14th of January is celebrated as Makar Sakranti and is the day the Sun meets the Constellation of Capricorn ( Makar in Hindi) .
Makar Sakranti is the ONLY Hindu festival which is based on the Solar Calender and is celebrated across the country ,though assigned different names like Pongal in Tamil Nadu ( South India) and Uttarayan in Gujarat. ( Western India)
The day marks the beginning of an auspicious period and is celebrated with the distribution of sweets made of Jaggery ( Gud in hindi) and Sesame ( Til in Hindi).
This blog is about Sesame ( English), Til ( Hindi), Sesamum Indicum ( Scientific Name) and I can think of no better day than Makar Sakrantito introduce this ancient tiny seed to you.
The picture below shows the arid farmlands of this traditionally attired farmer of Rajasthan who has recently harvested his crop of Sesame oilseeds.
His White Turban and manner of wearing it indicate he belongs to the Nature Worshiping community of Bishnois.(do read my blog on THE BLACK BUCKS)
The proud Bishnoi farmer and the Sesame fields
The Sesame plant is the oldest oilseed known to man and the species Sesamum Indicum is native to India.
The Sesame plant is extremely hardy and can survive in the arid and parched desert like climate of Rajasthan. ( see the sandy soil in the picture above)
The photograph below is of a bushel of dried Sesame plants ,each carrying numerous tiny seeds carefully packed by Nature in fruits which resemble capsules.
A closer look shows the Enchanting Power Packs of Sesame Oil seeds.The Sesame fruits ( in the picture)consists of 4 Packs which burst open to release the seeds on maturity.
The seeds of the Sesame plant have the highest content of nutritious oil in any seed known to man.
Is it then a Wonder that they are today included in almost every cuisine known to Man.
The little off white ( or black) seeds on Buns and the sides of Sushi are none other than Sesame Seeds.
The 4 power pack capsules of the SesamePlant are ready to burst from the tip and are thus harvested before they can disperse their valuable oil seeds.
The tiny Sesame seeds are a SUPERFOOD and pack an array of Proteins,Vitamins Minerals , Oils and dietary fiber.
The Ancient Indians knew the nutritional value of the Power Packed Sesame Seeds and thus intertwined them with religious festivals like Makar Sakranti to ensure the population at large remain healthy.
Next time you eat a Hamburger , do look at the tiny white seeds that adorn the Crown of the Buns.
So friends, Wishing you a Happy Makarsakranti and remain healthy with Til ( Sesame) Gud ( Jaggery) . Til for health and Gud for sweet words and deeds.
A friend and an avid Naturalist introduced me to an intriguing subject “History of Food”.
Captivated to the subject as it is closely intertwined with Nature I now look at my Food, in particular Vegetables and Herbs, with more respect. Each vegetable tells me a story of how they have integrated the World in more ways than we can imagine and the Continents they have traversed.
The Black Beauty , Aubergine , EggPlant or Brinjal is a prehistoric vegetable known to Indian civilization since the dawn of time.
The vegetable Baingan ,( Hindi), EggPlant ( English) ,Solanum melongena ( Scientific Name) belongs to the potato family Solanaceae.
If you see cuisines across the world today it is hard to imagine there was once a time when THE BLACK BEAUTY was unknown to regions beyond the Indian Subcontinent.
Imagine no Moussakas? ( friends in Turkey and Greece please note)
The picture below is of a vegetable farm near the village of Kichan ( do check my blogs WINTER GUEST and A FEAST) , Rajasthan.
The beautiful mauve flowers of the BLACK BEAUTY look like lamps as the sunlight filters through their petals.
They are however carriers of the poisonous alkaloid Solanine , which like modern drugs causes hallucinations as well.
The EggPlant or Black Beauty was therefore also known as the “APPLE OF INSANITY” or MAD APPLE .
Tomatoes & Potatoes both belong to the NIGHT SHADE (Solanaceae) family of the Brinjals and also carry the same alkaloid Solanine.
Hybrids of the Black Beauty or Aubergine can also be White and hence the name EGGPLANT.
Consumption of the BLACK BEAUTY however brings with it a plethora of health benefits like Flawless Skin, Healthy Hair, Weight Reduction and a control on diabetes and high blood pressure.
Do look well at your vegetables, they may have come from a distant and exotic land.
This gorgeous Evergreen tree was spotted in Brentwood Sanctuary in Mussoorie in the Himalayas. A gorgeous place , the swimming pool was fed by cool mountain springs.
The name“Oothambal” from the Northwestern Indian state of Manipur when translated means LOTUS ON THE TREE.
It is truly a wonderful and apt name to the sweet fragrant flowers of the Magnolias.
What you see in the picture is not the blossom.
The species “grandiflora” gives due recognition to the large blossoms of the Magnolia.
The Hindi name is also descriptive as it calls it Him Champa, the Champa of the Mountains ( Him) . Champa is a Frangipani native to India and also called Temple Flower.
There is also a species of Magnolia native to the Indian Subcontinent called Magnolia Champaca. The fragrance of this flower is simply enchanting . Do seek it out whenever you travel to this part of the world.
Unfortunately the tree had no flowers blooming so cannot share pictures of the gorgeous blossoms.
I had assumed at the time I took these pictures that these large cone like structures adorning the tree in hundreds were buds.
However was proved wrong as I realized these are the fruits and will soon bear lovely red seeds. I had to change to captions as well .
The featured image has the the first Rays of the Morning Sun light up the gorgeous pink fruit of THE TREE LOTUS.