Prickly, delicious

Cactus-like sillu has helped Garhwalis survive lean seasons

It is an unlikely plant to tickle taste buds. It is covered with spines. People in Garhwal use its poisonous sap to kill and catch fish. When mixed with other herbs it is as good as a pesticide. But in drier, rocky parts of the Himalaya, where it grows abundantly, people have known that when the weather is rough and crops fail, they can survive on this cactus-like shrub.

Until about 50 years ago, when the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand was not connected by road and people depended on locally grown vegetables, sillu (Euphorbia royaleana) was an important famine food.