Experience Indigenous Culinary & Cultural Traditions At The Nilgiris Earth Festival

The Nilgiris Earth Festival
The Nilgiris Earth FestivalSuraj Mahbubani

Even though the calendar has 365 days in a year, there are thousands of festivals and events happening all year round in different parts of our country. Few unique festivals stand out from the herd. Last year, while I was writing about the inaugural edition of the Nilgiris Wild Food Festival (NWFF) celebrating indigenous culinary traditions at the serene hill station of Kotagiri, it definitely set itself apart with its distinctive theme and approach. With a vision of achieving global outreach and an impact beyond local borders, the NWFF has evolved into The Nilgiris Earth Festival (TNEF) for its second edition this year.

The Nilgiris Earth Festival
The Nilgiris Wild Food Festival Is A Celebration Of Indigenous Culinary Traditions

The Nilgiris Earth Festival (TNEF) takes place in the Nilgiris Biosphere Reserve from December 19th to 23rd, 2023. This festival celebrates indigenous and organically grown foods along with the ancient heritage and the ecological significance of the UNESCO-recognized Biosphere Reserve. Presented by The Nilgiris Foundation, TNEF is affiliated with Slow Food International, an organization promoting local foods and traditional cooking through the Slow Food Community - Nilgiris Local Food.

This year, things are on an even much larger scale. There is a diverse line-up of events that includes culinary experiences, farm-to-table dining experiences with local and organic produce, interactive cooking demonstrations, insights into millets and rice heritage, exploring flavors of the Badaga community, and engaging tea-tasting sessions with experts. The attendees will experience a varied, immersive, and fulfilling gastronomic journey. This year's festival boasts an illustrious lineup of speakers, chefs, and collaborators who are luminaries in their respective fields. These individuals will share their knowledge, passion, and commitment to making a positive impact on the environment primarily through food, tastings and conversations about food and climate.

Here's a brief overview of the events at TNEF:

Day 1:

Ancestral Paths: Walk to a Tribal Settlement (Near Kotagiri), 7 am - 12 noon

Explore the native forest ecosystem, visit prehistoric structures, and learn about the forest and its produce and practices with Pravin Shanmughanandam and Varun Devaraj.

Farm-to-Fork Sojourn: Emerald Lake Area (Near Ooty), 10 am - 3 pm

Delight in high-elevation organic produce, farm-to-table and wood-fire cooking, and more with Vishanth Kumar.

High Tea & Tête-à-Tête: Tranquilitea Tea Lounge, Coonoor, 3 - 6 pm

Explore exceptional, artisanal Nilgiris tea and a special high tea menu with Sandeep Subramani.

Day 2

Forest Bathing: Banagudi Forest (Near Kotagiri), 7 am - 12 noon

Explore the native forest ecosystem, visit prehistoric structures, and learn about the forest and its produce and practices, Pravin Shanmughanandam and Varun Devaraj.

Day 3

The Habba: Keystone Foundation, Kotagiri, 9:30 am - 4 pm

A day of plenary talks, indigenous foods, educational demos, andartisanal stalls.

Seeds of Wisdom: Heritage Rice & Millets: Cafeteria at Keystone Foundation, 12 noon - 1 pm

Talk, demo, and tastings with Devi Lakshmikutty of Bio Basics.

Authentic Indigenous Lunch at The Habba, Keystone Foundation, Kotagiri, 1 pm - 2 pm

Dig No Further: Keystone Foundation, Kotagiri, 2 pm - 4 pm

A no-dig gardening demo with Gayatri Ganesh.

Two Worlds - Goa Meets Nilgiris: Periodic Table, Ooty, 7 pm - 10 pm

Chef's Table Dinner by Chef Avinash Martins with Chef Arup Kakati.

Day 4

Ginko walk: Lawrence School, Lovedale, 7 am - 10 am

Join poet haijin Shobhana Kumar on an introspective nature walk through the picturesque estates of this historic institution, culminating in an introduction to the art of Japanese Haiku.

All Living Things Environmental Film Festival (ALT EFF)’s Food & Climate Series: Cherrie Berry, Coonoor, 11 am - 5 pm

Film screenings curated for the festival by ALT EFF and TNF.

The Nilgiris Earth Festival
The Definitive Homegrown Guide To Kitchen Gardens

I think The Nilgiris Earth Festival: Food, Culture, Ecology is a far greater vision than the Wild Foods Festival. It has elements of Nilgiris to the World. It encompasses and is inclusive, bringing arts, foods, culture, practices, sustainability, and climate all together. This will be the recurring theme every year, where we shall strive to go deeper, expand our horizons, to learn and share from local, global, nuanced, forest-cities-town, entrepreneurs, artists, activists, ecologists, and citizens.

Pratim Roy, founder-director of the Keystone Foundation, director of The Nilgiris Foundation

For more details about the festival, click here.

Follow The Nilgiris Earth Festival here.

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