Crop Connect Chronicles


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A team trip to the Devbhoomi, Uttarakhand: our travel story!

Before the intense summer heat could take its toll on us, our team decided to have a team retreat in the hills. What better place for this than the land of the Gods? Hence, the destination was chosen to be the state of Uttarakhand where many of our farmer partners reside.

As the Shatabdi train approached the Kathgodam station, we could see the magnificent hills of the region. We made the journey to Ranikhet from there in a car admiring the beauty of nature in the hills, valleys, and rivers. We stayed at a homestay where the view from our windows was ethereal and the quiet of the place was soul-satisfying. We were accompanied by chilling rainfall at night when we went to meet one of our farmer partners and had a delicious traditional Pahadi dinner.

On the second day, we met with one of our women farmer groups and had a tour of their fields while getting to know their stories. We were caught in rain and a hailstorm mid-morning and ended up going back to our homestay for shelter. The chamomile fields that we visited afterwards seemed to be calling us to them with their distinct fragrance from far.

We reached Bhikiyasain by nightfall where we stayed at a guest house by the river bed. This place was warmer and we were looking forward to visiting some new farmer groups here. After an early morning trekking expedition, we set out to visit 2 women farmer groups who were growing the famous Lakhori chilli. We talked to them to get to know more about them, the state of agriculture in the area and about how we can partner with them.

After a long day, our team bonded over games of taboo and chausar before having an amazing Pahadi dinner. The next day, we bid goodbye to the hills with a promise of coming back soon. We were soon on the train watching the landscape change from the hills to plains with the stories of farmers etched in our hearts.

Devbhoomi was beautiful, and so were its people.

 

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Why Organic Farming?

We harm nature by using chemicals in the soil and this, in turn, harms us. It’s high time we realize this and switch to organic farming. Sunita Kashyap is speaking on this from the lap of mother nature in the Naini village of Uttarakhand.


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Amaranth- the superfood that has always been!

Amaranth is known as a super food globally. Interestingly this gluten free pseudo cereal (it is actually a seed not a grain) has been grown and consumed in India since generations. Known as Chaulai and Rajgira colloquially, Amaranth is widely consumed during fasts due to its high nutritional value in the form of puris/rotis made with its flour and laddus made with puffed amaranth. We decided to spend our Saturday experimenting with amaranth seeds and trying out some contemporary recipes.

Amaranth Porridge 

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We loved this alternative to the regular oats porridge because of its unusual grainy texture. Make sure you try the porridge before adding honey as the combination of amaranth and cooked milk imparts a sweet flavour.
1/2 cup amaranth
1 cup water
1/2 cup milk
Honey to taste
Raisins and almond slivers
Lightly roast the amaranth seeds in a sauce pan till they smell toasty and start popping. Add the water, boil and let it simmer for 7-10 minutes. Add the milk, boil once and simmer covered for 10 minutes or till the amaranth is cooked. Keep stirring to make sure the amaranth seeds are not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add honey to taste along with almonds and raisins.
(Recipe adapted from New York Times Cooking.)

Amaranth Patties

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After a filling breakfast, we next tried to make some Amaranth Patties – two ways to have with our evening tea. We tried one recipe with egg and amaranth flour as a binder and one with just amaranth flour as a binder. Both turned out different and great. The one with egg stored better due to the viscosity of the egg while the other one started becoming dry within an hour of cooking.
1 cup amaranth
2 cups water
1/2 red onion finely chopped
3-4 cloves garlic grated
1/2 red capsicum chopped
1/4 zucchini chopped
2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
2 tsp chilli powder
4-6 tablespoons amaranth flour*
1 whisked egg
Freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
Cook the amaranth in water – first boil the water and then simmer to cook. Once the amaranth is cooked, drain the water and let it cool. Heat some oil in a pan and add the onions and garlic. Once brown, add the capsicum and zucchini and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the mixture to the cooled amaranth along with amchoor, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the amaranth flour or flour and egg and mix well, ideally with hands. Add flour till you get a consistency that allows you to form round balls with your hands which can be pressed into patties.
Once the patties are made, add some oil to a flat pan and cook the patties on both sides till brown and crisp. Enjoy the crunchy amaranth patties with some freshly made coriander chutney made with fresh coriander, ginger, green chillies, lemon juice and salt.
*quantity of flour varies depending on whether egg is used. With egg you will need lesser flour.
(Inspired from a recipe on NDTV Smart Cooky) 

Here’s to a health filled and delicious weekend! Oh and btw, here’s Original Indian Table’s Himalayan Amaranth on Amazon.