Soliga’s Secret Recipes

Remember all those old delicious foods your grandma made? If I close my eyes, I can almost smell my Nana’s delicious chicken pie. I’ve tried to replicate her chicken pie, but I can never get it to taste just right. Her secret is lost.Right now, in India, the secret recipes of the Soliga tribe are disappearing. They’re one of India’s indigenous peoples and once nomadic. The Soliga harvested plants with the changing seasons from an area in India called the Male Mahadeshwarabetta Hills (or M. M. Hills, for short). In 1973, the Indian government turned much of the Soliga’s traditional lands into a national park. They were forced off and no longer allowed to hunt and harvest as they once did.Soliga-Post-1
The Indian government now gives Soliga families free rice in an effort to compensate them for their loss. Even longer-lasting harm is the destruction to their hard-earned knowledge. Most of the Soliga’s traditional diet comes from wild edible plants, many of which only the Soliga know how to harvest and use.

Since 2009, the Indian NGO, ATREE, has been working with the Soliga to document their secret knowledge. Mr. Harisha, with ATREE, has run several studies, noting the plants found in the M.M. Hills and how the Soliga use them for food, drinks and medicinal purposes. I was lucky not only to meet Mr. Harisha and Mr. Narinyan from ATREE. More exciting, I was invited by Chikkmadaiah to come with him on the hunt for plants and then to dinner with his family.


Kaddisoppu, the plant highlighted in the video, is a real staple in the Soliga’s food. When used in cooking Uppusaru, it adds taste and is valued for working wonders on stomach infections and guarding against coughs and flu. You can find the Soliga’s recipe for cooking Uppusaru HERE.

As the tribe is dragged into modernity, the Soliga’s culinary knowledge is being lost. “The new generation is not at all interested to learn what the older generation has in the way of knowledge,” said Mr. Harisha. And why should young Soliga learn the old ways? They get part of their food from the government and are prohibited from hunting and harvesting on their old lands anyhow.

The real losers aren’t the Soliga, however. They are the Japanese, the Dutch, the Brazilians – all of us, really. Think of that tasty dishes, made with a spice only a Soliga grandmother knows how to prepare? What about all the medical benefits, the Soliga’s wild plants might have but which are unknown outside of the M.M. Hills? There are loads of reason why we should preserve disappearing knowledge!

Read more about the work of Mr. Harish’s and ATREE with the Soliga in India’s M.M. Hills.

M.M. Hills, February 2013

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