Savour indigenous varieties of vegetables found in Maharashtra’s forests, and tap into a conversation on food security at an upcoming festival
Rice transplantation carried out by members of Mahadev Koli tribe in Kalsubai Harishchandragad Wildlife Sanctuary
Organic produce, clean eating, superfoods — these are terms we are regularly inundated with, whether at the supermarket or on social media. While millennials and Gen Z-ers struggle to keep up with these buzzwords, our baby boomer parents or grandparents are likely to respond with the talk-to-the-hand gesture, having thrived for years without organic bok choy and zucchini, or chia seeds and oats. In fact, Shailesh Awate, co-founder, OOO Farms — which works with 63 village hamlets and 2,200 farmers in Maharashtra and Gujarat to conserve and encourage indigenous farming practices, native seeds and communal culture — insists that people bring along their parents or grandparents to the upcoming Wild Food Festival or Raan Bhojya Mahotsav. Chances are, they will be able to identify aalambi, amarkand, phodshi, kurdu, keni and over 100 varieties of vegetables on display, while we discover a world of greens beyond aloo, gavar, bhendi and gobi.
Dhinda Baba from Palghar plays the tarpa
The Sunday festival, hosted by the social venture, will also feature over 150 native varieties of paddy, 30 types of wheat, 20 varieties of millets, 47 iterants of beans and pulses, 23 kinds of cotton, over 50 varieties of vegetable seeds, among other produce. Director Shikha Kansagara shares that they hope to highlight the rich food culture of India. Referring to the “Instagram School” of organic and clean eating, Awate shares that they want to redefine the parameters of good food. “If you want to consume good food, you cannot pressure the farmer to grow chia seeds; locally, fantastic things grow around you. If you are mindful of that, you’ll be part of a good food ecosystem — where you’re not destroying plants, insects or farmers [through suicides].”
Vanita, a tribal from Palghar, harvests kavdar or wild banana stem and sapud (hathikana), a rare find
The festival aims to start a dialogue on how our eating habits and the variety in our local markets have changed drastically in the past 60 years. It will also urge people to explore the idea of food security, vis-a-vis the edible abundance of our forests and the traditional wisdom of the communities that thrive on them. The day will kick off with an awareness programme led by speakers including Awate, Takshama Pandit from The Locavore, tarpa player Dhinda Baba from Palghar, and a representative of The Polymath School, among others. “We will walk participants through the display of 100 vegetables, of which around 40 will be available for tasting, cooked by tribals and some, by chefs. There will also be a display of indigenous seeds and pulses. This will be followed by a tribal lunch,” Awate explains.
Shikha Kansagara and Shailesh Awate
The itinerary will include a display of traditional Warli art and a tarpa performance by Baba, who is in his 80s. “The tarpa is an ancient instrument. Blowing tarpa in the early mornings of Shravan, when there are a lot of pests in the fields, helps dispel them. They don’t like the resonance. This kind of wisdom is what we want to highlight,” he reveals.
On: August 28; 9 am onwards
At: HM Nanavati English High School, Vile Parle East
Log on to: ooofarms.com or @ooofarms
Cost: Rs 900
Know your veggie
>> Indian Thorny Bamboo (vaaste) is a wild herb found in the monsoon whose tender shoots act as anti-inflammatory, laxative, astringent, diuretic and anti-ulcer agents. The tender shoots are used as vegetables and are also pickled. It is also used to ease menstrual cramps and treat fertility.
>> Padre (khadshingi) is a wild tree whose young pods are useful as an antidote to snake poison, for asthma, bronchitis, fever and abdominal pain. The young pods are boiled to remove bitterness and cooked as a vegetable.
>> Lady fern (akkarghoda) is a wild fern found in the monsoon whose tender shoots help relieve rheumatic pain, flu, pain during childbirth, burns and scalds, and is also good for colon cancer, among other benefits. The young shoots are boiled and cooked as bhaji.