The hilly state of Himachal Pradesh is the land of exotic fruits, vegetables and flowers. A fair number of these native vegetables and fruits grow in the wild on the foothills of the Himalayas. Locals and nomadic tribes have been using edible fruits, vegetables and flowers to prepare medicines and local delicacies since the ancient days.
One such indigenous novelty is the flowering orchid known locally as karalen or kachnar (Bauhinia variegata L.). Kachnar is one of those rare flowering orchids (pink flowers) that blossoms between March – April, is plucked when it is still in the bud stage and used in a variety of dishes.
Kachnar is a multi-purpose tree with medicinal, healing and nutritional properties. Its barks are used to treat intestinal worms, skin diseases and ulcers, young buds used in the preparation of raita, sabzi, achaar, flavouring agent and flour, decoction of flowers used to treat cough, hemorrhagic diseases and piles, powdered roots used to treat abdominal disorders, leaves used as fodder, dried buds used to treat dysentery and digestive ailments, wood is burnt to get charcoal that is used to treat toothaches and paste of the bark used to treat inflammations. Kachnar is rich in potassium and calcium.
The most popular dish prepared from the tender green buds of kachnar is kachnar ka achaar. Nigella seeds, roasted cumin powder and vinegar along with other freshly ground spices like red chilli powder, fenugreek and turmeric powder are mixed with the buds. Salt and mustard oil are added and the entire mixture is stirred well. It is allowed to rest for a few days and has a shelf life of about a year.
Kachnar sabzi is prepared by boiling the buds for 10 minutes till they become soft. In a large kadai, mustard oil is poured to which coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, hing and turmeric powder are added. The boiled buds are mixed into this and cooked on low flame for a few minutes. It is best enjoyed hot with roti or rice.
Boiled flower buds are mixed with mustard oil and salt and used for salads and raita.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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