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Re: asafoetida

> Does anyone know what this stuff actually looks like, in it's original/plant
> form?  

 From "Great Vegetarian Dishes" by Kurma dasa

    "ASAFOETIDA:  The aromatic resin from the root of the giant
    fennel, Ferula asafoetida.  Asafoetida (also known as hing)
    is extracted from the stems of these giant perennial plants
    that grow wild in Central Asia.  In the spring when the plant
    is about to bloom, the stems and roots are cut.  Milky resin
    exudes from the cut surface and is scraped off.  More exudes
    as successive slices of root are removed over a period of 3
    months.  The gummy resin is sun-dired into a solid mass that
    is then sold in solid, wax-like pieces, or more conveniently,
    in powdered form.  Due to the presence of sulpher compounds,
    asafoetida has a distinctive pungent flavour, reminiscent of
    shallots or garlic.  Used in minute quantities, it adds a
    delicious flavour to various savoury dishes..."

So I suggest you look into fennels.  It isn't too hard to find parts of 
the giant fennel at some asian markets in Australia so I imagine you could
find it around some places.  :)

Good luck.  Let us know how it goes.