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Himalayan Spice Garden: Showcasing Uttarakhand’s Rich Traditional Spices

A Himalayan spice garden has been opened by the forest department at Ranikhet in Almora district to make people aware about the rich spices of Uttarakhand The garden houses 30 different spices including Kaala Jeera, Tej Patta, Kesar and the famous Lakhmori Mirchi of Almora The department is also planning to include spices from other Himalayan regions, like Kesar from Kashmir and Hing from the Bhairoghati area of Uttarkashi district

Uttarakhand’s rich traditional spices are among the best in the country. Just that, unlike Kerala and other Southern states, the spices which are found in Uttarakhand have never been popularised or marketed broadly. Hence, not many are aware of the state’s fine quality spices.

But, things are about to change now. With the dual purpose of making people aware about the spices of this hilly state, and also for their conservation, a Himalayan Spice Garden has been inaugurated at Ranikhet in Almora district of Uttarakhand.

In an exclusive conversation with Indian Masterminds, Chief Conservator of Forest and In-Charge of the state Forest Research Wing, Sanjiv Chaturvedi, IFS, shared details about the spice garden.

THE HIMALAYAN SPICE GARDEN

Most of the spices of the state (around two third) are found in the wild. Like Kala Jeera, which is found at a very high-altitude area, or Allium, which is basically an onion species. This is one of the reasons the forest department had to enter the spice area, to make them more accessible. The department decided to create the Himalayan Spice Garden where all the spices of the region will be available in one place and people will become aware about the richness, nutrition, and delicacy of the spices found in the state.

Timur, Dalchini, Gandrayani, and Badri Tulsi

The department is also planning to include spices from other Himalayan regions as well. Like Kesar from Kashmir, some high-altitude spices from Himachal Pradesh, and also Hing from the Bhairoghati area of Uttarkashi district.

“Later on, we will try to undertake trials of Hing species found in the cold desert areas, also. So, we will not keep it limited to Uttarakhand only, instead we will try to introduce spices from other Himalayan states of our country, from Jammu & Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh,” Mr. Chaturvedi told Indian Masterminds

CONSERVATION AND EMPLOYMENT

Jamboo

He further said that one other reason for opening the spice garden is for conservation of the spices found in the wild areas at a very high-altitude. While generating employment is another. “We also want the spice garden to serve as a livelihood opportunity for the local villagers and women self-help groups. If this works well, then it can also become a tourist destination.”

VARIETY OF SPICES

At present the garden houses more than 30 different spices. It has spices like the very famous Tej Patta (first species of Uttarakhand to get Geographical Indicator Tag), Kesar of Kashmir, Kaala Jeera (spicy than the normal one), Gandrayani, Badri Tulsi (Origanum vulgare – the oregano that’s spread over pizza), and many different species of Haldi.

Van Lehsun

“We have around 10-12 Allium species (onion) which are found in the high-altitude areas. Besides this, we also have a collection of Ajwain (this species is found in the wild), and the Yellow Chili of Almora which is called Lakhori Mirchi (recent researches have shown that it has very good anti-diabetic and anti-bacterial properties). We are further enhancing and enriching the spice garden.” Mr. Chaturvedi said.

WHY KERALA SPICES CANNOT BE GROWN HERE

The altitude of the place where the forest department has developed the spice garden is around 1800m, something around 600ft. Geographically it is called the temperate region, where snowfall also takes place from December to February end.

Van Ajwain

“Uttarakhand region altogether has a different agro-climatic zone, whereas Kerala is tropical and monsoon rainfall is also at a very high rate there. So, the species which are grown in Kerala are very difficult to grow at these places,” the officer explained. 

Kala Jeera

In conclusion, Mr. Chaturvedi appeals to all to visit this spice garden. He told Indian Masterminds that they intentionally chose a place very close to the highway, where there is an ancient temple which is a popular tourist destination. “Through this garden, people will come to know about the rich tradition of the spices of the Himalayan region. We are also trying to document the history of these spices.”

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