Bitter when raw, the buds of the flowering orchid or ‘Kachnar’ as it is called in Hindi, makes for wholesome and healthy meals. Power packed as they are, these meals are also indulging. To help you reap the benefits of this flower we have some traditional recipes that are both delicious and healthy.
Home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, the hills of Himachal Pradesh, in north India, have some unique offerings for a culinary enthusiast. Pretty as they are, some flowering plants are also edible and make for wholesome and nutritious meals. One such blossom is that of the Kachnar tree or Bauhinia variegata as it is scientifically known and the orchid, as it is commonly known.
A medium-sized tree, Kachnar reaches the height of 50 to 60 feet and bears pink or white flowers. An easy produce, it comes up naturally and in good numbers in both forests and at agricultural holdings; and the buds and the leaves of these flowers are what make it to the stove in many traditional kitchens in Himachal Pradesh.
Kachnar’s flowers and buds dominate the tree in early spring when it is more or less leafless and are bitter in taste when raw. They are picked for use in the preparation of a variety of tasty broths and pickles, which make for recipes indigenous to certain parts of Himachal. Here are two such recipes:
Kachnar ki khatti subzi
Ingredients – Quantity
Fresh Kachnar – 250 grams
Sliced onion – 50 grams
Chopped tomato – 100 grams
Curd – 50 grams
Green chilly chopped – 2
Anardana powder (pomegranate powder mixed with mild spices) – 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder – 1 teaspoon
Dhaniya powder (coriander powder) – ½ teaspoon
Jeera powder (cumin) – 1 teaspoon
Hing (asafoetida) – A pinch
Salt – As per taste
Mustard Oil – 25 ml
Jeera – 1 teaspoon
Saunf (fennel seeds) – ½ teaspoon
- Take Kachnar flower and clean it; remove unwanted hard parts and wash in fresh water.
- Boil the flower’s buds, wash them again in cold water and drain the soaked water by pressing the buds in between your hands.
- Heat oil in a pan, add saunf to it followed by jeera, hing and sliced onions.
- Add green chillies when the onions are golden brown. Now add the remaining spices. Keep cooking this for five minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and continue.
- When the mixture of onions and tomatoes is ready, add curd and keep on flame until the prepared dish exudes oil.
- Add boiled Kachnar and cover the pan with a lid until completely cooked. Add anardana powder and jeera powder. Mix well and serve.
Kachnari mutton masala
A dish popular amongst Himachalis, it is a combination of Kachnar buds and meat cooked to perfection.
Ingredients – Quantity
Mutton – 1 kg
Kachnar buds –250 grams
Onion – 400 grams
Tomato puree – 150 grams
Red chilli powder – 1 teaspoon
Mustard oil – 150 litre
Hing – A pinch
Turmeric powder – 1 tablespoon
Curd – 1 cup
Ginger garlic paste – 2 tablespoon
Garam masala – ½ teaspoon
Coriander powder – 2 tablespoon
Black pepper powder – 1 tablespoon
Salt – As per taste
Fresh coriander – To garnish
- Marinate mutton with ginger garlic paste, salt, curd, mustard oil, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, garam masala, coriander powder, black pepper powder and refrigerate for two hours.
- While the meat is marinating, clean Kachnar buds, boil them and refresh in cold water. Remove the extra water by pressing the buds in between your palms.
- Heat oil, add hing and onion, and cook until golden brown colour.
- Add the marinated mutton and cook till most of it is done.
- Add the Kachnar buds and mix well. Add tomato puree and cook till done.
- Garnish with fresh coriander and serve hot.
Locally relished, these recipes not just make for filling meals but also a power packed diet.
Depending on the colour of its flowers, the leaves, bark and fruits of Kachnar have medicinal properties. Parts of the orchid trees have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, pain reducing and thyroid hormone regulating properties. Practitioners of Ayurveda, use it for treating skin and glandular diseases, leprosy, intestinal worms, tumours, wounds, ulcers, inflammations, haemoptysis, cough, menorrhagia and bleeding disorders. It is also considered useful for treating diseases of lymphatic system and glands. Eating Kachnar is also effective in treating haemorrhoids, regardless of the degree of their severity. The bitter flowers of Kachnar also aid blood purification.
Recipes by senior chef and manager at Aamod resort at Shogi in Himachal Pradesh.