Pickles and chutneys are integral to Indian culinary tradition. The recipes may vary but pickles remain the source of adding in the sour/tangy-spicy element to food. In some parts of India, as in Punjab, boiled seasonal vegetables are sometimes tossed in oil tempered with spices and flavours. Down South, a paste of curry leaves with any leafy green is often tempered with mustard seeds as the pachadi (chutney). These “insta-pickles” are supposed to stimulate gastric juices as much as clean the palate of any lingering flavours, ahead of the new food coming in.
Pickles do come loaded with more than just taste. The Indian thali cannot be imagined without a small pickle on the side. In fact, the art of pickling goes back years when fruits and vegetables were also pickled as a ready-at-hand for meals during harsh weather conditions: be it the scorching sun which necessitated the kandha-lehsun powder as pickle in Maharashtra or the dhoop nimbu in Bengali, just whole lemon preserved in brine.
Medics vouch for the probiotics in pickles. Some pickles are makde to whet the appetite and clear a bloated tummy. This list includes dhoop nimbu or nimki, kanji which is kala gajar (a winter speciality) boiled in masala water and preserved for the year ,or the humble ginger-chilli-lime preserved in salt and spice water. “Such pickles are like the Korean kimchi. Minimal on oil and spices and sealed in with the probiotic content of the fermenting vegetables,” explains nutritionist Yash Patel.
Pickles are heavy on the salt content and so people with blood pressure must avoid. “All the same, pickles are known to lend the vitamin C content to food. For those who are not in the habit of a lime with their food, pickles add the acetic acid, needed to help with digesting the oil from food. Some pickles are a good source of beta carotene and vitamins like A and K,” he adds.
In some parts of India, preserving raw mango in brine is a common practice. As and when needed the requisite amount is tossed in mild spices or whirled in the blender to dole out fresh condiments. “Not only does it lend taste, it activates the palate and rejuvenates with its vitamin C content,” Patel notes.
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