Himachal’s Nutritious Forest Products
Himachal’s forests not only help in conserving environment but also produce a
Himachal This Week Team Cover Story
Himachal’s forests not only help in conserving environment but also produce a number of area specific Nutritious products that have been used by Himachalis in their meals. Apart from their nutritional values, products like Lungru in lower areas, kafal in Mandi, seabuckthorn in cold desert and Gucchi in mid hills have proven medicinal value also. In some areas these naturally available products in forests serve as cash crops for people whereas natives in other areas cultivate some of them for their livelihood. These delicacies fetch a highly remunerative price in markets of Delhi and other major towns. There is a traditional system of marketing of forest products but Himachal has not been able to streamline and utilise such products to its advantage because there is no scheme to popularise them.
Need for Scientific Exploration
Himachali forests have numerous products that can usher in economic prosperity if scientific methods are deployed for their conservation and judicious exploitation. Forests products like burans flowers (rhododendron), kafal, lungru, gucchi and so many others availabel in diferent parts of Himachal are provide earning opprtunities to locals. Seabuckthorn, locally known as charma in Lahaul & Spiti district can revolutionize area’s economy if proper scientific impetus is given to its cultivation. Himachal’s forests are also natural habitat for numerous medicinal plants and herbs but their production is decreasing due to unscientific extraction. Production of Kuth has decreased tremendously in Lahaul & Spiti. The two universities located at Palampur and Solan need to put in efforts to prepare a comprehensive data bank of all such products available in state’s forests. It will bring to the fore the real potential of these products and strengthen rural economy.
Increasing Demand for Delicious Gucchi
Forests in Himachal produce many herbs and fruits but Gucchi (dried morels) primarily available in Kullu forests besides other areas is so unique and delicious that it fetches a whopping price of Rs. 20,000 and more for one kilogram. They grow in deodar and conifer forests across temperate regions and the cool foothills of the Himalayas. They grow best during the rains, but it can take months before enough can be collected, dried and brought to the market. Ironically, the expensive foodstuffs are collected by really poor people from forests as they cannot be cultivated commercially. According to reports morels can provide 20-30% of annual cash income in some villages in the hills. But bulk of the profits in the morel trade go to middlemen. Presently, rate of one kg of black Gucchi in Kullu is from Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 12,000 whereas white coloured is slightly cheaper. It is also available in higher reaches of Chamba district fetching a price of Rs. 15,000 to Rs. 18,000 per kg. Locals collect it from March to June 15 and also in August from its natural habitat.
Price: Rs. 20,000 and more per kg (Dried)
Properties: Anti-tumor effects, immune-regulatory properties, fatigue resistance, antiviral and anti-oxidant effects
Oyester-Dhingri as Alternative
Dhingri is equally delicious and is being cultivated commercially easily under natural and controlled climatic conditions in different districts of Himachal Pradesh. Dhingri can be grown on straw, wood and sawdust and is most popular cultivated strain of Oyster mushrooms grown.
Craze for Lungru in Kangra
The craze for fiddlehead vegetable fern, locally known as Lungru, is immense in lower areas of Himachal Pradesh including Kangra, Chamba and parts of other districts. Its season lasts from May until June and are unique by their appearance, taste, and nutrition profile. Locals collect lungru from their natural habitat and are not cultivated commercially. This vegetable reaches the end consumers through various sabzi mandis located in areas of their availability.
Price: Rs. 40 per kg
Properties: Anti-oxidant, good source of Vitamin A, C and minerals
Nutritive Wild Fruit Kafal in Mandi
Kafal is very delicious and nutritive wild fruit commonly found in the jungles of Chachyot, Uttarsal and other parts of Mandi District. It is being marketed as it gives enough money to sellers. Local as well as outsiders like this fruit much and it is sold to the last unit. The sellers along with the heaps of Kafal fruit can be seen in the season across the district.
Price: Rs. 200 per kg
Properties: Bark of Myrica Nagi has aromatic and medicinal use
Cash Crops of Cold Desert in Himachal
Charma– A Wonder Medicinal Plant
The cold desert in Himachal suffers from acute shortage of fuel wood, fodders apart from soil and water erosion problems. Seabuckthorn, locally called as ‘Charma’ (or) Charla in cold desert areas of Lahaul & Spiti, Kinnaur and Pangi commercially cultivated because it is a medicinal, cash and soil and water conserving plant. Though Ladakh has better seabuckthorn potential but Lahaul & Spiti district of Himachal too has immense potential for commercial exploitation of this plant that can withstand adverse climatic conditions. Though some initiatives have been taken to grow this plant on commercial basis yet much more needs to be done to exploit the potential of this wonder plant of cold desert. This plant offers an amazing opportunity to mountain farmers for sustainable livelihood by protecting their fragile eco-system by soil and moisture conservation.
Price: Variable according to product
Properties: Rich source of Vitamin C, food, cosmetic and medicinal value
Chilgoza- Healthy and Nutritious
Chilgoza is found in Kinnaur district of Himachal where it is cash crop for tribals of the area that raises good money for them. There are reportedly 20 species of pine that produce edible seeds suitable for human consumption. However, amongst all, “Chilgoza”, also known as “Neja” or “Neje” is one of the popular pine nuts with significant nutritional value and health benefits. It is consumed and utilized for various reasons ranging from nutrition to medication and serves as a main source of income for people in hilly areas. However, its production is reportedly decreasing in Kinnaur district continuously but research and development is still a distant dream in this field. It is also found in some parts of Chamba district.
Price: Rs. 2500 to Rs. 3,000 per kg
Properties: Rich in carbohydrates, proteins, excellent source of vitamin A, Bl, B2 and B3, manganese, copper, magnesium, molybdenum and Zinc. They also serve as a source of dietary fiber ____________