Himachali Tamatar

The fertile plains and lower and middle hills of Himachal Pradesh particularly Kullu, Solan and Sirmaur have seen record production of off-season cash crops like peach, tomato, cauliflower and cabbage in recent years. This is largely attributed to excellent implementation of the central government pro-farmer schemes, fertilizer subsidies, seed management, impetus to drip irrigation and establishment of processing units and additional assistance for transportation and shift to organic, natural and zero farming.


Interestingly, production of these off-season commercial crops has increased in the lower and middle hills when there is no or limited farming in the plains owing to the monsoon. Tomato thrives in the well-drained sandy or red loam soils rich in organic matter and is ideal for intercropping with radish, cauliflower, okra and palak and different cropping systems of grains, pulses and oilseeds.


Locals have observed that this method has helped to enrich the soil, increase productivity per hectare and increase annual production of all crops. Though, farmers cultivate both native and hybrid varieties to cater to the domestic demand, it is the hugely popular indigenous wild cherry tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum L.) that is preferred by locals and used in salads, soups, sauces, chutneys, pickles, puree, ketchup and other delicacies.


This wild cherry tomato packed with Vitamin A and C is widely used in traditional medicine to stimulate the liver, improve digestion, treat lung infections and increase immunity. The tamatar ka achaar available in the markets is a real treat and must be sampled.


The tomatoes are carefully chosen, washed thoroughly and cut into small pieces. They are dried in the sun for a couple of days. A flavoursome spice mix of thyme, fenugreek, black mustard and red chilli are first roasted and then ground into a fine powder. It is sprinkled over the cut tomato along with salt and turmeric powder.


A generous helping of mustard oil is poured and the mix is gently stirred and then put in a large jar or earthen container that has been previously smoked with asafoetida. The smoke is to render a heady aroma and facilitate the fermentation process.


As the pickle is highly acidic in nature, it has a shelf life of about 4 to 6 months only.


Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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