Revival of Govardhan Parvat: The Mountain Moved by Krishna

In our country where mythology plays a big role in the lives of its inhabitants, many sites like hills, rivers, and caves have their associations with the mythology. One such concerns the Lord Krishna and is called Govardhan Parvat (mountain).

The legend is that when the uninterrupted deluge threatened to innundate Mathura, Krishna lifted the entire mountain on his little finger to make an umbrella to protect the Mathura.

UP government has planned to revive the almost barren Govardhan parvat situated about 23 kilometres from Mathura. Government plans to plant the herbal plants on the mountain. These are:

Kadamba: It is a tropical tree. Krishna and Radha are said to have conducted their love play under the cool shade of the tree. It is used as one of the raw materials in the preparation of “itars”.

Tamala or Indian bayleaf or tezpatta: It is commonly used in Indian culinary as well as medicines particularly for alleviation of diabetes due to the presence of highly antioxidant enzymes.

Karira: Scientific name is Capparis decidua. It’s spicy fruits are used for culinary purposes like vegetable, curries, and pickles. It is also used in medicine.

Pakar : It belongs to mulberry family. Leaves have sour taste.

Pilkhan: Scientific name Ficus virens. It grows to heights of about 100 feet. It is Avenue tree. It bears “strangler figs” because they can germinate on other trees and strangle them. It is used in Thai cuisine.

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Rare Foods Series : Reed Salt

Can we imagine any food without salt? In addition to the taste it adds, Salt is an essential nutrient for the human body. It is an electrolyte which helps the transmission of the messages from different parts of the body to the brain and vice versa. It is present in the cells. Any imbalance in its concentration whether in the form of deficiency or excess can play havoc with our body. When dehydration occurs, the salt has to be replenished by the intake of oral rehydration solution. It is lost from our bodies during perspiration and blood becomes thicker and our bodies require water.

In addition salt is used as preservative for pickles and other foods. It acts as a barrier to the bacteria which attack the food and decompose it.

Salt comes from the evaporation of the seawater collected in the salt pans. After water evaporates the salt is left behind which is then made to undergo the processes of purification. Those who live in the urban areas and especially near sea coasts never feel it’s importance.

But still there are people living in the remote areas where access to this commodity is impossible. Some of such communities live in Kenya. These tribes, as the saying goes : “Necessity is the mother of invention ” has developed a way to compensate this by extracting the salts from the REED STALKS.

Method

Bunches of river reed are cut into smaller pieces and dried on the hot stones for about a period of 3 days to reduce the inherent moisture. Then the stalks are put on very slow fire. When organic ingredients burn, the ash is left behind. Ash is collected and boiled with water and filtered to get pure salts dissolved in the filtrate while impurities are left behind.

The filtrate is then boiled till only the salt is left behind. Sometimes they add a pinch of pepper powder to add flavor to it.

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This picture has been taken from the beautiful website from Luke Duggleby an ace photographer. URL to his website is given below.

http://www.lukeduggleby.com/

(if the picture is not for free use, I will delete it)

Craze for Alphonso

India is home to a number of mango varieties. Come summers and markets are flooded with the fruit. It is consumed in many forms. The raw fruit is used to make pickles and chutneys. It is also used to make a refreshing drink to ward off the effects of summer heats. The drink is called Aam Panah. When it ripens, it is used for eating in desserts, it’s pulp is crushed to make mango concentrates, it thick juice called Aam Ras is eaten with indian food. Even its stones are dried and inside material is used in many medicines. The mango tree is considered so auspicious that it’s leaves are used in holy ceremonies by Hindus.

The fruit comes in many varieties in size and shape and skin color. I remember in my days of childhood, we had two mango trees in our land. Both were so diverse with one being a giant spread in large area but it’s fruits were very small. When the ripening season began, the fruits will begin to fall to the ground and soon the whole ground beneath shall be littered with fruits. The collected fruits were washed and put into cool water for quenching their latent heat and then sucked as such. Many birds like crows and parrots gorged on the fruit in the boughs. The other tree was small in size but fruits were bigger.

The weakness for the fruit is universal. It is very rich in minerals, sugars and vitamins. It is loved by people world over. History tells how the arrangements were made to send the fruit from India to England for the royalty.

Out of so many varieties available in India, Alphonso which is grown in Ratnagiri district of Maharastra, parts of Gujarat and Karnataka is considered to be the king. It is called Hapus in Maharastra. Most of it is exported. Rich people in Mumbai make the bookings to get the fruit in priority. There has been a craze among the people for the fruit.
Times of India article writes , “Mangoes feature in perhaps the earliest printed reference to the name of the islands on which the city was built. This was in the Portuguese naturalist Garcia de Orta’s Colloquies on the Simples and Drugs of India, a fascinating book written in the form of dialogues between Orta and a friend (and one of the first printed in India, in Goa in 1563). At one point the conversation is interrupted by a servant boy who tells Orta his tenant in Bombaim, the island whose lease Orta was given as a sinecure, has just sailed in with a basket of mangoes to give the governor of Goa. Orta happily uses this as a chance to expound on the wonders of mangoes and when his servant says he will send them to the governor, he hastily interjects: “Give them here. They ought to be cut with a sharp knife that the slice may not be injured and I want to taste them first…” Mumbaikars would sympathise. There is no better gift than mangoes in season, yet it is just natural for givers to feel a pang at the pleasures given up. The variety Orta received from Bombay is not known and perhaps it is unlikely they were Alphonsos, the only kind many Mumbaikars bother with today. These were probably developed in Goa, where the Portuguese had introduced the grafting techniques needed for good mangoes, but it is unknown if this had happened in Garcia de Orta’s time.

They were well known by the time of the Rising of 1857. The Times of India, looking back at it 17 years later, in a long piece printed on November 13, 1874, wondered how Nana Saheb, the Peshwa prince, had became one of the leaders: “Up to 1857 there was no Prince better known in these parts… he used to be the boon companion of British officers, to who he gave the finest cherry brandy, and Alphonso mangoes brought up by special dak from Bombay.

A more nuanced view of that statement from 1937 would confirm they are the best for export since they have thick skin and withstand transportation better than fabled local varieties such as Tamil Nadu’s Imam Pasands or Goa’s Mankhurados, both wonderful, but poor travellers. The well-established systems for growing, trading and transporting them from the Konkan have also helped make Alphonsos the best mangoes that are relatively easy to get across India and abroad.

Such subtleties though are lost in Mumbai. For many consumers here, Alphonsos are all that matter, with other locally available varieties such as Pairis and Badamis being dismissed as good for juice only. Due to this reason, many producers use chemicals especially calcium carbide to artificially ripen the fruit early and get very high returns. The chemical is known to be carcinogenic.
Thus, people are buying fruits which are potentially dangerous and paying higher price also. The naturally ripened fruit has aroma and taste which is lost in the artificial ripening process. The taste becomes bland.
In our childhood days there were no artificial methods available for ripening the fruit and also no faster transportation means for getting the fruits from far distances. So whatever was available was in the natural form.