Hidden and Underutilized Horticulture Crops from Northeast India

Given that the Northeast holds about 33% of India’s flora, it is no wonder that the people here have relied on nature to provide for all of their needs. Horticulture crops are by definition, cultivated plants that are directly used by man for food, medicinal and aesthetic purposes.

Ample forest cover and the largely untouched land are particularly conducive to the survival of these crops. It is in this environment that horticulture crops in the form of passion fruit, star fruit, tree tomato etc. have been growing and flourishing since millennia in the northeast region of India.

Zizira is a food products company which operates from Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya in the Northeast part of India – a region known for its verdant landscape, natural springs that irrigate fields, and unique herbs and spices.

Zizira makes plant-based products for discerning customers who appreciate the way we diligently and responsibly partner with farmers and maintain product excellence from the field to urban families. Here is why we do what we do.

Meghalaya’s Share of Underutilized Horticultural Crops

In Meghalaya, 70% of the population are into farming, the majority of which are subsistence farmers. The tradition and culture of the Khasi tribe of Meghalaya is closely linked to nature since time immemorial.

Potential of Underutilized Horticultural Crops

The northeast region accounts for about 5.1% fruits and 4.5% for vegetables of the total horticulture crops in India. (Source)

In this post we present the underutilized horticulture crops of Meghalaya because they provide opportunities for better returns for the farmers

Underutilized Horticultural Crops (UUHC) are cultivated, consumed and traded locally. A Study by Indian Council of Agricultural Research Complex for North Eastern Hill Region, Meghalaya, brings out a report about underutilized horticultural crops.

The Northeast region is described as a reservoir richly endowed with a variety of horticultural crops with diverse genetic variability. Hardy, disease and pest resistant, they are grown in 3.14% of the total area of the Northeast region.

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Scope of Underutilized Horticulture Crops – an Extract From the Report

An interesting finding emerged from the study about the underutilized horticulture crops (UUHC) in the Northeastern region.

  • The Northeast region of India is classified as one of the 18 hot-spots of the world in terms of diversity conservation. This clearly shows the diverse plant wealth in different agro-ecological/phyto-geographical regions of the Northeast. The paper shows an extensive number of non-traditional or underutilized horticultural crops, both in cultivated and in wild environments. According to Dr. A. Mao, Botanical Survey of India, Shillong, “Northeast India consists of two bio-diversity hotspots - the Indo Myanmar region and the Eastern Himalaya region, which makes the region one of the richest in bio-diversity resources in India.”
  • UUHC are low input crops. Some also possess medicinal properties which have great value in Ayurveda and folk medicine (Khasi: dawai kynbat).
Did you know? Plant families Nepanthaceae, Illiciaceae and Clethraceae are found only in Northeast India.

So What Are the Underutilized Horticultural Crops of Northeast India?

According to the report they are classified into two crop groups: fruit and vegetable.



Pyrus pashia (Soh-shur) Cyphomandra betacca (Tree tomato -Sohbaingon dieng)
Prunus nepalensis (Sohiong) C. minimum Syn. C. fastigiatum (Bird’s eye chilli)
Docynia indica (Sohphoh khasi) Sechium edule (Chow-Chow - Piskot)
Myrica farquhariana (Sohphie-nam) Momordica cochinchinesis and M. dioica (Kakrol kartoli)
Passiflora edulis (Passion fruit) Canavalia ensiformis (Jack bean)
Averrhoa carambola (Carambola – Sohpyrshong- Star fruit) Psopocarpus tetragonolobus (Winged Bean)
Dillenia indica (Elephant apple) Parkia roxburghii (Tree Bean)
Garcinia cowa (Bhava) Coccnia grandis (Kundru)
Phyllanthus acidus (Star aonla) Allium sativum (Garlic – Runsun khasi)
Elaegnus, spp (Miricatenga - Sohshang) Flemingia vestita (Earth fruit - Sohphlang)
  Amorphophallus spp. (Elephant foot yam)

Are there constraints that stand in the way of development of underutilized horticultural crops?

The ICAR report lists a few:

  1. Lack of awareness, leading to poor recognition and promotion of UUHCs
  2. Lack of research, leading to limited availability and application of innovative and modern farm agro-techniques and technologies
  3. Lack of post-harvest management practices
  4. Lack of supporting infrastructure, viz, financial institutions, agro-based food processing industries, storage, transport and marketing

What Then Is to Be Done?

In conclusion, team Zizira believes creating awareness is the watchword. The world has to know about these the underutilized crops in the Northeast region from among the many horticulture crops in India, and the immense benefits they have to offer, both economic and nutritional, not to speak about enhancing food security. The harnessing is the requisite action.

With clear vision and passion, team Zizira ploughs alongside the real heroes, the researchers and the farmers. Next, Zizira Explorers will take you on a discovery of these wonder crops one at a time.

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