In Ladakh winters are harsh, and one can sense this as November starts. In mid of December and January the mercury is well below -10 degree Celcius. But one would be amazed to know that the natives live a very seamless life in these harsh conditions as well. One reason is that they are habitual of this kind of climate and other reason is that they do their homework well for the winters to come.
Ajang Dumboo demonstrated me how the Ladakhis preserve their vegetables in the winters so that they can keep using it till April. It’s a very simple method, but highly scientific. They know that soil and air are bad conductor of heat so they use soil as the insulator to prevent vegetables from the sub zero temperature. A sun facing piece of land is chosen and a pit is dug which is at least 3 feet deep.
Vegetables that survive these cold winters carrots, labook ( type of firm radish, potato, kholrabi, onion and cabbage), and turnips. Vegetables are then carefully placed in these pits. People make sure that vegetables are free of any physical damage which further minimises the chances of rot.
Once these vegetables are placed in the pit, then the pit is covered with the soil. The soil is not pressed too hand so that there is air trapped amongst the loose soil particles. These air pockets further act as insulators.
The covered pit is then left undisturbed. The pit is then dug one by one and as and when necessary to pick out the vegetables which are fresh as ever and a valuable source of nutrition in the cold winters.