Desi Superfoods Food

A botanical enigma

Mango ginger. Photo: special arrangement

Mango ginger. Photo: special arrangement  

Let us usher in the New Year in the spirit of leela or playfulness, so here is an enigma for you to solve: it tastes like a fruit but is a rhizome, and is called ginger but is actually related to turmeric. Those who got “mango ginger” ,take a bow! Diversely known as amba haldi, aam adrak, manga injee and amradrakam in India, it is indeed an enigmatic plant, the potential of which is yet to be fully discovered.

Originating in the Indo-Malayan region, Curcuma amada, as mango ginger is botanically known, has a very impressive phytonutrient and phytochemical profile. This is mainly composed of starch, phenolic acids, volatile oils, curcuminoids and terpenoids, which together and individually have a very beneficial effect on health.

The Ayurveda and Unani systems of medicine as well as indigenous health systems have identified its effects as an appetiser, an antipyretic, a diuretic and an emollient. It also acts as an expectorant, which is useful in combating colds, coughs and bronchitis. It has also been prescribed for asthma.

Mango ginger can be used internally as well as externally. Internal consumption improves the digestive system at various levels: it reduces flatulence, encourages intestinal transit, and relieves constipation while also stirring up the appetite. However, one of its most potent effects on the digestive tract is in treating Helicobacter pylori infection.

Science has discovered the presence of more than 130 chemical constituents with biomedical significance in the rhizome. According to the site konarkindex.com, a novel compound which has been isolated from the rhizome shows the capacity to inhibit the tubercular activity of Mycobacterium tuberculosis. With the rise of tuberculosis, this is an important discovery. Researchers feel that Curcuma amada has not been fully tapped for its medicinal properties and could contribute far more to pharmacology.

Let us now look at some of mango ginger’s uses as a household remedy. Often, its paste is applied topically in cases of itching skin and inflammation arising from injuries. To get relief from piles, it is recommended to apply a paste of the rhizome and piper longum, known as pippali or tippali in Tamil. Given its expectorant nature, a decoction of mango ginger is effective for coughs and colds.

Apart from being anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory, it is also a good bio pesticide. In 1991, Singh and Singh have reported that a 100 per cent mortality of insects was observed on application of Curcuma amada. It is also deemed to inhibit the emergence of weevils. With degenerative diseases such as cancer being on the rise and being linked to the chemicals in our food, it is good to add another bio pesticide to the repertoire of organic pest control.

Now let us turn our attention to food and discover the multiple culinary uses of mango ginger. Well, if you thought that you could replace ginger as an ingredient with it, you are off the mark because its taste is definitely closer to raw mango than to ginger. It adds a pert tang to many a salad; try adding it to a raw papaya one or to a shredded cabbage, lettuce and carrot one. Some adventurous chefs have flavoured sorbets and mousses with mango ginger and this sounds delicious.

Traditional cuisines also have many a recipe calling for aam adrak or manga injee.

Here is a deceptively simple one for an oorugai (pickle): cut about 500 gm of mango ginger into small pieces after scraping off the skin; cut two or more green chillies into small pieces as well; mix the pieces up and add the juice of one or two lemons; then, in a wok/ kadai temper some oil with curry leaves, urad dal and asafoetida; you can add the mango ginger-chilli mixture to the oil and stir off the fire. This can be consumed once it has cooled down.

If you want to mango-ginger up your appetite, cut the rhizome into juliennes; add them to a little bottle of lemon juice to which rock salt has been added. Let the bottle sit for a couple of days and then have as a relish with your meals.

Both your taste buds and your digestive tract will thank you.

Pickles apart, amba haldi/manga injee is used for making chutneys and pachadis, flavour dals and curries as well as sauces. You may have to ask your green grocer or sabziwalli/wallah when they can get it for you. You may not be able to grow it in a pot as rhizomes like space to spread.

Before we sign off, in the spirit of leela, may we ask you to experiment with cooking with the enigmatic Curcuma amada and maybe share your results with us?

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Printable version | Aug 10, 2020 9:44:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/a-botanical-enigma/article6748582.ece

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