Lingri or lungru as it is known in Himachal Pradesh is an indigenous vegetable that grows in the wild in the Himalayan region. This fern also known as fiddlehead (Diplazium esculentum (Retz.) Sw) is widely used by locals of Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir in their traditional cuisine.
Lingri is revered for its nutritional, medicinal and healing properties. The rhizome of lingri is used to treat cough, stomach ailments, diarrhoea, cardiac problems, diabetes and high blood pressure while its leaves are excellent for building up immunity. It is important to note that the fern has brown protective hair that are toxic in nature and must be stripped and cleaned thoroughly before consumption.
This coiled fern is used to prepare the famous lingri ka achaar and lingri ki sabzi. Lingri is available in abundance in the summer and is carefully plucked. The scales on the stem are removed with a wet cotton cloth, cleaned with water, dipped in boiling water for a couple of minutes and cut into pieces. They are then transferred onto a tray made of native bamboo and left to dry in the sun for a day.
Thyme, fenugreek and black mustard are roasted lightly and powdered in the grinding stone. Salt, red chilli powder, fresh turmeric powder, roasted spices and mustard oil are added slowly to the dried lingri. The mixture is gently stirred and kept in a closed jar for at least 30 days for fermentation. The pickled lingri can be used for a year or two.
For lingri ki sabzi, the hair on the lingri stems is removed using a wet cotton cloth. The stems are washed and cut into small pieces. In a large kadai, mustard oil is lightly heated and a pinch of asafoetida and cumin seeds are added, followed by the lingri. It is fried till it becomes soft in texture. Turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt are added. A little curd is added when the lingri is almost ready. It is served with roti or rice.
As the lingri has a tangy yet sour taste, it is best enjoyed in small quantities. Lingri pickle is sold in the markets of Kullu, Solan and Chamba.
As this fern is rich in Omega-3, Omega-6, zinc, magnesium, potassium, fiber and Vitamin A and C, it has been in great demand as a superfood in recent years.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian