Millennium Post

Variety comes home

During a recent trip to Uttarakhand, I was walking through the village of Dhanachuli with a few friends. One thing that caught my attention was huge, yellow cucumbers dangling from trees and sturdy hedges. These cucumbers are so heavy that the village people use large trees and pieces of wood to support the vines. There is so much fruit in one season that a family is unlikely to finish the entire harvest.

Till now I had only seen my friends from south India make sambar, pachadiand curries using this large variety of cucumber. I was curious about its use in the hills and wanted to find out more when I came across a few women working in the fields. One of them surprised us with a fiery and delicious chutney made from pahadi kheera to be smeared on the cucumber batons we were enjoying as our hydrating snack.

The village residents use the harvest quite ingeniously. The raw, tender cucumbers are used to make raita and curry and the ripe, seeded ones are used to make vadiyaan. These nuggets are made by mixing the grated flesh and seeds of ripe, pahadi kheera with a paste of urad daal (black gram)and some basic spices. The mixture is then sun-dried. The urad daal ferments in the first three to four hours of sun-drying. While the pulp is rich in fibre, the seeds are rich in both fibre and omega-3.

When cooked in a gravy, the pulp and seeds soak up enough water to become soft and delicious. An intelligent way to ensure nutrition through simple meals.

Vadiyanare the ultimate way to preserve abundant gourds, especially those that become fibrous as they mature. It brings the much needed umami flavour to food. Even seasonal gourds and pumpkin are cooked with vadiyaan for great taste and added nourishment. The slightly hot curry made with sautéed onions and vadiyaan is the spicy onion soup for the Indian soul. I have always loved Amritsari vadiyaan, and curries like aloo vadiyaan and pyaz vadiyaan were my favourite till I experienced the baingan vadiyaan from the Mithila region of Jharkhand.

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