29th March 2021


Hing: The Taste of India, finally Made in India

Himachal Pradesh has many firsts and bests in its list of achievements, through history. Himachal Pradesh, in particular, the Kangra region has innumerable achievements to its name - the largest network of narrow gauge rail system in a predominantly mountain terrain with the Shimla Kalka rail network being awarded the UNESCO World Heritage status too, traversing the steepest slope at 5800 feet climb, chugging over 800 bridges and 100 tunnels, the first and only location to successfully grow a variety of Chinese tea outside of China, putting Palampur on the world map. 

Recently, Himachal Pradesh became the proud title holder of one more first. This achievement hails from the almost cold desert-like terrain of Spiti. Home to Asia’s largest glacier, The Shigri Glacier in Lahaul and Spiti, the cold here makes it almost impossible for anything to grow. But interesting this seemingly barren landscape is going to be adding to the zing of Indian food more and more. Indian grown Hing or Asafoetida is here to enhance the flavour of your favourite dishes.

Hing or Asafoetida is so predominant in all our dishes across regional cuisines that one could be pardoned to think of it as an Indian spice and herb. After all, India has been the world’s supplier of spices and herbs since time immemorial. Asafoetida has never grown in India, until now!

Asafoetida or Hing forms an important ingredient in many Ayurvedic medicines and concoctions that our love affair as a country with this drug is as old as the Vedas or perhaps older. Many of the ancient manuscripts and stone inscriptions of recipes found in the Indian mainland refer to Hing in the making. Dishes at our Himachali Rasoi and elsewhere too, Hing forms an important herb arsenal to create magic and satisfy our guests at Rakkh Resort in Palampur.

Although found in every little shop in every village in India, Hing has been imported until now. Asafoetida is a sulfurous smelling gum-resin that's extracted from Furula plants. It's traditionally ground into a powder and used either for its proposed medicinal qualities or as a spice to add a savoury flavour to food.

hing that grows near our resort in dharamshala

Asafoetida is the dried latex (gum oleoresin) exuded from the rhizome or tap root of several species of Ferula, perennial herbs growing 1 to 1.5 m tall. They are part of the celery family, Umbelliferae. The plants are native to the deserts of Iran and mountains of Afghanistan where substantial amounts are grown. India had thriving commerce with both countries from time immemorial. Afghanistan, in particular, has connections even to our Mahabharata with Ghandari hailing from Gandhar region, today’s Kandahar. Another connection Himachal has with Mahabharata is the Kangra Fort. Read more about it here.

Hing, however blissful it makes our food, has been a huge burden on the exchequer with almost USD 200 million dollars worth of Hing imported every year. This prompted agencies in India to think of alternatives. A recent project by the CSIR-IHBT has given India a chance to taste the spice cultivated in its own land. Based in Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, the CSIR-IHBT has planted 800 saplings of ferula asafoetida, which recently were harvested, laying the foundation of Hing independence. CSIR Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology at Palampur has done some amazing work over the years including river and mountain stream rejuvenation in Meghalaya and many other Himalayan states of India. Rakkh Resort in Palampur has also undertaken a smaller venture of rejuvenating and preserving the local water sources and the Pan Chakkis that depend on these water sources.

Coming back to Hing or Asafoetida requires very special conditions to grow that can be found in Lahaul and Spiti, a paradisiacal region of Himachal, untouched and pristine, neighbours to us at Kangra. Like everything great takes time, the resin takes approximately five years for the production of oleo-gum resin in its roots with the plant preferring cold and dry conditions for its growth and, therefore cold desert areas of the Indian Himalayan region are suitable for cultivation of asafoetida.

If you would love to enjoy the fruits of this slowness, you will have to wait a couple more years for the Indian grown Hing to be ubiquitous across the shelves in markets of India. Meanwhile, to enjoy and indulge in slow travel, visit us at Rakkh Resort in Palampur, where the mountains form a natural canvas for a relaxed and slow life, perfected over the generations.

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Ghamrota Village Post Office Ballah ,Tehsil Palampur, District Kangra, Jiun, Himachal Pradesh 176061