FW: Winter Worm, Summer Grass.....
My friend Namgyal just returned from the northern border region of Bhutan
(next to Tibet). He went there to do some healthcare and to supervise the
census. He was given these rare and very expensive traditional medicine
called: "winter worm, summer grass". He made a drink of hot ara (homemade
grain alcohol) with these half catepillar/half fungus that had been fried in
butter ----definitely one of the strangest cocktails I have had in a while!
Here's some info from the web about it -- it is also known as cordyseps
Chinese Caterpillar Fungus
The Chinese caterpillar fungus, also known as Cordyceps sinesis, is a unique
creature indigenous to the grassy marshland in China's Qinghai-Tibet
Plateau. It is regarded as one of the 3 top tonics in traditional natural
medicine, along with ginseng and pilose deer-horn. In summer, it resembles a
worm and in winter a grass. Hence the name in Chinese pinyin ³Dongcong
Xiacao², which means literally ³Winter-worm & Summer-grass².
The growth of the caterpillar fungus is really amazing. In winter when an
insect (in its larva form) hibernates, the fungus spores sprout up and
intrude into its circulatory system. The hyphae of the fungus grow so
rapidly after absorbing nutrition from the larva that they eventually form a
tough shell covering the whole thing. Then the insect dies because of this
and becomes a firm and full hyphal body. The external part remains the same,
which makes it look like a worm still. When summer comes around next year,
the top part of the worm sprouts out from the earth and looks just like a
grass. Mr. Pu Songling, a renowned Qing dynasty writer, has described this
wonderful change as following: ³The name Dongcong Xiacao accords with the
reality, and the transformation happens smoothly. One thing can be both
animal and plant, and the innate laws of things are mysterious indeed.²
Owing to its unique properties, the Chinese caterpillar fungus is rare in
the wild and so very difficult to collect. As a valuable medicinal herb, it
is as precious as ³gold² in Chinese natural medicine.
The caterpillar fungus is also associated with something that happened in
ancient China. The story goes that about 1000 years ago, during the late
Southern Song Dynasty, a vast land stretching from Asia to Europe came under
the rule of Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire. In order to conquer the entire
country, the nomads started an invasion into where is now southwest China.
To their great surprise, their attack was repeatedly repulsed by the
resistance of the local people, who were very tough and strong and were able
to hold back the Mongol cavalrymen's onslaught. So the Mongol had to send
more troops to occupy this place.The Mongol monarch then ordered a probe; it
turned out that the local people used the caterpillar fungus a lot in their
food and that had helped to build up their strong physique.
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