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Rare tribal foods and film festival

Ruchira Talapatra Oct 13, 2015, DHNS 0:02 IST
The eighth CMS Vatavaran, Environment and Wildlife Film Festival and Forum is gathering a sincere crowd of filmmakers, cinephiles and nature enthusiasts, since October 9. Along with films on wildlife, the festival also has a major but small sub-fest, ‘From Forest to Delhi: Tribal Foods of India’. This part of the festival is organised to celebrate India’s rich and vibrant bio-cultural heritage of tribal foods brought by indigenous forest people of the oldest surviving tribes from seven states. Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Nagaland, Rajasthan, Odisha and Karnataka forest farmers have put up stalls of rare, organic, cultivated and uncultivated varieties of crops, herbs, seeds, etc for sale and tasting.

Anupreet Dhody has brought the people of the native community and representative foundations to display and sell their products. She tells Metrolife, “These foods are rarely found in the city and they have a huge nutritional value. Most of the foods we get in the city are only one from the plant family.”

Pradeep Patra from Kondh tribe, Niyamgiri forests in Odisha introduces his yields of tubers to Metrolife. “In Delhi one only eats potatoes. But potato is only one kind of tuber. We call it kanda, and we have more than ten varieties of kanda which we consume raw or cooked.”

‘Hemi Kanda’, ‘Hiru Kanda’, ‘Keta kanda’ are only a few Patra had got with himself from his native state. He explains that the farmers’ livelihood in Odisha is in danger due to various mining activities in the area.

“Why it is important to bring the issue of forest foods is because most of the foods people in city don’t even know about. We are able to sell these only locally to rural people. Outside the rural region, middlemen have all the hold on what the market will get. We give them some of our growth like the parbal, cherry tomatoes and different kinds of amla. But this is also a recent phenomenon; earlier even these fruits and vegetables were unknown to city dwellers,” says Patra.

Likewise, Bhavru Hasda from Chhattisgarh, Pahari Korba tribe, got ‘Mann Karela’, ‘Sihar’, and other rare veggies from his native forest. ‘Mann Karela’ and ‘Sihar’ look like maximised versions of tamarind. “‘Mann Karela’ tastes rather sweet when cooked or just fried. It has more than one medicinal value,” he says.

Hasda, elucidates, that when ‘Mann Karela’ is mixed with ‘Mahua puri’ it gives a sweet solution which is given to a person suffering from cold and cough. Another interesting shrub, ‘Rosales’, has a distinctive use for each part of the plant.

Unlike most of the other forest foods, ‘Rosales’ is cultivated. Its stem is used in firecrackers, its petals for tea preparation and making jam, its seed is used in various modern medicines. And this the natives consume quite regularly.

Another interesting feature is the packed grains which are for sale for ‘organic food’ conscious people. In addition there is also a special menu for lunch for the public. The natives cook the foods with the rare grains and veggies as they do it back home. Ragi Malt and Navranga dal were the highlights of the menu on October 12. These foods are high in protein, fibres and nutrition content and is a must try for those who like to explore the elaborateness of traditions and culture of different regions, because it is as authentic as it can get.

On October 11, the film festival (theme: Water for Life) curated by Amol Palekar, declared its 22 winners in the Indian and International category. Related information can be found at vat2015.cmsvatavaran.org. ‘From Forest to Delhi: Tribal Foods of India’ in second floor, NDMC Convention Centre, Sansad Marg, ends on October 13.

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