Ka Nub Bean

Ark of taste
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The name ka nub is often translated as “giant jungle bean.” It grows on a tree with spreading branches that grows on riverbanks in dense forests in the East Khasi Hills district of northeastern India. It has the form of a beautiful broad bean, and is in fact also dried and hung in houses as decoration. The bean pods are brown, while the inner beans are white. The beans are hand harvested between October and January, when individuals climb the trees and cut the bens with a traditional knife called a ka wait. It is not sold commercially, but harvested for personal consumption.   Ka nub is nutritious and filling, and so it acts as a replacement for meat during meals. It is also used as a chutney when mixed together with the local white sesame and a small quantity of salt (and, occasionally, green chilies and onions). Ka nub is traditionally prepared by breaking the pod of the plant and removing the edible interior. The bean is sliced thinly and washed in water. It is then boiled for an hour, and drained using a bamboo basked (khoh or khohsiah). It is then placed in running water for 12 hours, to remove the bitterness. Excess water is squeezed out, and then the ka nub is mixed with fried and ground sesame. Besides their culinary use, mature ka nub was historically used as a detergent for washing clothes and bathing, and as an antiseptic medicine applied to wounds.   Ka nub is mostly found in the forest area of Nongtraw village, including its surrounding villages like Wahsohra, Diengsong, Dewlieh, Tyniar, Nohshut and Mawtuli which are 45 Kms from the main city, Shillong. Even communities from the Ribhoi area have reported that they know of this crop. Through a workshop conducted by the North East Slow Food & Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS) it surfaced that Bhoi communities this bean for children’s games, similar to pebbles. It was during this gathering that the community from Ribhoi was reminded that ka nub makes a delicious food.   There are two major reasons why this plant is at risk of extinction. First, its traditional use as a detergent has been replaced by commercially produced soaps. Furthermore, it is considered an invasive plant that farmers eliminate from their fields where they are growing other food crops. Local people are trying to preserve this plant by presenting it in festivals, such as the Mei Ram-ew (Mother Earth) Festival in Mawphlang. This is helping communities to realize the importance of ka nub and some have returned to the tradition of including this food in their diets. 

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Indigenous community:Khasi, Ri Bhoi