The job of picking moss and stones

NGHE AN – In September-December, highland people go to streams in Tuong Duong district to pick moss from rocks to make food or sell it for 15,000-20,000 VND per kg.

In the middle of September morning, Ms. Lo Thi Hong, 36 years old, residing in Xieng My commune, Tuong Duong district, and 4 women wearing protective clothing, carrying baskets and pots, drove each other to the edge of the forest more than 2 km from home, then Walk to streams in Phay, Khe Quynh, Pieng O villages to pick up moss and stones. This is a seasonal job of the Thai and Kho Mu ethnic people in the highlands.

Streams in Xieng My and Nga My communes are 5-10 m wide, 0.5-1 m deep, in many places nearly 1.5 m deep, hundreds of meters long, surrounded by dense trees. At the bottom there are many silver and red stones with a diameter of 5-30 cm covered with natural green moss. The moss fibers are thin, only 1-3 cm long, stick together, and people often pick up the whole bunch.

A woman is picking up rocks at a stream in Xieng My commune, Tuong Duong district.  Photo: Hung Le
A woman is picking up rocks at a stream in Xieng My commune, Tuong Duong district. Photo: Hung Le

Ms. Hong held a plastic basket and walked from the end of the stream back up, constantly observing, and when she saw a cluster of moss, she picked it up. With the moss firmly attached to the rock, she had to use an aluminum spoon to scrape it off in 30 seconds. The moss at the stream head clings to dirt and sand, so people choose to “pick it up” from the bottom up to have small, less gritty moss.

The moss and stone picking season takes place in the last 3-4 months of the year. The work depends on the weather. If it rains or the water is cloudy, it is difficult to work. On average, it is picked up about 15 days per month. People often go in groups of 4-6 people, bring rice and drinking water to work through lunch, returning home in the late afternoon.

The past two weeks have been sunny, Ms. Vi Thi My, 46 years old, residing in Nga My commune, and her daughter took the opportunity to go to the stream 3 km from home to pick moss. Every day from 9am to 4pm, they got more than 20 kg and sold it to traders. The price is 15,000-20,000 VND per kg. “On average, I collect 300,000-350,000 VND a day, having more money to improve my life,” Ms. My said.

Stone moss after being sorted and washed.  Photo: Hung Le
Stone moss after being sorted and washed. Photo: Hung Le

Besides earning income, moss and stone picking also has many potential dangers. Some streams are located in deep forests and difficult terrain. When wading into the water to pick up moss, if you are not careful, you can easily step on a slippery rock, causing a fall and injury. Ms. Hong said: “Collecting moss has to be soaked in water for many hours, so the limbs are white and wrinkled. Sometimes the hands bleed because they hit sharp stones or obstacles such as thorns and sharp sticks at the bottom. heating”. Even if you work in the rain, there is a high risk of falling, because the strong water flowing from the upstream will sweep people away, endangering their lives.

Mr. Lo Ba Lich, Chairman of Xieng My commune, said that rock moss picking brings good income to people in their leisure time. Every day one person can pick up 10 kg, and a family with a large number of people can pick up more than 20 kg. “However, the mountains and forests are dangerous, the government always advises people to go in groups when picking moss and stones, and avoid going to deep streams,” Mr. Lich said.

Moss mixed with spices is wrapped in banana leaves and put into a steamer to make the dish.  Photo: Hung Le
Moss mixed with spices is wrapped in banana leaves and put in a steamer to make a specialty dish. Photo: Hung Le

Stone moss is purchased by traders to import to restaurants and food stalls, earning a profit of 5,000 VND per kg compared to the original price collected in the village. Highlanders always leave 1-2 kg of moss on each trip to collect moss, wash off the sand and soil, put it in a mortar for a few hours, and use a sharp knife to cut it into small pieces to prepare many dishes.

Stone moss can be used to cook soup or stir-fry, the best of which is to grow moss (also known as rolls). To prepare the rolls, the moss is marinated with broken rice, hot chili, wild pepper, lemongrass, and crushed fatty pork, then wrapped in banana leaves, grilled or put in a pot to steam for an hour. With specialties made from moss, highland people often use it to entertain distinguished guests or during Tet, weddings, new house celebrations…

($1=24,000 VND)
Photo,Video: Internet (