Even though ‘chulli’ or wild apricot grows abundantly in the districts of Shimla, Kullu, Chamba, Sirmour, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti of Himachal Pradesh, it is primarily identified with Kinnaur. Chuli oil or otherwise locally known as ‘Gutti ka tel’ is extracted from the kernels of wild apricots in almost all the households for domestic consumption.
The kernels of stones/pits of apricots are taken out and dried in the sun for 2-3 days. The dried kernels are then put into a stone mortar and pounded repeatedly with a pestle into a thick paste. The paste is then put in a cauldron and heated at a high temperature. Small cakes are made out of this hot paste. Each cake is then placed on the edge of the mortar and pressed down till the oil oozes out flowing into the mortar. The oil collected in the mortar is then stored in either metal or earthen pots called ‘ghagri’.
The oil cakes are crushed into small pieces and dried in the sun for a couple of days and subjected to the process again to extract the remaining oil. The oil cakes are used as cattle food by the locals in the hilly regions.
Chulli oil is high in Vitamin E and deemed excellent for the skin because of its healing properties. The oil is commonly used for cooking as well as homemade liquor. Local dishes include apricot chutney, juice and pulp that is enjoyed with indigenous food grains. This efficient usage of the kernels of the stones/pits of the wild apricots to extract oil, to make local delicacies as well as cattle food is ingenious and it is quite unsurprising that chulli oil was given the Geographical Indication Tag (GI) in 2019. It is probably because chulli oil is known to very few people outside of Himachal that it is yet to make a real splash in the cosmetic market.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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