Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do you know the Tanii name for... ?

Do you know the Tanii name for this animal ? I asked a few people in Ziro, but couldn't get a conclusive answer. It's the Yellow-bellied Weasel (Mustela kathiah), a high dwelling mammal species found throughout the Himalayas, usually at an elevation of 1800 m and above, though in winter it may occasionally come down to lower than 1000 m. It is a carnivorous species, capturing mostly mice and rats, but also occasionally eating birds and small mammals. In some areas of Nepal Yellow-bellied weasels are kept as pets to chase and catch rodents inside houses.

The picture below was taken at a market in Ziro. A specimen of Yellow-bellied Weasel, probably caught in a trap, was offered for sale, along with byako (Solanum torvum) and a variety of orange fruit.

Source: Rita Willaert's collection on Flickr.

Maybe a clue: I was told that this animal is called KEKKA in Adi (Padam dialect).

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Tanii "vegetables" (haman)

"Haman" (or Hamang) is a generic word most often translated as "vegetable". Such a translation is rough however, as under this designation one finds both cultivated and wild species. Also, not all cultivated plants fall into the category "haman". In fact, under the label "haman" the Taniis include a wide range of species whose leaves can be eaten, either raw or more often boiled. Other plants whose tubers, seeds, stems, shoots or fruits are eaten by humans belong to other plant categories.

How many are there ? While at Ziro I made a quick list with a couple of Tanii friends, and tried my best to identify them later. But no doubt that it is uncomplete and needs some correction. Your comments are welcome regarding their taste, culinary use, medicinal properties, etc. I sorted them simply by alphabetical order here:

1. aji padii haman
: Cardamine hirsuta.

aji padii haman
2. genda haman : Redflower Ragleaf; fireweed (Crassocephalum crepidioides). Also called halyan haman.

genda haman
3. giyan haman: Cabbage Leaf Mustard (Brassica juncea var. rugosa), Lai Pata in Assamese.

giyan haman
4. hiigu haman: Japanese parsley (Oenanthe javanica).

hiigu haman
5. hiika haman: surely not a "vegetable" in the strict sense, but a wild edible fern, of the Pteris genus.

hiika haman
6. hiipe haman : Elatostema platyphyllum, a green leafy vegetable collected from the forests. This one seems a bit doubtful. Are the leaves shown below really eaten by Taniis ?

hiipe haman
7. hiiro haman : I know almost nothing about this species.

8. khuyi haman
: Creeping Woodsorrel (Oxalis corniculata, literally "sour vegetable"). Alternate names for this species : o haman; akho haman. The leaves which are eaten have a tangy taste.

khuyi haman (o haman; akho haman)
9. kochi haman : Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.). Literally 'bitter vegetable". The leaves are eaten and, as the name indicates, have a bitter taste.

kochi haman
10. kukulyu haman (in Hija) or kuku lyolye haman (in Bulla): a yet unidentified species that is not only eaten, but also used as a natural pesticide. Especially it is put into paro piiha (basket for carrying chickens) as a prevention against pests affecting poultry.

kukulyu haman/ kuku lyolye haman

11. luli haman: Nepalese smartweed (Persicaria nepalensis).

luli haman

12. mepi haman
Greater plantain (Plantago major), a common weed.

mepi haman

13. ngiilyan khiiko haman: Indian Pennywort (Centella asiatica). The leaves are either boiled or eaten raw with pila. This plant is said to be a good remedy for stomach disorders.

ngiilyan khiiko haman
14. pachu koyu haman. I know nothing about this species.

15. pakhu harbu haman.
I know nothing about this species.

16. pato haman.
The leaf has a bitter taste and can be used to garnish pike (a typical dish using ash filtered water). I know nothing else about this species.

17. nyihi tami haman
. I know nothing about this species.

18. raru haman
, commonly known in India as pahari peepal, its botanical name is
Piper mellusae or P. brachystachyum.

raru haman

19. riri haman (or riri tami ?): Mile-a-minute or Chinese creeper (Mikania micrantha), a perennial creeping climber, also a very invasive weed. I'm not sure this plant falls into the category "haman", though that name "riri haman" was given to me at Ziro. It may be simply a weed, "tami", as suggested by tdtara. Are the leaves eaten by humans ?

riri haman
20. siya haman: Chameleon Pant (Hottuniya cordata). It has a strong acid taste when eaten.

siya haman
21. tabu choka haman: The name would literally mean 'snake spit vegetable'. I have no further information regarding this species.

tape haman is the name for the tropical pumpkin (Cucurbita moschata), the leaves of which are also eaten. Tape is in usage in Hari, Bulla and Hong. It is called epe in Hija, whereas in Bamin-Michi the preferred designation seems to be ayo tape.

tape haman (ayo tape, epe)

23. tayi haman is a generic name for several Amaranth species (Amaranthus spp.).

24. lanchan tayi haman: Joseph's coat (Amaranthus tricolor). It is named "red" (lanchan) variety because of the red color which is especially apparent on young leaves.

lanchan tayi haman
25. pulu tayi haman: Spiny Amaranth (Amaranthus spinosus). It is accurately named "white" (pulu) variety, as it bears tiny white flowers in bunches.

26. yorkhun haman: toothache plant; paracress (Acmella oleracea), a flowering herb whose small leaves are eaten.

yorkhun haman

Other cultivated species, which are usually considered as "vegetables" in other languages, are not listed here, as Tanii do not regard them as "haman".