There are certain ingredients without which Indian cuisine would be almost unthinkable. One of them being ‘hing’, or the more complicated word for it asafoetida, is almost like salt in many Indian dishes.
Without hing there would be no hing tadaka dal, or that homey hing ka chowk that takes us all right back to our childhood.
But while hing on its own is such an integral part of Indian cuisine, it was quite surprising to know that till date it was being imported from outside and was not something grown locally.
As per the latest reports, for a long time, hing was being imported from Afghanistan and Iran in bulk. It is only recently that scientists from CSIR-IHBT, Palampur, have taken up the project of growing it in Lahaul and Spiti, districts in Himachal Pradesh.
Hing Is Not From India?
Hing is not native to India, instead, it comes from the deserts of Iran and the mountainous regions of Afghanistan.
Currently, India imports as much as 1,200 tonnes of the hing spice from Afghanistan, Iran and Uzbekistan on a yearly basis.
This is reportedly said to cost the country around $100 million per year with India having spent a whopping Rs. 942 crore in 2019 when importing around 1,500 tonnes of raw hing from the mentioned regions.
In order to cut down on this import bill and also make the country self-reliant on this plant, the Indian government has given the go-ahead for its local cultivation.
The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) and farmers from the Lahaul Valley in Himachal Pradesh are working to start hing cultivation. They plan to use the wastelands and the cold desert weather conditions of the region to do so.
This news was confirmed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and on October 15th, 2020, the first planting of asafoetida seeds was done in the Kwaring village of Lahaul valley.
IHBT has currently reserved around 300 hectares of land for its cultivation.
The director of CSIR-IHBT, Sanjay Kumar, was quoted saying that “It’ll cost farmers nearly Rs 3 lakh per hectares over next five years and give them a net return of minimum Rs 10 lakh from fifth year onwards. We will in collaboration with state governments provide support to farmers with finance and technical know-how. It’ll be a gamechanger for farmers in cold desert region of the country.”
A cold and dry desert condition is extremely important for the wild plant that is hing/asafoetida to grow properly. It is also expected that the economic condition of people in regions like Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh that have this type of weather, could benefit from hing cultivation.
Reaction On Twitter
It was certainly bizarre to see something like ‘hing’ trending on Indian Twitter. Many were confused about what the matter was about, while others were either sharing interesting trivia about hing and hing cultivation or posting about the news itself.
Who knew that such a staple of Indian cuisine was not from India at all and is being grown locally for the first time now.
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