The Cassia fistula tree stands tall just before the main entrance at my maternal home.It’s largely ignored throughout the year until the summer months when the golden yellow flowers erupt in showers all over the boughs just in time for the Visu celebrations.
It was during a family trip to Sethumadai last summer that I first became aware that these beautiful yellow blossoms were actually edible.The hostess at our farm stay served it alongside the regular South Indian staples.It was delicious and I tucked the memory away to replicate the following summer. While there is not much documentation regarding the origin of this particular chutney recipe,there is a fair bit of information that talks about the ayurvedic benefits of this tree as a whole.
It is touted that the Cassia fistula has tremendous medicinal properties and every part of the tree including the root, leaves, bark ,fruit and flower are used for a multitude of ailments ranging from digestive to skin disorders.
I can again only marvel at the diversity of our ancient cuisines and their deep rooted connect with the seasons.Back then folks just went by the wisdom handed down without questioning the authenticity.If it was told that it was good for you ,it was to be eaten,no questions asked !
My mother was more than happy to part with a few springs of these pretty flowers from her tree and I happily went about making this delicious chutney.
It’s true that the satisfaction one derives from making a meal with ingredients that grow wild and free around their home is unlike the pleasure derived from any other kind of cooking. It’s no wonder that chefs are looking around at heirloom recipes and foods that will add not just interesting elements to their menu but in fact serves to celebrate the region that they hail from,not to mention building an appreciation for the native landscape. The fact that they contribute considerably to health and well-being is an added advantage.
I thoroughly enjoyed the process of cleaning the flowers, marveled at the colour and the thought,’looks good enough to eat’ popped up in the head ! 😀
I’m also glad that the chutney tasted good. As much as I like to celebrate all that’s ancient , local and nutritive,it won’t go very far if it’s mighty hard to swallow ,will it ?! I used ingredients that are best eaten in the soaring temperatures of the summer months ,hence the black peppercorns, coconut etc…The sweetness of the coconut is necessary to counter the astringency of the flowers.It tastes like a coconut chutney with an unmistakable enhancement in flavour of a different kind. We ate it with our dosai and it was so nice to see the delight with which my staff relished the idea along with the taste !
I’m sure like me, you too know of many many folks who will scoff at the idea of eating leaves, berries ,roots not to mention flowers. Not only do they wrinkle up their noses without even so much as tasting even a teeny bit but they poke a lot of fun at the people who do. Well, what else can I say to that lot but that ,It’s sad that the unadventurous palate that exists more in their brain than on their tongues won’t allow them to sample (what they may consider) the more inferior of foods that in actuality exist for certain times of the year for a reason. That being ,to aid mankind to live off it’s bounty while we in turn care for it’s upkeep! One can only share the information, the rest is up to the big boys and girls who are grown up enough to look after themselves 😉
The mindless junk that many of us out there call food has most likely never seen the light of day or most often the result of mad geniuses operating in food labs. Before we start to blame the food adulterers and shop owners for their shortcuts that cause much damage to us and our young, we need to take a step back and see why exactly such wrong doers are able to amass great wealth by their actions and pave the way for many others to follow suit. Maybe just maybe, the fault lies right before our very noses !