Yanomami Mushrooms are the first edible mushrooms native to the Amazon Forest to be introduced into the international market and are extremely popular with the top chefs of Brazil. Launched in 2016, they are the product of the ecological knowledge of the Yanomami people and the traditional Yanomami farming system. Hunters and gatherers, the Sanöma have a great knowledge about the biodiversity of their territory. The mix of mushrooms that comes to the consumer is the result of a deep knowledge of the ecology and the management of the forest, sometimes a source of protein, particularly when hunting is not very successful. It is this knowledge that feeds and keeps the forest standing.

Community Mausia or Mauxinha, of the Sanöma (a subgroup of the Yanomami) from the Awaris region, TI Yanomami
© Moreno Saraiva/ISA

The sale of Yanomami Mushrooms is part of an effort to ensure the Yanomami's well-being, both now and into the future. They are collected in the swiddens by the Sanöma groups of the Yanomami people in the region of Awaris, Yanomami Indigenous Land, in the mountain forests of the extreme northwest of Roraima, Brazil, along the border with Venezuela. 

Map of Awaris Region

Sustainable Yanomami Agroforestry 

Yanomami Mushrooms are a mix of more than 15 species of mushrooms, the product of a deep knowledge of the ecology and forest management. Knowledge that feeds and keeps the forest standing. The Yanomami prepare their gardens to promote the emergence of these mushrooms and permit the species found to even grow at all. Their major crop is cassava (manioc) which they grow year-round in a rotation system of slash-and-burn plots (swiddens) which involves identifying a conducive location, cutting down the trees and burning the dry ones. Very different from clear-cutting, this agroforestry system respects the forest and does not depend on any artificial inputs.

About three months after the cassava is planted, the mushrooms begin to appear on the fallen, charred logs that have not been completely burned, the source of sustenance for them. The plots are fallowed (uncultivated) after four years due to nutrient depletion, but as the abandoned plots reforest, all 15 edible species of mushrooms (Lentinus spp., Panus spp., Favolus brasiliensis, Polyporus tricholoma, Favolus striatulus, Polyporus alveolares, Coriolus zonatus, Trametes ochracea, Pleurotus sp., Pleurotus concavus, Favolus sp., Lentinula raphanica, Polyporus aquosus) sprout at once. In the Sanöma language, mushrooms have colorful names which reflect their shapes and appearance such as “tapir liver,” “deer’s ear,” “croc-croc” and “hairy anus.” Once harvested, the mushrooms are wrapped in leaves and taken to the villages. They are then dehydrated in the sun or with fire which gives them a smoky flavor.

Edible Mushroom Siokoni amo (Panus neostrigosus) Dreschsler-Santos & Wartchow, Panus strigellus (Berk.) Overh., Panus velutinus (Fr.) Sacc., Lentinus bertieri (Fr.) Fr., Lentinus crinitus (L.) Fr.) collected by the Sanöma (a subgroup of the Yanomami) from the Awaris region)
© Moreno Saraiva / ISA

Unique Gastronomic Experience

Yanomami Mushrooms present offer absolutely unique and novel flavors. They have a pronounced flavor, with a lot of umami (one of the five basic tastes to the human palate). The flavor of some species is close to that of the shitake, while others are a little spicy, perfect for broths and risottos. Yanomami Mushrooms are so amazing that they attracted a lot of attention from famous, award-winning chefs such as Alex Atala of D.O.M. in São Paulo and Felipe Schaedler of Banzeiro in Manaus. These same chefs have helped in the improvement of the supply chain and recipe development.

Yanomami Mushroom Consomme with wild boar by Chef Beto Bellini
© Ryan Jordan Rougeux

Socioeconomic Importance

The sale of mushrooms is of great socioeconomic importance to the Yanomami people because the territories in which they live have been heavily impacted by the presence of non-indigenous people and has caused greater sedentarization of communities that were once semi-nomadic, resulting in overexploitation of the region's natural resources. The premium price of the product ensures the Yanomami receive a fair price. A lot of effort goes into getting this delicacy to your table, including harvesting, days of walking, taking a boat to ship the product on a small airplane in the Amazon Forest to reach Boa Vista, then on to Manaus and then Seattle; a long journey indeed. Individuals earn income based on the amount they deliver to the village member responsible for organizing the collection process. This income is important because every Yanomami today needs manufactured goods from the city such as sandals, soap, salt, matches, machetes, axes, etc. Through your purchase, you help to contribute to the socioenvironmental resilience of the Yanomami society.

Edible Mushroom Naönaö amo (Lentinula raphanica Murrill) Mata & R.H. Petersen) collected by Sanöma (a Yanomami subgroup) from the Awaris region
© Moreno Saraiva / ISA

The product carries the Origens Brasil Seal. Through this seal, which is actually a QR Code, the system works through a connection to a collaborative platform where consumers know 1) the origin of the products, 2) the stories of people and their territories, 3) Encouraging more ethical business relationships built through dialogue, and transparency and respect for diversity of traditional ways of life

Check out a video on Yanomami Mushrooms here

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