in the year: August to November. Locals slice and fry them with garlic and dried chilies, while Europeans use the fungi or its oil in salads, or shave them on top of other dishes.

Related:

Tea picking season begins in China's Hubei

Monks begin to pick Fajing zen tea in Hangzhou

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