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History and tradition of pickles in Indian cuisine

History and tradition of pickles in Indian cuisine: Pickles of Mango and Gongura in Andhra style

One can hardly ever imagine of an Indian platter without a spoonful of achaar (pickles) whether it is for veg or non-veg meal. Many of our cherished memories of childhood are replete with occasions of helping grandma with her pickle preparation or taking the ceramic jars of pickles to the open terrace for letting them seasoned under the sun.  But, how many of us know how this spicy marinade seeped into Indian culinary tradition?

The tradition of pickle making goes back thousands of years. Etymologically, the word “pickle” is derived from the Dutch word derived from “pekel” which means saline.  According to some historians, the origin of pickles is in ancient Persia where meat, fruits or pickles were preserved in salt, vinegar, honey or syrup.  Some other studies suggest preparation of pickle dates back to BCE 2030 in the valleys of the Tigris River. The tradition of achaar preparation has an ancient and rich legacy which is found in the Kannada text Lingapurana of Gurulinga Desika in 1594 CE. In this text, there is a mention of about more than fifty kinds of pickles. In another work Sivatattvaratnakara, an encyclopedia of the king of Keladi, Basavaraja belonging to the 17th century, there is a mention about pickles.

Avakai is a popular mango pickle of South India which originated in Andhra Pradesh and has been popularised by the Andhra and Tamil communities in the south. The key ingredients of this pickle are green mangoes, mustard paste, hot oil, chilies and other spices.

Mango pickle is usually made during the summer months when mangoes are available in opulence. It takes about four to eight weeks for the mangoes and spices to form a uniform marinade after they are seasoned under the sun continuously during this time.

Gongura pachadi or Gongura pickle is a popular and traditional cuisine of Andhra Pradesh which made from the tangy flavoured Gongura leaves and is eaten as a side dish for rice or chapattis. To preserve the Gongura Pachadi for a long time one should make the leaves dry before making the pickle. Gongura pickle with ghee rice is an all-time favorite platter for the Andhra folks.

Benefits of pickles

  • Pickles that are seasoned with salt, help in the growth of probiotic bacteria in your gut, therefore consuming pickles with food aid in better digestion.
  • Since pickles are made by preserving raw fruits or vegetables, the anti-oxidant properties of these ingredients are also preserved in the marinade. Anti-oxidants help in fighting against the free radicals that can cause various ailments.
  • Studies show pickles boost our central nervous system and our mental health in general.
  • It is also a great way to give your children the nutrition they require from fruits and vegetables that they may not eat otherwise.
  • The fibre content of the fruits and vegetables are also retained if they are pickled. Due to use of acetic acid in preparing pickles, your hemoglobin level is boosted. But it holds true for pickles that have low salt content.
  • Pickles improve immunity in children and prevent them from common cold and flu.

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