Wednesday, June 7, 2017




Quite often I used to find that “Nadir Monji ” ( fried Pakoras made from lotus stem and rice powder ) sold by some Halwais in Kashmir had a little unpleasant smell. I would ask my father the reason for the unpleasant smell. Initially, he kept ignoring my questions and then finally he explained that the local Halwais use Aleish ( linseed ) oil for frying. He also explained that due to poverty, not all Kashmiris can afford mustard oil and hence many families in Kashmir buy linseed or Aliesh oil for cooking. 

Linseed crop was widely grown in the Kashmir valley and the de-oiled cakes were also used as animal feed. Dry weeds of the plant were also used as animal fodder. My father has also told me a strange thing about the Aliesh or linseed plant. I reproduce what he had said:-

“ Before blooming, the plant and its leaves are poisonous for animals; but once the flowers appear in this plant, it becomes a fodder/ food of choice for the animals .”

We used to buy mustard oil from an oil mill in Surateng, Rainawari located near the cluster of houses belonging to the Hakeem family. I would be sent to buy oil that used to be sold by weight ( Seer, Paav, Adda Seer etc ). I would always find a stock of dried and ripened seeds of linseed plant inside the oil mill.
The proprietor of the mill was a handicapped person who would always suggest and recommend linseed oil to his customers :
“ Ni aliesha teel seir jora. Ye chhu zabar “

“Buy two seers of linseed oil. It is the best ” 

 Word Aliesh was also popular in Kashmiri language for its sarcastic usage.

“ Maa laag aliesh . Gutschh kar panein kaa’m ”
“ Don’t stick to me. Do your Job “

Now Kashmiris have discarded this oil. The cultivation of linseed crop also been abolished altogether. So Aliesh ( linseed ) in Kashmir is a story of the past.

I found linseed grown in many areas of the country. Its oil though not used for cooking has found a place in varnish, sports goods and paint industry as a raw material. The fibre of this plant is also used in the paper industry. It is also used in soap and ink industry.

Aliesh (linseed ) is also known as Alsi. It is believed to be rich in Omega -3 fatty acid which is considered good for the heart. Accordingly, the demand for linseed oil and its seeds has grown substantially the world over. These seeds are also consumed raw or after roasting them mildly.

Modern medical science has established the usefulness of linseed in slowing down osteoporosis apart from acting as a natural laxative 

( Avtar Mota )

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