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.
Roses need no introduction and have been known to man since the onset of civilization itself.
The pictures that follow are of hybrid roses from the Rose garden in the recreated Persian garden at Sunder Nursery , New Delhi.
Ancient Indian Scriptures dating to 2500 BC refer to the flower Rose, ( English), Gulab ( Hindi) , Rosa ( Scientific Genus) centifolia ( there are many species in this Genus) .
The mixture of Yellow and Pink Roses gives rise to this cultivated hybrid called SEVENTEAR.
Ancient Indian scriptures have an apt and wonderful name for the Rose “Satapari” or an angel with a hundred wings.
Roses are cultivated worldwide for their fragrance and ornamental flowers.
The Ancient Persians are supposed to have mastered the art of creating Attar or Perfume from Rose petals.
An Ancient Indian Scripture recognizes this fragrant nature of Roses and names it “Saumyagandha” .( meaning that with a pleasing aroma).
Even Honeybees are attracted to the fragrant and sweet smelling Roses called Pristine.
The beautiful flower of the family Rosaceaehave been attributed in Hindu mythology to the God of Love , “Kamadeva”.
The Rose is also favoured by the Gods and is referred to as“Sivapriya ” ( translated it means that which is dear to Lord Siva).
As per Hindu mythology the abode of Lord Siva is the Himalayan Peak of Mount Kailash..
Is it a coincidence then that over 15 species of Wild Roses are native to the Himalayas.( they grow wild in the region) .
The gorgeous cultivated hybrid species below is called BROADWAY.
The colour red seems seems to have seeped into the veins and stems of the plant as well.
Not only do Roses smell good and look Enchanting, they also have numerous medicinal properties which have been described at length in the CHARAKA SAMHITA . ( a medical treatise by Charaka, follower of the Ancient Indian School of Medicine, AYURVEDA) .
I hope you enjoyed going back in time and discovering names and properties of this Magical flower which has captivated man since time Immemorial.
On this note I share with you the information that the name Rosa finds its origins in OLD PERSIAN.
Do think of the wonderful History of Roses when you gift your flowers next month on VALENTINES DAY.
Photographed in a Vegetable Farm ( do read my blog A GREEN DESERT) in the village of Ranesar near the home of Demoiselle Cranes, Kichan ( do read my blogs A FEAST and the WINTER GUESTS) in the deserts of Rajasthan.
The picture below is a heap of harvested cotton bushes in which lurks the mysterious Dinosaur of the desert.
A closer look within the dried bushes shows up a Reptile resembling the Dinosaurs of the Jurassic Age.
Do observe the Gland below the eyes and the extremely long and curved claws used for climbing and gripping.
A top view shows up the spectacled back and a distinctive dual colour, the head and upper limbs are clearly lighter and grey.
The lovely colouration and outstanding camouflage make me struggle to discern the never ending tail of this modern day Dinosaur.
Can you spot where the tail ends?
I am sure it is not the Spiny Tailed Lizard ( Sanda in Hindi) of the Deserts , the oil of which is sold as an aphrodisiac by road side quacks.
It does not resemble the Chameleon or the Oriental Garden Lizard either.
The blog is dynamic till we figure out the Scientific name and therein lies the story of THE NEVER ENDING TALE.
I thought it appropriate to introduce this tiny Wild member of the Sunflower family, Asteraceae while you are getting familiar with the larger and more cultivated Dahlias ( do check out my blog SAY IT WITH FLOWERS) and Gazanias ( do read a recent blog titled TREASURE too) .
The Mountain daisy ( English) ,Daisy Fleabane or Hairy Fleabane ,Erigeron bellidioides ( Scientific Name) is a Wildflower that grows freely forming a carpet like undergrowth as it mixes with grass in the Himalayas.
These flowers were once considered to repel fleas and hence called FLEABANE.
These lovely Wildflowers scramble up rocky mountains and peer out from every crevice available.
While individually they are very small, they make up by flowering in abundance.
Unlike their cousins from Mexico ( the Dahlias) and South Africa ( the Gazanias) these tiny Mountain Daisies are native to the HimalyanMountains of the Indian Subcontinent.
These white daisies will all turn pink ( like the wall behind them) as they grow older.
This characteristic of turning white at an early stage of its life cycle give them the Generic name Erigeron, which in Greek means early old man.
Here you can clearly identify their distinctive lance like leaves as well.
These flowers looked liked daisies and I photographed them in the Himalayas at Mussoorie, so I assumed they are Himalayan Daisies, which however turned up looking almost like Sunflowers and did not match the photographs I had taken at all.
Learnt a lesson this New Year, never assume anything.
The featured image highlights this aspect, please see carefully, the flower in the foreground is a Mountain Daisy but not the buds and leaves in the background.
To top it all he Mountain daisy is a faux daisy, not a real daisy.
These little ones surely turned me wild as I spent a longtime figuring out their botanical name.