The strong smell and small amount of asafetida, which is known as a hing benefits our body alot. This looks like a small pebble also change the taste of food. It is an essential spice in kitchens in India.
Asafoetida is used extensively throughout India. Although many people do not like the smell of asafoetida, but it is also used as a digestive.
It is usually kept in an air-tight box away from the sun’s light. Suddenly the discussion of asafoetida started because the cultivation of asafoetida has started in Himachal Pradesh. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) says that this is the first time that asafoetida is being cultivated in India.
CSIR has announced that the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur has started farming from Monday.
Asafoetida cultivation has been started in Lahaul Spiti area of Himachal. CSIR director Shekhar Mande claims that asafetida is being cultivated for the first time in India.
Is cultivating asafoetida in India really difficult? If asafoetida is not cultivated in India, then where does it come from and why is it used in India on such a large scale.
Where does asafetida come from in India?
India does not grow asafoetida, but it is used extensively in India. According to an estimate, 40 percent of asafetida produced in the world is used in India.
Asafoetida used in India comes from countries like Iran, Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Some traders also order it from Kazakhstan. The demand for asafoetida from Afghanistan is the highest.
According to CSIR, India imports 1,200 tonnes of asafetida from these countries every year after spending Rs 600 crore. Therefore, if there is success in growing asafoetida in India, the quantity of asafoetida is imported, it will be reduced and its price will also be reduced. However, asafoetida production is not so easy.
Why is asafetida so expensive?
Asafetida plant falls under the category of carrot and radish plants. It is best produced in cold and dry environments.
There are about 130 varieties of asafoetida all over the world. Some of these varieties are cultivated in Punjab, Kashmir, Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh but its main variety, Ferula asafoetida, is not found in India.
The seed with which CSIR is cultivating asafoetida has been sourced from Iran. The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR) based in Delhi has ordered nine varieties of asafetida from Iran. ICAR-NBPGR has clarified that for the first time in thirty years this asafetida seed has been brought to India.
But growing the plant alone does not mean that it will produce asafoetida. However, after sowing the seeds it will take four to five years to get the actual yield. About half a kilo of asafoetida comes out of a plant and it takes about four years. This is why asafoetida costs so much.
The price of asafoetida also depends on how it is being produced. The price of pure asafoetida in India is currently around 35 to 40 thousand rupees. Therefore, the scientists of CSIR feel that if asafoetida farming is successful, it will benefit the farmers strongly.
How is Asafoetida Produced?
Asafoetida ferula is prepared from the juice extracted from the root of asafoetida, but it is not so easy. Once the juice is extracted from the roots, the process of asafoetida starts.
According to the Spices Board website, there are two types of asafoetida – Kabuli white and asafoetida red. White asafoetida dissolves in water while red or black asafoetida dissolves in oil.
Raw asafetida has a pungent smell, so it is not considered edible. It is prepared in small pieces by mixing edible gum and starch. Traders say that the price of asafetida depends on what has been added to it. Asafoetida powder is also available. Asafoetida is cooked in South India and these ripe asafoetida powder is used in spices.
How did asafoetida reach India?
Some people say that asafoetida came to India during the Mughal period because it happens in Iran and Afghanistan. But the documents show that asafoetida has been used in India since before the arrival of the Mughals. In Sanskrit it is known as Hingu.
Mugdha Karnik, managing trustee of the Indian Study Center, says, “There is a possibility that some tribes have brought it from Iran to India. Research is going on about it. Asafoetida has come to India from the food habits of these tribes. It is possible.”
She says, “Initially, asafetida may have been sourced from traders from Iran and Afghanistan from the people of India. And in the same way it must have been used in South India also.
Importance of Asafoetida in Ayurveda
Mugdha Karnik says that there are many references to asafoetida in Ayurveda. Vagbhatta writes in the Ashtangahrdaya, “Hingu vatakfanah shulaghnam pitta kopanam. Katupakarasan Ruchhyan dipanam pachyamanam laghu.”
This means that asafoetida cures vata and phlegm in the body but it increases the level of bile in the body. Hing benefits to heats up and increases appetite. It is a flavor enhancer. If someone is not getting taste, then add asafetida to it by mixing it with water. “
Dr. Mahesh Karve is Associate Professor at YMT Ayurveda College, Kharghar. He says, “The oldest book in Ayurveda is Charaka Samhita. It also mentions asafoetida, so definitely asafetida was used here in many BCE.”
They underline the importance of asafoetida according to Ayurveda. He explains, “Hing (Asafoetida) is a digestive, it is benefits in digestion. Hing benefits to reduces the gas problem. As Indian food is high in starch and fiber, asafoetida proves to be more useful.”
“If you have problems related to digestion, take Hingastaka powder which mainly contains asafoetida. Hing paste is also benefits to cure stomach ache. Asafoetida is used in many medicines. According to Ayurveda it always needs to be cooked in ghee before use. If raw asafetida is used, you will vomit. “
Why do Indian people eat asafoetida?
There are also some people in India who do not use asafetida in their food, but it is an integral part of many people’s food. Asafoetida is commonly used in onion and garlic mines. Some people use asafetida in non-vegetarian mines. Many people sometimes drink asafetida milk here.
Not only in India but also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Arab countries, asafoetida is used as food and medicine. But many people do not like the strong smell of asafoetida.
This is why some people call asafetida as ‘Devils Dung’. However, its smell reduces slightly when mixed with food. Asafoetida is used in Sambar made in Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Apart from this, asafoetida is also used essentially in Gujarati Kadhi, Maharashtra’s Varan and Brinjal vegetable. Next time you use asafoetida, you will definitely remember the history and geography of asafoetida.