Like it is elsewhere in the world, where people are waking up to the goodness of traditional foods, Indians are doing the same.
We have lately discovered that there is science behind why one eats pickles with curd rice at the end of a meal. Pickles have been relegated to the occasional treat as they have excess salt that is bad for health and older members of the family especially have been cajoled into following a low-pickle diet if not a no-pickle one.
But there is more to urugai/aachaar consumption than just salt! A traditionally prepared pickle uses rock salt, lemon juice, red chilly powder and a local cold-pressed oil. Most importantly the ingredients are all seasonal. The preservation and fermentation promote healthy bacteria in the gut. Traditionally made pickles are probiotic in nature.
Earlier this year food blogger Rakesh Ragunathan went on a search for traditional family pickles, made using local ingredients and recipes handed down through generations. From patti’s favourite maanga urugai to discovering a special Punjabi aloo acchaar, he has documented them all.
Coimbatore is no different when it comes to summer pickle-making traditions. Having access to locally sourced produce from the outskirts of the city, the first vadu maanga brought down by the tribals of the Thirumoorthy Hills are quickly bought by the seasoned pickle-makers and shared with friends and family. Narthangai, kalakkai, lemon, garlic, green pepper, garlic, mango ginger…it is a long list. My lunch at home is incomplete without at least one helping of pickle a day.
Interestingly, Rujuta Diwekar on her weekly video updates on Facebook recommends Indian pickles for tummy wellness. She said that eating small quantities of aachaar is not responsible for the excessive salt intake in our diets; that increased intake is thanks to packaged foods be it the biscuits at tea time or that bottle of ketchup. Unfortunately, only our beloved pickles unfairly get the bad press!
Tried and tested recipes contain the right mix of native ingredients that create the perfect taste and provide a balanced nutrition. Lemon juice and cold-pressed oils are said to be ideal for pickling seasonal produce. It goes without saying, “Our grandmothers knew what they were doing!”