Dried vegetables continue to treat taste buds of Srinagarites

Amid sub-zero temperature, city markets offer centuries-old treat to locals
During winter, people in Kashmir savour the sundried vegetables referred to ‘Hoakh Suen’ in local parlance.
During winter, people in Kashmir savour the sundried vegetables referred to ‘Hoakh Suen’ in local parlance.File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

BY HUMA MASROOR

Srinagar: Standing in a line to buy dried vegetables, Ajaz Ahmad waits amid bone-chilling winter at the famous market of Hazratbal here. This market provides a variety of dried vegetables which are traditionally eaten all over Kashmir for centuries.

“These dried veggies are known to keep you warm amid winter. Earlier, people used to grow them at home mostly, but now vendors across Srinagar sell these. I often come here to buy these vegetables for my family,” Ahmad said.

People are known to relish vegetables like dried tomato, turnip, bottle gourd, brinjal, and some other leafy vegetables amidst winter in Srinagar. These Srinagar markets are providing enough options for locals to choose from while the traders earn their livelihood.

“We mostly get these dried vegetables from villages in Kashmir, then sell them here in the city. These vegetables are good for health and are among the old traditions of Kashmir. Many sellers who are indulging in farming dry these vegetables over the months and store them to sell in winter. The market is good, and it is enough to make ends meet”, said Muhammad Shafi, a vendor at Hazratbal.

He further added that “the dried vegetables always remain in good demand during winters due to extreme cold as it helps people to keep themselves warm.”

Many vegetable vendors across Srinagar dry vegetables during summers, usually from June to October, by keeping them in direct sunlight or on the rooftops for days so that it gets dry completely.

“There are no chemicals in them, and no preservatives are used, which makes these vegetables a harmless treat. Over the years, with kitchen gardens disappearing, people are relying on sellers like us to enjoy this winter treat,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a vegetable seller at Nowhatta area.

Many locals who have kitchen gardens in Srinagar traditionally grow vegetables in bulk to dry them for winter.

“We don’t dry too many vegetables, but the basic vegetables like tomato, turnip, bottle gourd, brinjal have been used in dried from in our house for years,” said Zareefa Begum.

She said that in addition to vegetables, there are also some spices that dry in summer, like Mint, Fenugreek, Coriander, and Fennel seeds, to add amazing taste to their daily cuisine.

These veggies are specially dried and stored for winter because, during heavy snowfall in Kashmir, people prefer to stay indoors and have these at hand to use readily. These dried vegetables don’t go stale, so people prefer these.

Historians say that Kashmir being a place where multiple crops are not grown throughout the year due to its peculiar climate, has given rise to dried vegetables. They say that due to the central Asian roots of Kashmir, its climate and topography have always made dried vegetables feasible to the Kashmir culinary culture. For decades, the locals in Srinagar and other parts of Valley have found a business opportunity in it, and markets in Srinagar are full of dried vegetables in winter.

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