When talking of Vitamin C, we always tend to focus on the citrus fruits. The humble Amla also known as the Indian gooseberry, happens to contain reservoirs of the sought after water soluble vitamin and packs a powerful punch laden with vitamins and antioxidants. From boosting calcium, iron, vitamins A & C, the Amla is the true native superfood.
The tart nature of this unique fruit along with the slightly astringent aftertaste may not be well suited to everyone’s palate. It is an acquired taste, one that most Indians are exposed to from a very young age. A common practice is to drink a few sips of water after eating the amla, which immediately floods the taste buds with sweet notes.
“Amla or gooseberry has a lot of citric acid and Vitamin C which tastes sour. The chemical 'signature' of these is very similar to sugar and so when diluted it occupies similar receptors in the tongue for sweetness. Hence it tastes sweet at lower dilutions.." (source - aakash.ac.in)
An Amla murabba is a sweet sour condiment which is a wonderful addition to an Indian meal. During the gooseberry season, each plant produces a profusion of these berries. Making pickles and squashes with these berries is a practice steeped in our Indian food heritage.
As much as they are used in preserved form, there are also dishes wherein the recipe calls for fresh amla. A ‘nellikai sadam’ is a simple rice dish flavoured with the large indian gooseberries. The sour taste of the gooseberry is often paired with a sweet ingredient to balance out the flavours. A traditional amla rice is made by sautéing pieces of amla with grated coconut, chillies, mustard seeds and curry leaves. The coconut counteracts the tang from the amla beautifully. A small grained rice is used for this dish. A garnish of roasted peanuts completes this in terms of flavours, textures and colours.
An amla chutney is also a great way to introduce an amla fix into the family meal. It contains the goodness of white sesame seeds, fresh coconut, dried red chillies, chana dal and the usual tempering ingredients. The sesame seeds add fortification to this dish making it not just delicious but an extremely healthy side dish to have with regular Indian staples like idli, dosa ,oothappam, paniyaram etc.
A buttermilk based thirst quenching drink made with crushed amla, green chillies, cumin and ginger is very refreshing and hydrating in the summer months.
To make an amla squash concentrate or pickle the amla is cooked until the pulp can be easily separated from the seed. A sugar syrup solution is added to the crushed amla and it is kept refrigerated. All that remains to be done is to add water or soda to make it into a nice fizzy drink.
The amla pickle is made with cold pressed mustard oil, red chillies ,fenugreek, asafoetida, fennel seeds, turmeric powder and salt. The pieces turn soft as the pickle ages and has almost a creamy consistency. When eaten soon after it is made, it still retains a bit of bite.
The amla is a main ingredient in the Chyawanprash. We also have Amlaprash with an extra dose of Amlas and misri replacing the Jaggery for the summer! A jammy mix of herbs and spices in an ancient Ayurvedic recipe is the secret behind this bottle of dark, sticky wellness. While the concoction of ingredients may vary from one recipe to the next, the organic amla is essential and a constant in the making of a chyawanprash.
With such a prominent history behind its origins, the chyawanprash is the traditional multi vitamin supplement which our elders believed in. When Chyawan Rishi, captivated by the charms of the celestial apsara Menaka, he too wished to regain some of his youthful vigour. It was the divine physicians, the Ashwini twins, who according to folklore, came up with this recipe consisting of foraged herbs, medicinal roots and spices to make this paste. It was offered to the great Rishi who did indeed reap the benefits of reversing age. The paste was then named after him and came to be called Chyawanprash.
“Studies have reported that Chyawanprash can reduce blood sugar, enhance blood circulation, help to eliminate free radicals and block carcinogens. Not only can these benefit a person’s health, but they can also combat the signs of premature ageing. In fact, modern science has found many links between free radicals and ageing. The theory is that as ageing results from damage to tissue caused by free radicals and reducing the number of free radicals in the body will reduce this damage. This, in turn, can reduce the process of premature ageing. “ -Essential Ayurveda
To Buy the TBOF Amlaprash, click here.
The magic behind the properties inherent in the amla are too many to ignore. There are so many possibilities of making this native ingredient a part of our home food. Whole amla soaked and preserved in honey is another delicious option. Have you tried it?