Sohphlang is a unique produce of Meghalaya and a cash crop too. It is being feted by the locals for its taste and health benefits.
Rich in phosphorus and protein this pale white, shapeless produce is not very attractive to look at. But this seasonal vegetable (or should we say fruit?) is much loved for its crunchy taste. Not many eat it thinking it is good for them, but because they love its feel on the tongue and down the gullet.
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 (a kind of sesame). Sohphlang is so easy to eat because we don’t have to peel it, is seedless and small, said a Zizira team member
What is Zizira all about?
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. Over 80% of the population depends on agriculture but struggle to market their produce. Zizira is striving to open markets for them. All the team members of Zizira are locals. So, we know the language and the culture and this makes it easier for us to work closely with the farmers of this region.
This post is about a tuber that grows in our state and is a little out of the ordinary. Read on.
Sohphlang comes to the markets in Shillong by October and is available till May.
Since we are located in Meghalaya, Zizira explorers decided to go on a field trip at the end of October to see for themselves and learn first-hand how it is harvested and what the sohphlang farms look like.
Here is a report based on their exploration visit.
We were fortunate to get an experienced Sohphlang farmer as a guide. Kong Krilda Pyngrope – who was a Sohphlang farmer for two decades (1970 to 1990) – went with the explorers to Wahat village in Mawpat, Shillong.
She took us to one of her relative’s Sohphlang farm. To reach the farm, the team had to take a car ride up to a certain point and then walk. The trek took around 30 minutes and along the way, Kong Krilda was sharing her knowledge about cultivation of Sohphlang.
Did you know? 'Kong' is a respectful way of addressing ladies in Khasi, one of the languages of Meghalaya.
Interestingly, by the end of July, no more weeding is done!
So as not to disturb the growing tubers which will be underground. End of October Sohphlangs are dug out.
Sohphlang is harvested at one go, but used as and when needed. The best part is that it does not need any special storage area. The harvest is stored in a hole covered with earth. They are taken out a little at a time and sent to the market.
Again, as for all rooters, they need to be well cleaned before being transported to the market. Remember too that they are eaten raw. This makes a thorough cleaning essential.
After digging them out they are cleaned and scrubbed with sand to remove the outer layer. After that, they are washed and left overnight so that the skin is clean and easy to peel off.
In the morning, they are again washed and are then ready to be sold in the market. The delicate skin is easily peeled off to expose a smooth cream-coloured flesh that has a sweet, nut-like flavour.
In terms of nutritional value, it is particularly rich in phosphorus and proteins.
Did you know? Once used, the area is left fallow for 5 years before another crop is harvested. The soil needs to become hard. That is why farmers seek out land in forests to plant Sohphlang.
Can you see how unique this produce it? Can you also see how the farmers must be working together harmoniously – sharing the resource they have?
I guess the soil which has been left fallow for 5 years has all the nutrition it needs. It does not need any additional fertilizer whether organic or chemical.
Sohphlang, by the very way it is grown, is totally organic.
Kong Krilda gave the team a ball park figure of how much one can harvest. From a plot of 240 sq. feet we can get around 20 Kgs of ready-to-eat Sohphlang.
Soh means fruit in Khasi and Phlang means grass. We wondered why this produce is called Sohphlang.
One of the Zizira explorers came up with a possible explanation – because the field cannot be weeded for two or three months prior to harvest one sees lots of wild grass and weeds. Maybe because the produce comes out from below a field of grass, it is called Sohphlang?
If you know the correct answer please share with us.
Zizira plans to test powdered Sohphlang. Test ways to reach this unique produce to those looking for exotic, healthy and naturally grown products.
Before we close, let us tell you a little about its medicinal benefits.
It is said to help with intestinal worms. You can read about it in our earlier post too.
Here are some online reports we found for further reading for those of you who may wish to know. Most of us are curious, I guess. So here goes:
Zizira explorers felt fulfilled - to have met a sohphlang farmer and having visited a field. It is indeed a unique produce of Meghalaya!
The food lab at Zizira has this listed as something they want to try and reach to those looking for exotic and healthy food options.
For now, we invite you to visit Shillong between October and May and taste Sohphlang.
While here there is so much more you will get to discover about its fresh, naturally grown, healthy products.
Look forward to hearing about your experiences!
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