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The modern food system has a huge carbon footprint. These Indian cafes want to change that.

On a warm March afternoon, Plantina Mujai diligently prepares food in the kitchen of a café in the village of Khweng, Meghalaya, India. She is dressed in crisp white and green jain kyrshah, a traditional plaid cloth worn by women from the Khasi community, the largest ethnic group in Meghalaya.

He brings out plates full of snacks: bright green banana leaf packets putharo made from a mixture of local rice varieties, and pale yellow discs made from steamed cassava by Mujai himself. It is a source of information on Khasite indigenous foods, which include ancient cereals such as millet and local rice varieties, as well as a wide range of natural edible foods, including greens, fruits, berries and roots.

Through the traditional cuisine that Mujai serves in his café, he promotes the consumption of neglected and underused edible plant species in and around his village. These forgotten plants are usually obtained from nature or rice fields, where they grow as uncultivated greens (or “weeds” in modern parlance).

Mujai – affectionately called Kong Plantina, Kong is a tribute to older women in the Khasi language – sits down to talk about the six Mei-Ramew (or “Mother Earth”) local cafes on their journey. These cafes connect food stall owners such as Kong Plantina, smallholder farmers, feed stores, cafe customers and the wider community with a rich local agrobiological diversity.

As a young girl, Kong Plantina learned traditional cooking from her grandmother – recipes using natural green, bitter tomatoes, dried or fermented fish and many other local ingredients, as well as traditional techniques such as bamboo baking. However, when he started his own grocery store almost 30 years ago, he prepared what he called market food: dishes that customers wanted to eat, such as white rice, potatoes, and potatoes. The ingredients of these dishes were bought from the market, no native ones were used.

According to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, only 150-200 of the world’s thousands of known edible plant species are actively grown for human consumption. Only 12 crops and five animal species account for 75% of human consumption. Rice, corn and wheat make up the vast majority of the crops consumed. The commercial production and global transport of these crops have a huge carbon footprint. This over-dependence on some foods also puts the food system at risk of diseases and disruptions, such as those caused by COVID-19, the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis. Initiatives such as Mei-Ramew Cafés, which focus on the agrobiological diversity of indigenous peoples, offer a certain type of climate resilience.

A mapping exercise organized by the North East Slow Food and Agrobiversity Society in Meghalaya documented 319 edible plants in and around Khweng village. “When we started working in this area in 2012, we saw so much biodiversity,” says Janak Preet Singh, senior researcher on livelihood initiatives. “But we didn’t see it on people’s plate.”

Thus, NESFAS launched programs to encourage the consumption of neglected and underused edible plants, including wild and uncultivated green plants. When NESFAS introduced the Mei-Ramew cafe concept to food stall owners, Singh said it was difficult for most people to change their mindsets and appreciate the ingredients and cuisine of indigenous peoples. “In the end, the food counters were their livelihood,” he says. Natural plants that were considered poor food were associated with social stigma, which increased the reluctance of food tube owners to serve traditional cuisine.

However, Kong Plantina acknowledged the possibility in the Mei-Ramew concept. In 2013, she updated her entire menu to include the forgotten ingredients and foods she learned from her grandmother.

By sourcing ingredients from local farmers and feeders, he ensured that his villagers also earned a regular income. In addition to traditional dishes, Kong Plantina is constantly innovating and has even created dishes that appeal to younger flavors, such as popcorn with the traditional taste of rosel and tamarind and tapioca flour cake.

Wild edible plants, which have evolved over hundreds of years, are more resilient than cultivated crops and tend to be more resilient to climate change. They are also rich in micronutrients and increase dietary diversity, thus helping to reduce malnutrition and improve food security. By using raw materials sourced or grown locally without chemicals, cafes also maintain a very low carbon footprint.

Over the years, Kong Plantina has raised and trained its 10 children with the income earned from its Mei-Ramew café. His cooking is so highly valued that he is regularly invited to cook for large events that feed thousands of people. He recalls the 2015 International Food Festival in Meghalaya, which was attended by more than 50,000 people. “People came to look for our traditional food,” he says. “Soon we had nothing more to earn.”

Kong Plantina has also trained several other chefs, including Dial Muktieh. “I’m happy to share my knowledge,” says Kong Plantina.

Since 2019, Kong Dial, as Muktieh is known, has operated its Mei-Ramew Café across the road from Kong Plantina Café. He recalls generously how one aunt said to her, “When you look out the window, what you see out there should be on your plate. According to her aunt’s words, Kong Dial is a kitchen garden full of various vegetables and fragrant herbs that she uses in your cafe.

Both cafes try to grow a number of wild edible plants in their home gardens to domesticate them, including the chamomile plant Houttuynia cordata, also known as fish mint, the red flowering ragweed Crassocephalum crepidioides, also known as fire grass, and the eastern ones. Himalayan begonia Begonia roxburghii. The two cafes in Khweng have become the heart of a village with 100 households, where residents spend late hours exchanging stories and information about indigenous plants and food.

Hendri Momin, owner of the Mei-Ramew café in the village of Darechikgre, about eight hours from Khweng, supported his community throughout the closure of COVID-19. From April to June 2020, catering establishments in India were asked to shut down and the supply of essential food, such as bread, was disrupted. Momin quickly developed recipes for bread using tapioca flour and cereals such as millet; he baked the loaves at home and then delivered them to his customers.

For some young people in the city, Mei-Ramew cafes have become a place to see and post on social media. For others, like Gerald Duia, a Khasi travel company based in Shillong, the capital of the state, cafes are of deeper importance. As a child, he remembers with his aunts and uncles looking for food in the fields and woods of his ancestral village, Mawkyrdep. “So much traditional knowledge has been lost in my generation about finding food and identifying plants for consumption and medical purposes,” says Duia. He himself no longer recognizes edible plants he knows as a child. “That’s why Mei-Ramew cafes are so important to keeping that knowledge alive.”

Anne Pinto-Rodrigues

is a journalist focusing on social and environmental issues. His geographical specialty is India, where he was born and raised. Anne has been published in The Guardian, The Telegraph, Ensia, CS Monitor and several other international publications. He currently lives in the Netherlands and speaks English, as well as several Indian and European languages. He can be contacted at annepintorodrigues.com.

What did the Native American tribes eat?

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Whether or not they were farming tribes, most Native American tribes had a very meaty diet. Favorite meats included buffalo, elk, caribou, deer, and rabbit; salmon and other fish; ducks, geese, turkeys and other birds; boxes and other boxes; and marine mammals such as seals or even whales.

What are first foods Native American?

What was the favorite food of the Indians? Corn, Beans and Squash All over the continent, Indian food focused on these three staples. The corn was eaten alone or ground and used in various recipes. Different types of hard beans were especially popular in the southwest.

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What foods are indigenous to Africa?

The richest foods were salmon, roots, berries, deer and elk. See the article : Community Resources to Combat Climate Change and Food Loss and Waste. All of these foods could be found in different places and each was available at different times of the year.

Indigenous African crops such as yams, sorghum and millet are widely used in African cuisine, but also as cultivated imports such as wheat, rice, corn and cassava. These crops produce starches for bread and a common African food called fufus or ugali.

  • What foods come from Africa? Here are six foods from Africa that are popular today:
  • Rice. The first rice seeds used for farming were probably imported directly from the island of Madagascar in 1685. …
  • Coffee. …
  • Jamss. …
  • Black – eyed peas. …
  • Okra. …

What are three foods that are African in origin?

Watermelon.

What is the native fruit of Africa?

Since the 17th century, when Africans were forced into slavery in the New World, they and their descendants have had a major influence on what Americans cultivate and eat. This may interest you : Go fishing: Danish scientists work on fungus-based seafood substitute. Watermelon, okra, yams, black peas and some peppers are all indigenous to Africa.

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What are the Indigenous foods?

Members currently market eight native fruit species – baobab, marula (Sclerocarya birrea), Kalahari melon (Citrullus lanatus), ximenia (Ximenia spp.), Mango (Schinziophyton rautanenii), cape mahogany (Trichilia emetic), kigelia (Kigelia spp.) ) and devil’s claw (Harpagophytum spp.).

Wild / indigenous foods include wild plants, animals and insects that are not kept in captivity and are sometimes considered to be underutilized or underutilized species, and include roots and tubers, vegetables and leafy vegetables, fruits, insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. collected for human consumption (FAO and …

Why indigenous foods are important?

What is the food of Indigenous peoples in Canada? The traditional diet of the Aborigines consisted of animals and plants found in the land and sea around them. These included elk, carp, elk, seal, whale, buffalo, rabbits, all kinds of fish, and many species of birds. Parts of each animal were consumed or used to make clothing or shelter.

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What foods did Cherokee eat?

Why are local food systems important? An important reason why local food systems are important is that they can contribute to food security and the eradication of hunger and poverty. Many indigenous communities are able to find ways to grow and harvest crops that are resilient to climate change.

Cherokee women did most of the farming, harvesting corn, beans, pumpkins and sunflowers. The Cherokee men did most of the hunting by shooting deer, bears, wild turkeys and small game. They also fished in rivers and on the coast. Cherokee dishes included cornbread, soups and stews.

What fruits did the Cherokee eat?

Did Cherokee eat meat? Cherokee people also ate a lot of meat, especially deer and rabbits and turkeys, and a lot of fish and turtles.

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