Traditional foods, fruits and vegetables are highly rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds, offering enormous health benefits.
By Parkash Meghwar
With the furious growth of population, diversities in food commodities and modern processing techniques have been observed to meet the demand at possible rate. The use of fertilizers, pesticides spray, modern sowing, harvesting, storage and transportation techniques etc. have altered nutritional value of food crops as before. Fertilizers and pesticides from the markets are highly loaded with hazardous chemicals that may give birth to several illnesses, but to meet the human race and market demand, farmers are modifying agricultural practices day by day.
In this modern era of technology, farmers in most of the parts of country are not too much busy in their field, as they run a machine and leave it for the end results. Whereas 20-30 years back, farmers were enthusiast to spend day and night at the field to get the desired and valuable production.
However, farmers in desert district Tharparkar are still working sincerely at their lands after rain with traditional methods of sowing, harvesting, storing and transferring produce to the home with traditional means. These people consume field grown food crops including vegetables and local seasonal fruits such as peelu, ber, kair etc. and vegetables like singri, chibhar, pipoon, khumbhi etc. which are highly rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds, offering enormous health benefits.
Currently, a vast amount of Singri pods are available in all towns of Tharparkar for sale being a good source of income as well as traditional seasonal food. Most of the people consume Singri in cooked form. When it fully ripe on tree it’s locally called as ‘Khokha’. It can be obtained without money in respective area from a drought-tolerant, evergreen, therapeutic plant locally called Kandi/Khejri (Prosopis cineraria). Raw Singri can be boiled and sun-dried that can be consumed for vegetable purpose for future. Moreover, Pilu fruit, also called grapes of Tharparkar, is usually found in rural areas where drought-tolerant plants Khabar/Jaar (Salvadora oleiodes) are available. It is highly perishable fruit, rich in nutrients. People consume as well as process it to get a product locally called gur.
Kandi tree is scattered throughout desert, but a sudden decline of tree has been observed in past years due to shortfall in rain, climate condition, soil erosion, cutting by the local dwellers etc. However, it is useful tree, keeping green leaves throughout year despite drought situation. Scientists have to conducts research studies to evaluate contributing factors destroying this valuable asset of Tharparkar known as King of Desert.
In the past, people were relying on seasonal fruits and vegetables, but as modern technology evolved, most of the population is not considering natural grown foods good for health that results eating highly processed, ionized, chemically preserved, food commodities in surplus amount. Such life style of present population leads to chronic diseases such as Diabetes, CVS and Cancer etc.
Some 78 percent population of Tharparkar is under poverty due to lowest human development index and greater mortality rate among infants. They still believe on rain-based farming as well as an alternate used nowadays to irrigate their farms i.e., installation of tube well and solar run motors at farms. It is possible only for those having enough income, so this technique is currently adopted by affluent societies of rural areas.
To draw the proper attention of consumers of rural areas, there should be strong awareness programs related to the importance of local fruits, vegetables, and their proper consumption along with adoption of traditional processing as well as preservation techniques.
Being Food Technologist, I have observed that natural plants and trees in Thar Desert are very significant in case of nutrition, homeopathic uses, domestics, and other utilization purposes. If people do proper care, consume their fruits properly and start campaign about reduction in loss of natural gifted trees, different kind of illnesses can be mitigated. Various studies highlighted nutritional value of plants and trees of Tharparkar with incredible importance. For malnourished dwellers of Thar it is very important to adopt traditional food choices to be healthy, as health is wealth.
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