Eat seasonal and local when in Goa, and stay healthy

The recent Traditional Food Festival, in Panjim, saw a veritable mix of cultivated and wild veggies found in the villages of Goa – from Pernem to Canacona
Dr Vandana Shiva checks out the  food stalls at the Traditional Food Festival, in Panjim
Dr Vandana Shiva checks out the food stalls at the Traditional Food Festival, in PanjimGomantak Times

These days, one common mantra we hear is that in order to live a healthy lifestyle, one has to eat seasonal and local food. But, the practical implications of this mantra is difficult, as our local vendors sell vegetables, which have travelled some hundreds of kilometres, and most of them are loaded with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Thus, the urban populace is largely unaware about the local greens and seasonal vegetables.

However, conscious efforts have been made to make people aware about such edibles. The best example being the Traditional Food Festival, organised by Goa State Biodiversity Board (GSBB), in association with the Rotary Club of Margao Sunrise at the Maquinez Palace complex, Panjim, recently.

Dr Vandana Shiva checks out the  food stalls at the Traditional Food Festival, in Panjim
‘Spare a thought for Mollem forest, Mr Chief Minister’


The Traditional Food Festival was inaugurated by Goa’s Chief Minister, Dr Pramod Sawant; Minister for Environment and Climate Change, Chairperson, GSBB, Nilesh Cabral; and GSBB member secretary Pradip Sarmokadam; and environmentalist, advocate of food sovereignty, author and founder of Navdanya, Dr Vandana Shiva.

Dr Shiva, who was quite impressed with the wide variety of edibles, in her address, mentioned that mid-day meals in schools and hospital canteens should serve such food as it is highly nutritious.

The exhibition was an interesting mix of cultivated and wild varieties of vegetables, found in various villages of Goa – from Pernem to Canacona. It included vegetables, sweets, pickles, drinks, cutlets, etc namely Karmallonche, Rice pole, Patoli, Sanna, Donne, Sweet idli,

Masala nevri, Khatkhatem, Tonak,Nachanechi bhakri and Satvato to name a few.

A stall serving local dishes made from seasonal produce at the festival
A stall serving local dishes made from seasonal produce at the festivalPIC CREDIT: Arti Das

Most of these items are traditional delicacies of Goa, which we have forgotten, or are now made only during festivals. They are not only tasty, but have lots of medicinal properties.

Ayurvedic doctor, Dr Maryanne Lobo, who conducts plant walks, says about this festival, “These are satvik foods. As these are seasonal foods, they help in boosting immunity, and are good for gut health and the gut microbiome, and also to deal with skin infections.”

During this one-day fest, people could learn about these vegetables as the samples were displayed with a label, recipes were shared on information charts or were also kindly shared by women who were part of this festival.

Shubhada Chari, a teacher from Keri, Sattari, had an interesting stall of wild vegetables. It included pickle made from karmal or elephant apple (Dillenia indica). Interestingly, even though it is a forest species, one tree is found in the urban spaces of Panjim city, informed one of the participants.

A stall serving a typical local meal at the Traditional Food Festival
A stall serving a typical local meal at the Traditional Food FestivalPIC CREDIT: Arti Das


Chari then spoke about an interesting wild fruit locally known as Pendara (Tamilnadia uliginosa). “We boil this fruit, then peel it and use its pulp. Its seeds are not edible. But, its pulp has the texture of potatoes. We make vegetables and even cutlets from it. It is a wild fruit, found in forests,” informs Chari. This was an unusual fruit as not many people have heard about it.

This also shows that often times, villagers rely on forest food for their daily dose of vegetables, and as mentioned before, they are highly local and seasonal.

It is also important to note how these vegetables are prepared traditionally. It helps to enhance flavour and also to know which parts to consume, as not all parts of a vegetable are edible, especially wild varieties. So, it is important to consult the locals when one uses these vegetables.

The stall also included an orange coloured drink made from the seeds of keshari plant, which is also known as lipstick plant (Bixa orellana). Its seeds release this beautiful orange colour and a drink is made from it.

Some food preparations using local greens
Some food preparations using local greensPIC CREDIT: Arti Das

The festival also had an array of sweets made from jackfruit, coconuts, rice paste etc. It includes a dish known as donne, which is made from rice paste and jaggery and is steamed in leaves of jackfruit or rock fig, which is locally known as fatarfod. All these leaves add flavour and its properties to the dish.

There were even sannas on display, which were steamed in coconut shells, giving them an aesthetic look, which was also a way to use these shells, which are otherwise considered as waste.

A herbal cola, made by Sachin Rane of Team24 Beverages, was also launched during this food festival, which was part of the ‘Biodiversity Friendly Farming’ at Maquinez Palace, Panjim. This cola is made from nutmeg fruit pulp, which is considered an agro-waste (the seed is generally used in culinary preparations).

Earlier in the day, the Govan Sale Centre by GSBB and Oorja Training and Research Academy (OTRA) was launched to promote the sale of local products.

Dr Vandana Shiva checks out the  food stalls at the Traditional Food Festival, in Panjim
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