Kashmir's Edible Wild Greens Are Fading From Urban Kitchens
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KASHMIR has a diverse topography, making it home to a range of wild edible flora that are both tasty and healthy. The summers are short, so when spring arrives, it signals the availability of myriad fresh produce after a prolonged winter. And since ancient times, what grew in the wild was one of the first and major sources of this produce. 

The knowledge of which of these wild greens and vegetables were edible was passed on from one generation to another; among elderly Kashmiris, there’s a belief that they have better health and stamina because the produce they consumed was pure.

Now, the wild greens and vegetables they relied on have faded away from urban gardens — although they still grow in abundance in the rural areas, and can be found in the Valley’s old bazaars. Women in the rural regions continue to cook these delicacies, and bring batches of this fresh produce to the marketplace to sell and sustain their livelihoods. 


Dandelion — an easily-identifiable, classic spring foraging plant in the Himalayan range — is known as “Handh” in Kashmiri. Not only is it part of the Kashmiri kitchen, but also, it is considered to be a medicinal aid with several health benefits. Since Handh is said to be rich in iron, it is dried in the summer months so there is always a stockpile for winter. Expectant mothers and those recuperating from an illness will always be served Handh preparations. The dandelion’s flower, roots and leaves are all edible. Tea is prepared with the flowers. Dandelion is believed to ease digestive ailments and also help with mineral absorption. For all of these reasons, it is an important part of Himalayan cuisine.


Purslane known as Nunnar in Kashmiri, a plant you’ll find in abundance along the walkways of your kitchen garden. It grows wherever it finds space: in planting beds, in the cracks of sidewalks, and of course, in the kitchen garden. But remember — it’s not a lawn weed. It has thick, succulent leaves which are not very common in temperate climates.  

Purslane has a culinary history in the Middle East that goes back thousands of years and has a similar legacy in Kashmir. In earlier times and even now, hakeems have prescribed it as treatment for various health issues — from sore throats to cough, stomach problems and headaches, even to treat insect and snake bites, bee stings and burns. 

Purslane has been shown to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and has anti-mutagenic properties. So when your grandmother tells you that Nunnar is good for you, she’s absolutely right. 

The leaves, seeds, stem, buds and flowers of Nunnar — everything that grows above the ground basically — is almost edible. The entire plant has a gummy texture, while its taste is slightly tangy and sour. It is generally cooked by itself, and is an authentic dish of Kashmiri repasts.


Curly Dock or Yellow Dock, known as Aobigh in Kashmiri, is an early spring wild vegetable that can be easily found in kitchen gardens and backyards. It seems that pulling one dock plant results in 10 more growing in its place — which makes it perfect for harvesting!

In Kashmiri cuisine, Curly Dock is cooked green by frying it in oil and adding basic spices like salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. It is best eaten in moderation as it contains high levels of oxalic acid, which inhibits the body’s ability to absorb calcium and forms kidney stones.

The plant is rich in Vitamin C. Only the smaller and younger (tender) leaves of Aobigh should be cooked, as bigger leaves tend to be bitter and tough, and contain more oxalic acid. 



Sonchal, aka Ground Ivy, spreads like a web by sending out roots from its nodes and can colonise an area quickly. It belongs to the mint family so it has square stems that help identify it.

It can’t be eaten raw, so in Kashmiri kitchens, it’s cooked by adding a lot of garlic and deep frying.  Since Sonchal has a strong flavour, cooking in large quantities should be avoided. It’s considered helpful for digestive issues.

These wild greens, which were once a vital part of the Kashmiri kitchen, are now rarely-cooked delicacies. They were an important source of fresh food after long and harsh winters in the Valley. However, the advancement of road infrastructure that has helped in keeping the Jammu-Srinagar highway open almost throughout the year has somehow killed their significance for the new generation.