Recently when I went to the market to buy vegetables, I found some fresh, green Nellikkai / Amla / Indian Gooseberries. I picked up these little beauties to make some instant nellikkai oorugaai (also called as the Amla pickle). I even discussed with my mom the possibilities of making various recipes by using these gooseberries. While at it, I took one of the nellikkai and slowly started nibbling. The sudden rush of sour, bitter tartness that arouse out of the nellikkai just tickled my senses. In no time time, I completely ate the whole of one nellikkai. Immediately this brought back wonderful memories of my sister and me in childhood, eating the nellikkai and chatting away aimlessly. This simple way of eating them as they are, oh.. I must say life was absolutely blissful!!
So I decided that I am going to blog about how I like to eat the luscious nellikkai and also the health benefits.
How to eat and relish Nellikkai
Nellikkai or Amla or Indian gooseberry has an interesting flavor. It is sour, tart, bitter, astringent and slightly fibrous. Though the fruit is sour, it is very nourishing and is a powerful and rejuvenating super food for better health and more energy.
In India, the gooseberries when in season were traditionally used to prepare pickles, chutneys, thokku / thogayal, juice, dips, murabba (amla candy) and also used in certain curries. The gooseberries are also preserved by soaking in salted water with or without turmeric and heated on a stove. And this is left to soak for a day or two and later, these were eaten as such or with rice or else used to make pickles out of it.
At home, we usually soak in water and cook on medium heat with salt. And then made into pickle which is relished with rice (especially with curd rice, which tastes delicious). The pickle hardly remains for a week and mom has to make another batch and this continues till the end of the gooseberry season.
But one of the most absolute ways to eat and relish the gooseberries is to eat it fresh, as it is! As children, I remember my sister and I always enjoy eating the nellikkai as such. And the whole experience by itself is truly fascinating.
Due to the strong sour and bitter tones, we at home eat it with little salt. First and foremost, bite into the hard surface of the nellikkai, chew it completely until you taste the sour juices. The bitter cum sour taste just makes you shiver and that is an exhilarating moment!!
Then dip the bitten part of the fruit in the salt (see to it that you take only little salt, so that the salt does not completely mask the sourness of the fruit) and eat it. You will now see a great difference in taste. Oh… The most wonderful ways to relish the gooseberries! And then take another bite, and repeat until the end of the gooseberry and the salt as well.
Now there is another way of eating nellikkai and that is along with water. After finishing the gooseberries with salt, as children my sister and I just take a tumbler of water and sip away. You could also bite into the nellikkai, chew and eat it. Then sip a little water and just relish the sweetness that tickles the taste bud. This is just to enjoy the taste of water which would be really sweet after eating the gooseberries. You gotta taste it to believe it! Ah, the most natural way of relishing a gooseberry. The memories that surround with food are the fondest for me!
Now, moving onto the health benefits of nellikkai.
Gooseberries are one of the best sources of vitamin C and is believed to have great medicinal properties according to Ayurveda. They are rich sources of antioxidant properties and are a super food for better health.
Nellikkai is widely used in Ayurvedic treatment because of it being a powerful antioxidant. Most of the health problems are caused by oxidative damage that is when body cells use oxygen they produce by-products called free radicals that can cause cell damge. The antioxidant in the gooseberries helps to prevent and repair these damages. Thus this fruit is considered to be a superfood.
Gooseberries when eaten
- strengthens the roots of the hair and helps hair growth, nourishes and improves eyesight, helps in calcium absorption in the bone due to its high Vitamin C content,
- The gooseberry fruit has therapeutic values as well. Firstly, it helps to stimulate the isolated group of cells that secrete the insulin hormone and thereby reduces the blood sugar in the diabetic patients. Secondly, the fruit is slightly diuretic, that is it increases the frequency and volume of urination thus eliminating the unwanted toxins, excess salts and uric acid from the body.
- Thirdly, it improves the overall metabolic activities in the human body – that is, helping muscle development, improving cellular growth, ensures organ health, promotes skin health, fights acidity and aids in digestion,
- Fourthly, the fruit strengthens the heart muscles and decreases the blood pressure, thereby decreases the incidence of heart attack by reducing the cholesterol, helps in weight loss, protects from infection due to its anti-inflammatory properties, natural remedy for cold and cough, improve the appetite and helps in anti-ageing.
Thus, a little wonder fruit for the overall goodness and well being.