For years and years, if you asked chefs and caterers which vegetable Indian vegetarians would not eat, the answer was always the same: Mushrooms.
I was told that this was out of the question. Passengers would not eat them. The Air India catering team had experimented with mushrooms on the in-flight menu, but nobody touched them.
And yet the gucchi is, basically, a mushroom. It is called a morel in English and is found all over the Northern hemisphere, in Europe, the US and China. Unlike most mushrooms you are likely to be served in a restaurant, which will have been farmed in a controlled environment, the gucchi grows wild.
I don’t want to focus too much on the way in which the original seller is diddled while the middlemen make all the money, because this is true of other vegetables too. But what makes the gucchi different is how little the prosperous vegetarians who eat it know about the mushroom and its provenance. Do they know, for instance, that there also is a false, poisonous morel-type mushroom that looks like the gucchi (the gills are the main difference)? And even the ‘safe’ gucchi that we eat can contain toxins if eaten raw (which, fortunately, it rarely is)? Contrast this with the normal white mushroom, which so many vegetarians shun on the grounds that it could be poisonous. That inexpensive mushroom is, in fact, quite safe and free from poison.
I am less keen on morel subzis and the other ways in which it is cooked at Indian restaurants. The French will usually cook morels with cream and may use a small quantity as part of a gravy or sauce for another dish. I have had fresh morels sautéed with lots of butter and they were delicious.