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The hills and their bean stock
By Richa Gautam and Gurjeet Kaur


With growing needs of the villagers and the desire for comfortable and materialistic living, there is a huge change in the pattern of agriculture in the hills. The cultivation of staple crops has taken a beating and is being intensively replaced by cultivation of cash crops such as fruits and exotic herbs as they are much more profitable to grow in comparison to other staple crops.

Another challenge to the preservation of these traditional staple crops is the relative ignorance about them outside of the kitchens of these more remote regions despite their culinary and nutrional value. Take a moment to learn about the legume called known in English black soybean (Glycine max), in the hills of Uttarakhand it simply called bhat or kala bhat.

Where it grows
The food culture of the hills has not changed much, as most of the villagers are vegetarian and have incorporated pulses with high protein content in their diet instead of meat. Their eating habits remain simple and
healthy.

Being a hilly state, Uttarakhand differs from the plains in topography, elevation, diversity of habitats, and ethnic diversity.

Accordingly, it offers a vast scope for cultivation of diverse mix of crops, cereals, pulses, millets, vegetables, fruits and oilseeds to name a few. Because of the heterogeneity in geographical conditions, temperature, moisture, elevation and soils, a large number of crops are cultivated here.

How it’s grown
Though productivity of pulses is not very good in this region, they are usually grown mixed with major cereals and minor millets. They are grown mainly in the Kharif season (month of June) and are ready to harvest by the month of October. Apart from making dals from these pulses, the inhabitants have diversified the uses of some pulses, which are very popular among the community there.

Nutritional value
The Journal of Nutrition and Nutrition Reviews endorsed black soybean’s curative powers and its iron and protein content – making it an excellent meat substitute. It’s not a magic pill but a humble nutrition-filled product of nature. It also has medicinal properties and has proven to help in manage diseases like beriberi, lockjaw, promotes blood circulation and reduces cholesterol.

Uses
The black soybean is usually consumed in form of dal (bhatwani), forming one of the staple foods in Uttarakhand.

There are many ways of cooking it. The dried soybean is soaked overnight and is ground to paste which can be cooked to make dubka. Roasted in a little oil, one can make chutkani.

A typical lunch in the region would consist of steamed rice served with bhatwani along with some fried red chilies. Use of gram flour in chutkani instead of rice differentiates it from bhatwani.

The meal tickles the palate with curiosity. Black soybean can be purchased in local markets at Rs 80 per kilo after the harvest season in October.


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