Heeng, or asafoetida, is one of the key spices used in Indian cuisine to add flavour to various dishes. India which was till now importing the herb will start growing the heeng in the country itself. For the first time in the country, heeng is being cultivated by scientists at CSIR-Institute of Himalayan Bioresource, Palampur (IHBT) in the Indian Himalayas.
According to a report by The Indian Express, the first sapling has been planted in Kwaring village in Lahaul valley, Himachal Pradesh on 15 October.
Heeng thrives in dry and cold desert conditions. The plant of this herb stores the maximum amount of its nutrients inside its deep fleshy roots.
The report said that earlier in June, the CSIR signed an MoU with the agriculture ministry of Himachal Pradesh to cultivate heeng for over the next five years in the state.
Since heeng grows best in dry and cold conditions, the agriculture ministry of Himachal Pradesh has identified four locations in the valley and has distributed heeng seeds to seven farmers in the region.
A report by The Times of India said the country last year imported about 1,500 tonnes of raw heeng, spending Rs 942 crore from Afghanistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan.
The daily quoted director CSIR-IHBT Sanjay Kumar saying that the cultivation of heeng has the potential to change the economic condition of people in the cold desert areas of the Himachal Pradesh region - Ladakh and certain areas of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.
He added that the cultivation of heeng will cost farmers nearly Rs 3 lakh per hectares over the next five years. They will be getting a net return of minimum of Rs 10 lakh from the fifth year onwards.
The institute has initially identified 300 hectares for asafoetida cultivation. It will be expanded to more areas after seeing the results in the next five years.
A report by India Today said that India consumes nearly 40 percent of the world's production of heeng. The report added that since asafoetida is a major condiment in Indian cuisine, team CSIR-IHBT has been making relentless efforts in introducing the crop in the country.
This includes six accessions of seeds from Iran through the ICAR- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (ICAR-NBPGR), New Delhi in October 2018.
According to ICAR-NBPGR, this was the first attempt for the introduction of heeng seeds in the country in the last 30 years.