Local fruits and veggies hold the key to food, nutritional security
There is a variety of nutritious and tasty foods that grow in India but these benefit only a few—those who live in areas where these plants grow. The problem is that most of the local foods cannot be stored and technologies to preserve and store them have not been developed. This has resulted in a shift to foods like cereals and pulses which may not be as nutritious but can be stored easily. Vegetables like karmal (Dillenia pentagyna) and false olive (Champereia manillana), found in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, kheep (Leptadaenia pyrotechnica) found in Rajasthan and gumma (Leucas aspera) consumed in West Bengal have more or less disappeared from our plates.
Local food is losing favour even in rural areas even though it is available there. The younger generation is not aware of most of these food items. With easy access to money, youngsters in Punjab prefer soft drinks instead of the traditional lassi or thandai.
Then there are food items that are losing ground because the environment in which they grow is degraded. In Bihar, production of makhana (Euryale ferox), a valued food during fasting seasons, has gone down due to destruction of wetlands where they grow. This nutritious seed is now sold at high prices, keeping it out of bounds for the poor.
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