Himachali Charota (Chakramarda)

The hilly state of Himachal Pradesh is a treasure trove of rare medicinal herbs that have been used in traditional medicine and Ayurveda since the ancient times. The roots, leaves, stalks, flowers, fruits and seeds of these unique plants are used in the preparation of local delicacies as well as fodder for the livestock.

 

One such revered plant is charota (Cassia tora L.) that grows in the wild by the riverside or roadside or on barren land. Locals use the leaves and seeds to treat leprosy, skin ailments, constipation, cough, cardiac problems, bronchitis, lung infections and to improve eyesight and liver functioning. Charota seeds are mainly used to make green tea, chocolate, ice cream and often roasted to be used as a substitute for coffee. Its seeds contain more gum (7.65 percent) than guar seeds. It is also used as green manure.

 

Charota seeds are available in abundance between October – December when the pods start ripening. The plants are dried in the sun and the seeds are then removed by blowing and cleaning. The seeds are used to prepare pickle and chutney.

 

Dry seeds are roasted for a few minutes and then ground to a fine powder. In a large kadai, mustard oil is poured and the juice of the native galgal is added. This is boiled for a few minutes.

 

Freshly ground spices like turmeric, fenugreek, red chilli, asafoetida, thyme and cumin along with salt and sugar and the ground charota seeds are added to this concentrate and mixed thoroughly. The mixture is allowed to cool and then put into a clay pot or jar for 15 – 20 days to ferment. This bitter yet tangy pickle has a shelf life of about 12 – 18 months.

 

It is widely available in the markets of Kangra and Chamba.

 

Written by Lakshmi Subramanian

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