Our forgotten foods and their goodness

The Gongura in Andhra Pradesh and Ambadi in Maharashtra is a flower that has innumerable qualities and utilities. These flowers can be boiled to prepare a drink or make jam.

The leafy variety (gongura) whose flowers don’t have such bright red fleshy calyx make better chutneys. The leaves of this plant can be used to make tea, edible oil, pickle and also vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes.
Wild foods are a critical part of the food and nutrition security of over 150 million Indians - adivasi and other forest dwelling and dependent communities across the country and to a lesser degree many others.
The Forest Foods and Ecology Festival has put the spotlight on the subject with Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Menaka Gandhi exhorting, “These foods need encouragement as they are thousand times better for humans.” Gandhi came to the festival for a short while for the inauguration.

Meena Pardi and Ambi Bai Pardi from the adivasi Thakur community of Maharashtra, Rajgarh, said, “These food items are Ayurvedic and grown without khaad or any other kind of natural and unnatural agricultural supplements.”

The Pardis had got various kinds of authentic vegetables and fruits with them – oombar, dal, Tapenya, Kulra Kanda, Erbiya Meet, Sringari and different kinds of rice, wheat and corncobs which most of the developed parts of India have not even heard of.
Sanjay Patil, one of the participants from Maharashtra representing BAIF Development Research Foundation, said, “India has three lakh varieties of rice and we consume only five and that too PDS polished rice. Here the stalls show the forgotten crops of the subcontinent.”Rupam Roy, heading the Pahari tribe from Assam said, “Though the state, through various policies and schemes is trying to address food and nutrition crisis among disadvantaged communities, popular schemes like distribution of rice and cereals is not sustainable and inadequate to address the problem.

While conservation of environmental resources is necessary to secure livelihood and well being of all, the most secure basis for conservation is to ensure that people dependent on particular resources obtain better livelihood from conservation than from the degradation of the resources.

”Adivasis from Godda Jharkhand declared that, “We have been living a long and healthy life for generations, without any major ailments or diseases. For every minor disease, symptom, or discomfort, we depend on forest herbs, plants, and vegetables. We never visited a drug store, hospital, or took any injections.”

Soumik Bannerjee who was also at the Godda stall added, “Crops that we consume are grown with chemicals and clears other forests for their production. These crops are not market-dependent and can be grown in any climatic condition.”

Durban Bhuriya, straight from Madhya Pradesh’s Jhapa tribe said, “We export tomatoes of much larger sizes and varieties. Hybrid foods coming from the cultivation are stopping forest foods of innumerable varieties from coming up.” Bhuriya describes certain saags that grow without water and chemicals. “If you can grow something without water in barren lands, it expands food availability and reduces the possibility of famine,” says Bhuriya.

“Companies own everything, farming is no longer a tradition, it is a practice for raising economy, but through this people are forgetting crops which are extremely nutritious and medicinal in nature. These farmers grow these crops and consume it themselves as there is no supply chain,” said Bipin Tardhari from Beej Bachao Andolan.

Tardhari adds, “This kind of economy is not self-sufficient, people should know that they are consuming less than one third of the edible crops
available in nature.”

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