Srinagar: Nazir Ahmad, 40, from the Saidakadal area does multiple meager jobs to feed his family year-round.
In the winter, he goes door-to-door selling sundried vegetables.
Vendors like him selling sundried vegetables on carts and load carriers are a common site in Srinagar these days.
During winter, people in Kashmir savour the sundried vegetables referred to ‘Hoakh Suen’ in local parlance.
As the sales of sundried vegetables go up in the winter, many vendors like Ahmad earn their livelihood.
“I have been selling sundried vegetables in winters for over eight years now. People in Kashmir savour sundried vegetables. It has been the main part of Kashmir’s culinary culture for a long time. I mostly sell in Srinagar as people in the city don’t grow many vegetables to leave them for drying in sun for the winter. Another reason that people prefer the sundried vegetables is the skyrocketing prices of vegetables which are bought from other states,” Ahmad said.
Apart from door-to-door vendors, the sundried vegetables are sold in abundance in the main vegetable markets of Kashmir like Hazratbal, Lal Chowk, Batamaloo, and Srinagar downtown.
Vegetable growers dry vegetables like turnip, brinjal, tomato, bottle gourd, spinach, beans, and other greens to sell them in local markets.
“These sundried vegetables are the main attraction in vegetable markets around Kashmir. We have been associated with the vegetable trade for decades now. As people are drying fewer vegetables at home, the demand for sundried vegetables has grown,” said Ali Muhammad, a vendor at Hazratbal.
Kashmir is a place that witnesses subzero temperatures in winter and frequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only road link connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world, the tradition of consuming sundried vegetables in Kashmir has been a long one.
Abdul Qadir Mir, an octogenarian from Burzahama said that earlier the import of vegetables and eatables was not much due to road connectivity issues and people traditionally relied on the practice of drying vegetables at home.
“At our home, we still have a tradition of drying vegetables. During my youth, green vegetables would not be available during the harsh winters. To prepare for the winter people used to leave vegetables to dry in the sun and store the sundried vegetables for the winter,” Mir said.