Bharat is home to several types of indigenous citrons that are widely used in the preparation of local delicacies, medicines, jams and pickles. Though some of the best native citrons are available in the foothills of the Himalayas, citrons cultivated in Kerala and Tamil Nadu are an acquired taste but equally delicious.
The auspicious month of Chingam or Bhadrapada sees the arrival of two traditional citrons namely Ganapathi naranga and Vadukapuli naranga that are a must-have in the 10-day long Onam festivities. Commonly referred to as wild lemon or sour orange or country orange, Ganapathi naranga or Vadukapuli naranga are served as a pickle and revered for its medicinal properties.
As we are well aware, every item served on the banana leaf is based on pure science and deep understanding of Ayurveda and designed to maintain the optimum body temperature, improve digestion and increase immunity. Pickles of either lemon and mango are the preferred choice for curd rice though our ancestors have always insisted on native lemon for its healing properties.
While growing up, it was common to see large bharanis (jars) of naranga in brine in the storeroom that would last an entire year. Even today, naranga pickle is the recommended choice to cure diarrhoea, fever, cough, cold and other ailments. These two citrons have a thick rind, are either green or greenish yellow in colour and roundish (Vadukapuli) and slightly elongated (Ganapathi) in shape.
Though there are several methods to prepare this pickle, the age-old method passed down generations is the best. The naranga is cut into small pieces. 1 measure of salt to 5 measures of cut lemon pieces is the standard followed to which a little water is added. This mixture is boiled to ensure the salt dissolves in entirety. The cut pieces are added slowly. Finely chopped ginger and green chillies are added and allowed to boil.
The cut pieces are allowed to soak in for some time and then stored in bharanis or nowadays in glass jars in the fridge. Variations like vinegar are added by some while boiling the salt water. This lends the citron a slightly different taste.
Red chilli powder is added to a small portion of this pickle and seasoned with til oil, mustard and hing. This is an excellent accompaniment to curd rice, rasam rice and upma.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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