Food Festival: Now, Medicinal Herbs to Fetch Jobs to Valley Youth!

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Shakir Mir

KL NEWS NETWORK

SRINAGAR

Minister of State for Forests, Abdul Majeed Padder, inspecting forest-derived food that included Wopal Haakh (Teasel) to Soi Chai (Nettle Tea).

Minister of State for Forests, Abdul Majeed Padder, inspecting forest-derived food that included Wopal Haakh (Teasel) to Soi Chai (Nettle Tea).

This Sunday, food-lovers in Srinagar took an unusual detour from their regular food habits and swarmed to relish some vintage Kashmiri cuisines of yore on the banks of river Jhelum.

‘The Forest Food Festival – 2015’ took off on a convivial note at the Institute of Hotel Management, Rajbagh amidst lavish presence of browning Chinars and glorious attendance who were served with the value-added edible wild herbs that current generation is unfamiliar with. Scores of visitors including officials, activists and members from media fraternity, thronged the event.

The first-of-its-kind Festival saw age-old delicacies being served to the visitors with an aim to revive the forest-derived food that traditional rustic communities use to prepare. From Wopal Haakh (Teasel) to Soi Chai (Nettle Tea), you name it! These dishes had gradually vanished out from our platter and only lodged in the memories of great-grandparents.

It was a novel attempt organized by Directorate of Ecology, Environment & Remote Sensing J&K in collaboration with Institute of Hotel Management, Rajbagh and Centre for Conservation of Culture & Heritage (CCCH) who collectively sought to encourage wild edible plant consumption in face of worsening climate pattern which is impacting the crop production.

“Not only do these edible forest plants have medicinal properties but they are a primary source of foods for the communities who live in hinterlands as remote as Gangbal and Kounsarnag,” said OP Sharma, Director of Ecology and Remote Sensing, J&K. “When calamities like flash floods strike, the people living in those areas don’t come to city to purchase eatables, they live off Van Pran and Pambhaakh.”

Forest Food festival

The carnival sought to foster a greater understanding of edible plant diversity and encourage their farmland cultivation to alleviate the impact of climate change and simultaneously “conserve our biodiversity.”

At the corridors of the building, stalls were erected showcasing a value-added variety of dishes and beverages made up of these medicinal herbs.

There were cookies make up of Mawal (Cockscomb) that Waazas (Chefs) normally use for coloration in Roghan Josh and tea prepared from Soi (Nettle) and Poostul (Yew) that apparently has ‘ability to fight cancer’.

Speaking on the occasion, the Forest Secretary RK Gupta, said that state’s biodiversity was their major concern. “I will confess that even the forest department doesn’t have the knowledge of the vast diversity of our flora and fauna.”

He said that the State Level Biodiversity Board had recently decided to set up biodiversity committees in every block and village of the state to promote the documentation of the kind of species that exist in our forests. “We need to know what we have and what we can exploit,” he said.

Gupta also stressed on the need to incorporate the knowledge of local communities into the exploration process. He said that a lot of these herbs with medicinal properties were summarily extracted from the forests and therefore the situation necessitated replenishing them back to the nature. “For the fear that these resources are not depleted, it is incumbent upon us to encourage plantation of these herbs,” he said.

Addressing the audience members, Minister of State for Public Health Engineering, Irrigation & Flood Control and Forest, Abdul Majid Padder, underscored the importance of preserving forests.

He stated that state government’s first measure this year would be to promote the plantation of these medicinal herbs. “To accomplish this, we will employ hundreds of jobless youth of our state,” he told to an applauding audience.

He also said that everything related to our daily life was invariably linked to the forests and there was a dire need to protect it. “We need to save the forests for our posterity,” he asserted.

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