Srinagar: The prolonged closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway has made people in Kashmir search for traditional dried vegetables and fish. The demand has led to a surge in prices and many of the traditional winter food items are fast dwindling from markets.
Dried vegetables that mostly include dried tomatoes (rugavan haches), dried brinjal (vaganhache), dried bottle gourds (aale hache), along with dried fish are prepared during summers and stored for eating in winters, when fresh vegetables are hard to come by.
However, over the years the practice has declined as supplies of fresh vegetables from northern Indian states have kept shops well stocked. This winter, though, the frequent and prolonged closure of the highway has blocked the supplies.
Bashir Ahmad, 65, has been selling dried vegetables in Zaina Kadal area of old Srinagar for almost 30 years. “This winter, people are preferring to buy dried vegetables as due to the frequent closure of the highway, fresh vegetables are not available in the market. This month I have old almost one quintal of these vegetables, when last year I sold only 40kg,” Basheer said.
The season of these dried vegetables starts from November and lasts till April. “Only in these months do people consume dried vegetables as these are considered warming to the body system; they are not suitable for hot summer days,” Basheer added.
Dried vegetables come from different villages of Kashmir. Mudasir Ahmad, a dealer from Darish Kadal area of Srinagar, said, “A trader goes to several houses in different villages to collect dried vegetables, then he distributes them among us. Our business lasts only for the winter season, which this year has been pretty good. Every year I buy one quintal out of which I would manage to sell only about 30kg, but this winter the demand is so good that only 10kg are left in my shop. The dried tomato has all sold out,” Mudasir said.
The supply and price of dried vegetables is also dependent on their cultivation. “If cultivation is good, price of the vegetables is low. If not, the price goes up. At this time we don’t have much stock. Last year the cultivation of tomato was not good. You go to any shopkeeper and you will hardly find dried tomato; that is the reason the price of dried tomato is so high this year,” Mudasir said.
Haleema Banoo, a resident of Srinagar, said that if you don’t eat dried vegetables in winter, then you feel that you are missing something.
“This winter snowfall happened many times, and often we did not find fresh vegetables in the market. So we are buying a lot of dried vegetables. They are very good for health, too,” she said.
Dried vegetables are much costlier than fresh ones. One kg of dried tomato costs Rs 200, of dried brinjal Rs 160, of dried bottle gourd Rs 240, and of dried turnip Rs 160. Dried fish (hoggard) costs anywhere from Rs 400 to Rs 900 a kg, depending upon the size and variety of the fish.