Sohphlang - Healthy Vegetable and Cash Crop of Northeast India

Sohphlang, Flemingia vestita is one of the local vegetable found in Meghalaya, Northeast India.

It is a nibble food, probably a comfort food too. It is also a health food. A tuber, rich in phosphorus and protein, it is a healthy fruit and is a unique produce of Northeast India.

It used to be found only in the wild, but its growing popularity meant it has now become a cash crop. 

But, why is it called a vegetable? Read on.

Dugged from ground Sohphlang

Why Eat Sohphlang?

"Sohphlang is seedless and it is small. I eat it because it’s crunchy, juicy, mildly sweet, bite-sized, and refreshing," was how Sainbor, a local from Meghalaya, summed it up.

That says it all.

But it goes beyond taste; Sohphlang or Flemingia vestita has medicinal properties too.

And this can help farmers make money as it grows in popularity. It is one of the many healthy vegetables and fruits that grow in Northeast India.

In keeping with our mission of bringing the little known treasures from the fields of Northeast India to the fore, Zizira explorers introduce you to Sohphlang.

The Asian Health Food

This is a juicy tuber used as a vegetable in many parts of Northeast India and other Asian countries. Endemic to these regions, this healthy vegetable can be seen in the markets in Meghalaya from October to May.

Said to be an antioxidant, Sohphlang can be eaten raw after peeling the thin skin that covers it. The inside looks whitish and has a nutty flavour. It is best eaten with Nei Lieh.

NOTE: ‘Nei Lieh’ in Khasi translates as ‘Sesame White’ in English.  Zizira explorers met with a Senior scientist of Botanical Survey of India at his office in Laitumkhrah, Shillong, who clarified that though the literal meaning of Nei Lieh makes it look like white sesame, it is different from sesame and best referred to as Perilla seed.

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Deworming Properties Gives It a 'Healthy Vegetable' Tag

Sohphlang,Flemingia vestita, works as a deworming agent and gets rid of soft-bodied intestinal worms. Intestinal parasite problem is seen to be more in regions with high rainfall where meat is part of the daily diet.

Why so?

There is a chance of eating undercooked meat of infested animals.

Hence Sohphlang or Flemingia vestita is a nature's gift to this hilly region, which gets a good amount of rain.

lady farmer picking sohplang Sohphlang, a healthy produce of Meghalaya with medicinal benefits

Highlights from the report:

  • The show and training was organized to promote and conserve indigenous food like Sohphlang
  • Efficacy as a deworming agent scientifically validated
  • It is commercially cultivated only in Meghalaya
  • Crunchy sohphlang is eaten raw with salt and some red chilli powder. The best combination is with nei-lieh**  that has been ground to a fine paste together with salt.
  • Sohphlang can fetch a price of Rs. 200 per Kg (which makes it attractive for farmers).
An insight from this report is worth reproducing here:
In today’s world, indigenous practices have gradually been neglected and replaced by other cultures. Hence there is a need to preserve and encourage the farmers, especially the rural youth, to cultivate it on a commercial scale. The demand for sohphlang as foodstuff has increased so much that it is being cultivated as a cash crop (earlier it was growing in the wild). Although regularly available in the local markets, there has been a gradual decline in its cultivation. (Source)
Here is a first person account on Sohphlang by a Zizira team member:
I don't know much about Sohphlang, but I love to eat it. All I know is that we normally associate it with fruit although we know it’s a root, but it is called 'Soh' (means fruit in Khasi) and 'Phlang' (literally means grass). I think the reason it is associated with fruit is that it is juicy and refreshing. We love to eat it, especially with Nei lieh**. Sohphlang is so easy to eat because we don’t have to peel it, is seedless and small. I eat it because it's crunchy, juicy, mildly sweet, bite-sized, and refreshing. But sometimes people hesitate to buy because they think it might be poisonous - not that the root itself has poison, but because of superstition, they think the people who sell might leave some kind of a poison in it!

Hope you found this useful and informative?

Do you have questions about a healthy produce like Sohphlang or other healthy fruits, herbs, spices and vegetables of Meghalaya? 

Do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Or add your queries as comments. Do you know of other uses of Sohphlang? Add them as comments.

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