Consumption of Hokh Syun dwindles in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, OCT 04: Over the years, the traditional practice of preserving dried vegetables known as “Hokh Syun” in Kashmir has seen a decline due to improved road and air connectivity during winters, reduced snowfall, and the availability of fresh vegetables.
Khadija Begum, a resident of Old City Srinagar, recalls the time when dried vegetables were essential for surviving the harsh winters, as the region would be cut off from the rest of the country due to heavy snowfall.
“The process of preserving dried vegetables involved slicing them and removing moisture to ensure they were completely dry. These vegetables were then hung in long garlands on walls or laid out in the sun during the summer months to be consumed in the winter. While some areas, especially in the remote North and South Kashmir, still follow this practice, it has become less common,” she said.
Dried vegetables in Kashmir come in various varieties, including tomatoes, gourd, spinach, turnip, lotus stem, and brinjal. They are priced higher than fresh vegetables due to their longer shelf life.
“The decline in this centuries-old tradition can be attributed to several factors. Improved winter transportation options have reduced the need to stockpile dried vegetables. Additionally, milder winters and reduced snowfall, possibly due to global warming, have made fresh vegetables more readily available throughout the year,” said a vegetable seller at Downtown Srinagar.
Noted poet and writer Zareef Ahmad Zareef emphasized that Hokh Syun was a vital part of Kashmir’s culture when harsh winters and limited agricultural activity necessitated food preservation. However, with the convenience of fresh produce, the consumption of dried vegetables has decreased, he said.
A dried vegetable seller Mushtaq Ahmad from south Kashmir’s Anantnag district said Kashmiris were preserving dried vegetables for winter. “Earlier Srinagar-Jammu National Highway remained closed for weeks. People would preserve dried vegetables and then eat during winter. People were self-sufficient for the long winters. As there is road and air accessibility, people prefer fresh vegetables over Hokh Suen,” the shopkeeper said.
He, however, said there are still some people who believe no delicacy can replace the taste of dried vegetables
Experts say that if the dried vegetables retain any small amount of moisture during sun drying or storage, it attracts insects and leads to fungus.
“There is no harm in consuming dried vegetables. However, people should not use any chemicals for its preservation. People should take care while dying. If there is some moisture and not properly dried, then they could attract fungus and will be harmful to health,” Dr Imran Ahmad, a Srinagar-based physician, said.

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