Galgal (Citrus pseudolimon Tanaka), popularly known as pahadi nimbu or Hill lemon is one of the finest varieties of indigenous lemons in the country. Largely confined to rainfed areas in the hilly terrain of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, this hardy fruit crop has immense medicinal, healing and nutritional properties and is widely used in the preparation of local delicacies, pickles, chacha, chukh and juice.
The native lemon is at least 5 times larger in size as compared to other varieties and has a heady aroma, thick rind, high acidity (making it very sour), low sugar content and good shelf life. The galgal is an excellent source of Vitamin C, potassium and fiber and is used in traditional medicine to treat heart ailments, anaemia, digestive disorders and improve kidney functioning.
Generally, harvested between October – January, galgal is eaten raw or preserved for the off season. Ripe fruits are carefully plucked, washed thoroughly and then peeled. The fruits are cut into cubes and mixed with freshly ground locally available greens, green chillies and salt.
Native jaggery is added to it. A smoky flavour is lent by placing hot charcoal in this mix and adding mustard oil. It is covered for a few minutes. The chacha is nicely mixed and is ready to be tasted.
For the pickle, ripe fruits are washed thoroughly, boiled in water for a few minutes and dried in the sun. The fruits are cut into small cubes. Mustard oil is heated in a pan to which fenugreek is added and roasted for a few minutes.
The cut fruit, salt, red chilli powder, thyme, powdered jaggery, turmeric powder, cumin and fennel seeds are added in and cooked for a few minutes. It is allowed to cool and then put into a clay pot or jar to ferment in direct sunlight for a few days.
The fruit concentrate, pickle and chutney are sold in glass bottles in the markets. This sacred plant is revered for its religious and spiritual potency and is used for social occasions and festivals.
Written by Lakshmi Subramanian
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