For Kashmir, no delicacy can be completed with the valley’s fabled Houk Seun

For Kashmir, no delicacy can be completed with the valley’s fabled Houk Seun

Many dried vegetables are cooked at religious festivals. There are many promising occasions for both Kashmir Muslims and Pandits, where special varieties of dried vegetables are prepared

Zaina from Koker Bazar, who is in her 70s, buys several dried vegetables at Srinagar’s Sarai Bala. While paying vendor Mubarak Ahmad Rather, she said no delicacy can replace the taste of dried vegetables.

“Around the year, we pick different varieties of fresh vegetables, but I have a particular fondness for dried vegetables,” Zaina said.

“Even mutton or chicken can not be compared,” she added.

Mubarak, the seller of dried vegetables, has been in this business for the past 12 years. Business, usually from November to March, is good.

“These vegetables are consumed mainly during the winter season,” Mubarak added. “The rest of the time I sell things like corn.”

Dried vegetables have been consumed in Kashmir for centuries. People say that in ancient times, when Kashmir was cut off from the rest of the country due to heavy snowfall on the national highway, there would be a shortage of food grains and vegetables.

For Kashmir, no delicacy can be completed with the valley’s fabled Houk Seun

Mubarak has been selling dried vegetables for the past 12 years. Image provided by author

That was when people started storing food grains for several months and started preserving sun-dried vegetables for the winter.

“This is centuries-old culture in Kashmir,” said noted poet and author Zareef Ahmad Zareef. “We’ve been making these in our homes since my childhood, and I’m extremely fond of these vegetables.”

Kashmiri Dried Vegetables (Houk Son) includes dried tomatoes (Ruwangan Hachi), bottle of pumpkin (All Hachi), brinjal (Wangan Hachi), turnips (Gogji Aare), dandelion green (Hooch Handh), quince (Bam Choont), buckhorn (Meath), lotus stem (Nadur), Iberian knapweed (Kraich), dried fish (Hokhegade) and many other wild herbs such as Bum, Resh Pran.

Many dried vegetables are cooked at religious festivals. There are many favorable occasions for both Kashmir Muslims and Pandits, where special varieties of dried vegetables are prepared.

“We migrated to Jammu three decades ago, but still have a special love for dried vegetables,” said Veer Ji Bhat, a Pandit migrant in Jagti Jammu.

“Although we have an abundance of fresh vegetables in Jammu, we cook the dried ones in cold weather from December to mid-January,” Bhat said.

Treat

Kashmiris store dried vegetables in sunlight and store them for the coming winter. Bottled pumpkins are peeled and cut into round slices or long thin strips and stretched over wooden or plastic trays to dry them. Round discs are usually threaded in long garlands and hung on the front walls in sunlight. Fresh tomatoes cut into cruciform slices and stretched over trays left to dry in the sun to make Ruwangan Hachi.

Fish are cleaned, washed and stored in the sun for days to make Hogadde.

The method that Kashmiris uses is completely unique and adds more than a year to the shelf life of vegetables.

For Kashmir, no delicacy can be completed with the valley’s fabled Houk Seun

Kulgam supplier Bilal Ahmad Dar said the best quality of dried vegetables comes from Budgam. Image provided by author

Production

Dried vegetables (Houk Son) are mainly produced in villages and rural areas due to the fact that the majority of villagers have large areas that they use to produce food grains and vegetables. People in villages grow vegetables in abundance.

Those in the dried vegetable business buy small portions of villagers and deliver them to the main dealers in the town.

“Hundreds of people in different villages buy dried vegetables. Then retailers like me buy it at wholesale prices from them,” said vegetable retailer Mohammad Shafi, who owns a wholesale store for dried vegetables in Zaina Kadal.

Experts say that if the dried vegetables retain a small amount of moisture during sun drying or storage, it attracts insects and leads to fungus.

Sellers and shop owners of dried vegetables say that it is quite a task to pick up good quality dry vegetables from villagers.

“I have been in this business for the last nine years. The best quality of dried vegetables from the Budgam district,” boasts Bilal Ahmad Dar, a seller of dried vegetables from Kulgam.

Fish from various rivers, especially from the Wular and Manasbal lakes, dried up Hokhegade, must be checked properly. They have a shelf life of only two to three weeks.

Culture and history of dried vegetables

The people of Kashmir have eaten dried vegetables (Houk Son) for centuries. It was the need of the time, and with the availability of dried vegetables, people were self-sufficient for the long winters.

Prior to the construction of the Jawahar Tunnel in 1956 (the only road connection to the Kashmir Valley to the rest of the world until 2020), the road connection would remain cut off for several months due to the snowfall. During that period, it would not be possible to transport food.

So people tend to store dried vegetables these months.

Health benefits

Proponents of dried vegetables say they are good for health, especially in winter. They help ward off coughs, chest congestion, colds and fevers.

Iberian knapweed (Kraich) is thought to be good for eyesight. dandelion (Handh) is given to anemic patients as it is rich in iron. Bumb or star lotus is thought to be good for arthritis patients as it relieves the swelling of the joints.

“People are watching Houk Son as a cure for various weather-related ailments such as cough and cold, ”said Amira Jaan, 45, from Nawa Kadal, Srinagar.

“Every member of our home likes dried vegetables and legumes. I love dandelion vegetables (Hochh Hand) which is tasty and maintains the hemoglobin level in a person, especially new mothers, ”Jaan added.

For Kashmir, no delicacy can be completed with the valley’s fabled Houk Seun

The people of Kashmir have been consuming Houk Seun for centuries. Image provided by author

Fast favorite

Dried vegetables are consumed by Kashmiri Muslims, Kashmiri Pandits and tourists. Tons of dried vegetables are shipped to Jammu and Ladakh. Pandits and Kashmiris in Jammu are the main consumers of these delicacies.

For decades, thousands of hundreds of tons of dried vegetables have been exported to Ladakh, which remains cut off from the rest of the country and even with Kashmir for months in the winter.

Thousands of Indian and foreign tourists visiting the valley buy dried vegetables to get a new dining experience. “Every winter, we send hundreds of kilograms of dried vegetables to many parts of the country, which are in demand by many people living there,” said Mushtaq Ahmad, a store owner with dried vegetables in Jamia Masjid, Srinagar.

“Many outsiders enjoy the taste and have understood the health benefits of dried vegetables,” he added.

“Iberian knapweed, grown in the wild and locally known as Kraich dried and eaten as it is thought to be good for eyesight. Similarly, dandelion, known as hand, is given to anemic patients as it is rich in iron. Bumb or star lotus is thought to be good for arthritis patients as it relieves swelling of the joints. “

For Kashmir, no delicacy can be completed with the valley’s fabled Houk Seun

Proponents of dried vegetables say they are good for health, especially in the winter when they help ward off coughs, conjunctivitis, colds and fevers. Image provided by author

What experts say

Although the Kashmiris have been eating dried vegetables for centuries, the younger generations are not so happy about Hokh Seun.

Many fear it Hokh Seun contains carcinogenic elements.

“It’s a presumption. As far as I know, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that eating dried vegetables can cause cancer,” said Dr. Adbul Rashid Shah, an oncologist at the Kuwait Cancer Center.

Shah said that constant consumption of mushroom food could cause cancer, but it must be proven.

“It’s speculation. The majority of people in Kashmir who have eaten dried vegetables all their lives have not been diagnosed with cancer,” Rashid added.

But Dr. Prince Ajaz, gastrosurgeon at the Sheri Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Srinagar, said people should avoid the frequent intake of dried vegetables and pickles.

“The concentration of free radicals in pickles and dried vegetables is very high and its consumption has many health risks,” he said.

“It has been speculated that ingestion of pickles and dried vegetables may cause certain malignancies, especially colon cancer, but we have not witnessed such cases yet,” he added.

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