Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Mustard Seeds (Aavalu, Rai, Sarson)

Brown and Tiny Mustard Seeds from Telengana Region, Andhra Pradesh, India Also Known as Chitti AavaluBlack Mustard Seeds from India
Tiny Brown Mustard Seeds from Andhra Pradesh also Known as “Chitti Aavalu” in Telugu
and Black Mustard Seeds from Bharath

According to old-world tales, there was an interesting exchange of messages between King Darius of Persia and Alexander the Great.

King Darius sent a sack of sesame seeds to Alexander to show the vastness of his army. To this, Alexander responded with a sack of mustard seeds to imply not only the number but also the power, energy and the fiery nature of his men.

Mustard seeds are one of the oldest spices known to mankind and valued for their antiseptic, antibacterial, carminative and warming properties. They are also good source of omega-3 fatty acids, iron, calcium and protein. Mustard greens are an excellent source of Vitamin A, iron, zinc and improve blood circulation.

Mustard is a very economical plant. Its leaves are used as a vegetable, flowers and pods in salads and seeds as a spice. Mustard seeds hardly give away any fragrance when whole. This is because the enzyme that creates the hot, pungent taste of mustard is activated when it comes in contact with liquids. And for this very reason we wait for the mustard seeds to pop in our tadka. The popping of mustard seeds imparts the sharpness and nutty flavor to the dish.

The vibrant yellow flowers of mustard plants shout out the impending arrival of spring to the world. Folks in Punjab celebrate Basant Panchami when spring arrives with amazingly beautiful, bright and cheery rolling fields of mustard. A favorite of Bollywood films, fantastically yellow mustard fields are breathtaking and romantic. When you talk about mustard and Punjab, it is only natural that one thinks of “Sarson Ka Saag”. This one of a kind dish is best enjoyed with Makke de Roti (corn roti).

Sarson Ka Saag with Roti, and
Toasted Mustard Seeds, Part of Traditional Tadka or Popu

There are three types of mustard seeds – white (actually they look more yellow than white), black and brown. Brown mustard looks very identical to black mustard but has only 70% of the pungency. Mustard seeds are harvested when the pods are fully developed but not yet ripe. The mustard hay is then stacked to dry and then threshed to remove the seeds.

Oil of mustard is a rubefacient. It irritates the skin when applied and dilates the small blood vessels underneath the skin. This increases the flow of blood to the skin and makes it feel warm. Mustard plasters are used to relieve chest colds and coughs. To make a mustard plaster, mix some powdered mustard with warm water and spread it as a paste on a doubled piece of soft cloth. Do not apply this plaster directly on the skin. Take care to see that you don’t keep it on for more than 15 minutes.

A mustard foot bath is a traditional remedy for colds and headaches. Add one teaspoon of mustard powder to a bowl of hot water and soak your feet for about 15 min. The warming nature of mustard clears the congestion by drawing it away from the source. These foot baths or mustard plasters should be used carefully since mustard can irritate skin if used for longer durations. Also never use this remedy on small children.

I have read that it is fairly easy to grow mustard. If you plan to try it, make sure you choose a sunny area in your yard. Mustard is an annual plant and germinates easily. It spreads easily too so you just need to make sure that it doesn’t take over your entire yard.

I just loved the idea of harvesting our own mustards seeds, like this gardener had done and I am going to give it a try this year. Only time will tell whether I can actually get substantial amount of mustard seeds from my garden or not, but I will at least get a small piece of Punjab with beautiful and bright yellow flowers.

Guest Article by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
Photography by: Indira Singari


If you have questions about Mustard spice, please post them in comments section. Anjali would be glad to answer them for you. Thanks.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Sarson (Mustard Greens), Herbs and Spices, Mustard Seeds (Aavalu), Anjali Damerla (Thursday September 13, 2007 at 5:12 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Series of Sprouts ~ Mustard Seed Sprouts

Sprouted Mustard Seeds (Aavalu)

One thing I did not expect from mustard seed sprouts was spiciness. God, they are hot. I don’t know how many of you had the experience of paan-supari. The tongue tingles and burns at the same time, right? Mustard seed sprouts had the same effect. It starts with a bitter taste and then within few seconds, the whole tongue will feel like it’s on fire, ending with a chilled sensation. I liked the mustard sprouts ruchi.

The sprouting process was easy. Soak couple of teaspoons of mustard seeds in water for four hours. Drain the water and take the soaked mustard seeds in a loosely woven cotton cloth. Place it in a colander near windowsill where the Sun shines. Frequently spray water to keep the seeds and the cloth moist. Within a day, the sprouts start to appear. Wait another day for them to grow little bit. Then add them in curries, kurmas, raita and in popu or tadka. When added in moderation, mustard sprouts surely perk up a mature palate with rustic pungency.

For today’s meal, I prepared a yogurt based salad with mustard sprouts for parathas. Cucumber, carrot, mango, sweet onions, asafoetida, red pepper and salt mixed in yogurt; the poor mouth is still recovering from the flavor-jugalbandi effect.

Moong dal with Paratha and Mustard Sprouts Raita

Mustard Sprouts Raita:
2 cups yogurt
Half cup each - grated cucumber, carrot and semi-ripe mango
Quarter cup each - finely chopped red onion or shallot and cilantro
A tablespoon of sprouted mustard seeds
10 curry leaves and a pinch each- hing, sugar and red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon oil

In a bowl, take yogurt and add the cucumber, carrot, mango and onion. Combine.
In a small pan, heat oil. Add and toast curry leaves and mustard sprouts to fragrance. Stir in hing, sugar and red pepper flakes. Fry them to warm and add the toasted contents to yogurt. Mix thoroughly and serve. Tastes great as a dip or spread.

Recipes with Mustard Sprouts:
Mustard Sprouts Roti ~ from Live to Cook

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Yogurt, Sarson (Mustard Greens), Sprouts (Molakalu), Herbs and Spices, Mustard Seeds (Aavalu) (Wednesday September 12, 2007 at 7:33 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Asafoetida (Asafetida, Hing, Inguva)

Food blogging has opened a new way for me to meeting interesting people who also share my passion and philosophy in cooking. Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice is one such person. She belongs to the spice world and has a great knowledge about our traditional and ancient spices and herbs. I truly believe that we all could benefit from her knowledge. Through her periodical articles on Mahanandi, Anjali will be sharing the benefits and uses of various spices and herbs.


Asafoetida (Asafetida, Hing, Inguva)

Asafoetida, Powdered Form
Asafoetida ~ Powdered Form

Asafoetida is a resinous gum that is extracted from the root and stem of genus ferula, a type of giant perennial fennels that is at least 4 yrs old. The stem/root of the plant is slashed and kept in shade while the sap seeps out and hardens. This dried, grayish-white gum is then scraped off which turns reddish and finally reddish-brown as it ages. The asafoetida that we buy in stores has only about 30 -40% of pure asafoetida and the rest is edible starch (rice or wheat flour) to make the powder more manageable. Sometimes gum arabic, turmeric and some additional color are also added to it.

In India, we use asafoetida in our pickles, as a substitute for garlic and of course, in our tadka/popu. The traditional popu/tadka process is incomplete without this spice. Asafoetida was introduced to the West by Alexander the Great in 4th century BC and was used in ancient Roman cuisine as a substitute for a North African plant named Silphium.

Ayurveda highly recommends including all six tastes in our meals. The six tastes are – salty, sour, sweet, bitter, pungent and astringent. Asafoetida comes under the pungent category. Foods and spices that are pungent stimulate appetite and improve digestion. Asafoetida is very helpful in alleviating the sensation of heaviness, fullness or bloating after a heavy meal. Asafoetida has extra heating properties and is used in Ayurveda to rekindle digestive fire. It is also supposed to act as a blood purifier.

Many of us know that a pinch of asafoetida with a glass of buttermilk helps reduce indigestion. But not many know that asafoetida is also used to alleviate toothache. Add a little lemon juice to asafoetida powder and warm this mixture a bit. Soak a cotton ball in this warm mixture and place it on the aching tooth. Or another remedy is to mix pure asafoetida powder and salt, place this mixed powder on the aching tooth. Asafoetida is also used by Homeopathy doctors to treat Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

When it comes to cooking, asafoetida is a must for lentil dishes and curries with green leafy vegetables. Asafoetida is also used a lot for flavoring pickles like tomato, mango etc, and in sauces and is one of the main ingredients in Worcestershire sauce. Adding asafoetida to popu/tadka results in a wonderfully complementary flavor. I also believe that this special spice adds relish to food.

An article on asafoetida is incomplete without a mention of Hingashtak, also known as Hingawastaka. It’s a mixture of 8 spices - asafoetida, black pepper, carom seeds (ajwan), cumin, ginger, pipli (Long Pepper), nigella seeds (Kalonji) and rock salt. In olden times, every family had its own variation of Hingashtak. My own version is a simple mixture of asafoetida, black pepper, ginger, cumin, ajwan and salt. Grind all these spices and mix with rice (squeeze a bit of lime juice if you want) and have just 2-3 morsels of this yummy rice. You can make tiny pills of the Hingashtak and have it before meal. Hingashtak is very heating (and hence aids digestion), so eat very little.

Asafoetida, Black Pepper, Ginger, Cumin and Ajwan ~ for Hingashtak

~ Guest Post by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
Photo Credit : Indira Singari

If you have questions about asafoetida spice, please post them in comments section. Anjali would be glad to answer them for you. Thanks.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Herbs and Spices, Asafoetida (Inguva), Anjali Damerla (Thursday August 30, 2007 at 6:31 pm- permalink)
Comments (58)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Turmeric (Haldi, Pasupu)

Food blogging has opened a new way for me to meeting interesting people who also share my passion and philosophy in cooking. Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice is one such person. She belongs to the spice world and has a great knowledge about our traditional and ancient spices and herbs. I truly believe that we all could benefit from her knowledge. Through her periodical articles on Mahanandi, Anjali will be sharing the benefits and uses of various spices and herbs.


Pasupu (Turmeric, Haldi)

Turmeric (Pasupu, Haldi)
Fresh and Dried Turmeric Root, Turmeric Powder and Fresh Turmeric Paste

Turmeric is probably the most revered spice in Ayurveda.

One cannot imagine a Hindu festival or wedding without this amazing wonder of nature. The western world has just started to understand turmeric whereas our ancestors knew it properties for centuries and incorporated it in our daily cuisine.

Turmeric has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic properties and is considered a blood purifier. Curcumin, found in turmeric, is an anti-oxidant. Anti-oxidant is a substance that has the ability to stabilize or neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals. An anti-oxidant may be a vitamin or mineral such as vitamin C or zinc. Free radicals are produced when cells convert oxygen to energy. A few free radicals are not dangerous, but too many can damage cell membranes, proteins and DNA. To get more information on free-radicals read this article. There’s a lot of research being done to see whether turmeric can be used to treat arthritis. Studies have also found that India, with its turmeric rich cuisine, has fewer cases of Alzheimer’s.

It’s interesting to see how Indian culture has incorporated turmeric in everyday life. In Andhra, women used to apply turmeric paste to their feet everyday (this custom is still going strong in some interior parts of Andhra). The reason behind this custom is that not many wore sandals/chappals in olden days and by applying turmeric paste they made sure that their feet were healthy. Now that’s smart.

Unfortunately, the turmeric powder that we buy in stores nowadays has some food color added to it. In my experience, pure turmeric has an orangish tinge to it. No wonder turmeric was confused for saffron in olden times and was also known as “Poor man’s saffron”.

Turmeric Milk and Turmeric Tea
Turmeric and Honey ~ for Turmeric Milk and Turmeric Tea

When it comes to turmeric in cooking, I add it to the tadka/popu but also sprinkle some after the vegetables are cooked. The most popular usage is warm milk with some turmeric and honey/sugar. My daughter sometimes complains of body ache after a long day of jumping and running (or after “sports day” in school which is invariably on the hottest day of the month). I give her a glass of warm milk with turmeric and it really helps. Milk with turmeric is also good for preventing and curing pimples. A mixture of honey and turmeric is a time tested remedy for sore throat. Gargling with warm water to which salt and turmeric is added, works well too.

Another interesting way to benefit from turmeric is to take it in the form of tea. Here is a simple recipe for Turmeric Tea: Boil water, add turmeric powder, grated ginger (or cardamom pods work well too), little sugar. Add some milk. Let it simmer for a few more seconds. Enjoy.

Turmeric is getting a lot of attention from researchers around the world. Hopefully this will generate more interest in Ayurveda too.

~ Guest Post by ~ Anjali Damerla of Supreme Spice
Photo Credit : Indira Singari

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in The Essentials, Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Herbs and Spices, Turmeric (Pasupu), Anjali Damerla (Thursday August 16, 2007 at 7:15 pm- permalink)
Comments (31)

The New Home of Mahanandi:

Green Brinjals with Cumin

Vankaya with Jeelakarra Karam:

“Let’s consider a situation when you are all alone at home. You are hungry and would like to satisfy your cravings. What will you cook if you want to cook for yourself?”

Asks talented foodblogger Live2Cook.

Just like her, if brinjals are in my vegetable stash, instead of indulging in junk food, I would be motivated enough to prepare a decent meal. I enjoy brinjals that much. Particularly green brinjals which we call Poluru Vankayalu in Telugu. I am one of those people with a passion for green brinjals.

Meal is for myself, so I would go for simple ten-minute preparations like brinjal with ginger or today’s recipe, “Brinjal with Cumin”. This little-known but worth-knowing cumin flavored brinjal curry is a delight to the senses and a must try for green brinjal fans.

Green Brinjals (Poluru Vankayalu)


Aromatic Cumin Powder (Jeelakarra Karam):
Take 1 tablespoon cumin, 1 roughly chopped plump garlic clove, 4 red chillies and a pinch of salt in a grinder. Grind to smooth without adding water.

Green Brinjals (Poluru Vankaya):
Pick 15 young and firm green brinjals. Remove the stem end and wash. Finely slice brinjals lengthwise like shown in the picture above.

Cooking the Curry (Kura):
Heat a wide skillet. Add a teaspoon of peanut oil. When the oil is hot, add a pinch each - cumin, mustard seeds and five each - curry leaves and roughly chopped garlic pieces. When they start to turn to gold, add the brinjal pieces.

Saute on medium-high heat, mixing in-between. Green brinjals cook fast, so be ready with aromatic cumin powder. Sprinkle the cumin powder and also turmeric and salt to taste. Toss to mix well and cook few more minutes, until the brinjal pieces are just tender but still green. Serve hot.

Cumin flavored green brinjal curry tastes great with rice/chapati, toasted bread/bagel or with papad.

Cumin Flavored Green Brinjal Curry on a Papad ~ Meal for Myself
For JFI~Eggplant Event Hosted by Lovely Sangeeta of Ghar Ka Khana

Recipe source: Amma, Nandyala


How many of you know that green brinjals are cultivated in India and they are named after a village called “Poluru” near Nandyala region, Andhra Pradesh?

More Green Brinjal (Poluru Vankaya) Recipes:
Stuffed Brinjal Curry (Gutti Vankaya Kura)
Brinjal-Potato Curry
Green Brinjal-Fresh Amaranth Curry

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Vankaya (Brinjal), Jihva For Ingredients, Cumin (Jeelakarra) (Sunday July 1, 2007 at 1:00 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Jeelakarra Karam (Cumin and Chillies)

Jeelakarra Karam

Jeelakarra Karam is a type of highly aromatic masala powder with cumin and chillies from Andhra Pradesh, Bharath.


Quarter cup - cumin
10 to 12 red chillies - small round type shown above
2 to 4 garlic cloves - roughly chopped
Quarter teaspoon - salt

Take cumin in a spice grinder and grind to fine powder. Add red chillies, garlic and salt to powdered cumin. Grind to smooth without adding water. Remove and store in a clean jar.

Dry saute style curries with brinjals, potatoes and tindora greatly benefit by the addition of flavorful and smoky Jeelakarra Karam.

Recipe source: Amma, Nandyala.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Dried Red Chillies, Herbs and Spices, Cumin (Jeelakarra) (Friday June 29, 2007 at 9:50 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

Going Green with Neem Leaves (Vepa Aaku)

Homemade Neem-Clove Tooth Powder

Dried Neem Leaves ~ For This Week’s Indian Kitchen

We worship the neem tree! For us Bharatiya, the neem tree is a sacred tree, standing along the magnificient Maamidi (Mango) and the bodhi vruksham-Peepal (Raavi). The beautiful evergreen neem tree with its numerous medicinal benefits is a precious gift from Mother Earth. Every part of the tree is utilized in some way in India. In home-based medicines and in religious ceremonies, neem plays an essential role, the protector against disease and evil eye. In the kitchen, delicate neem flowers and tender neem leaves are used in preparing the broth-like healing potions. The bark, branches and dried leaves of the neem tree are used to prepare medicinal powders in our homes.

Since olden times, dental health is one of the well-known beneficial effects of neem. I have always desired to go back to the way my grandparents used to brush their teeth with homemade powders. Dried neem, tulasi leaves, cloves, little bit of rock salt and rice bran are ground together and stored in jars, to use as tooth-powder. Rice husk ash was also added to this mixture. Dental care routine in the days of yore went as follows - about half a teaspoon of the powder is placed in the palm of one’s hand and a small pencil-sized neem twig serves as the toothbrush. We had to dip the edge of the twig in this powder and brush the teeth. The taste of the toothpowder combined with neem twig packed quite a kick, which was sort of overwhelming to my young palate at that time. But we didn’t have a choice, because the commercial white toothpaste was considered poison in those days in villages. And people like my grandparents, who were well-versed in Western culture, consciously avoided using “foren” sounding, tasting chemical-laden white toothpaste. They had sparkling, healthy teeth and warm smiles.

I wanted to resuscitate that old tradition from memories. I purchased neem powder and tulasi powder from Indian stores. Ground few cloves to fine powder. I put together a fantastic-smelling tooth powder. Here is the result.

Homemade Neem-Clove Tooth Powder


4 tablespoons - neem powder
2 tablespoons - cloves powder
1 tablespoon - tulasi powder
¼ teaspoon - rock salt
1 tablespoon - rice bran or of bran of any grain - (added to provide friction to dislodge the food particles while brushing.)

Take all of the above in a small bowl. Mix thoroughly and have a taste. Adjust cloves, salt and bran to your liking. Mix and store in a clean jar.
To use - place about half teaspoon of powder in the palm of your hand. Moisten tooth brush and dip the bristles in powder and apply to the teeth. Do like you normally brush. No foam while brushing and no artificial sweetener like after-taste. This homemade tooth powder provides a refreshing clean feel and an enticing potent after-taste that mature palates prefer.

We all know that mothers love children who take proper dental care. What’s better way to celebrate mother earth on Earth day than remembering the old wisdom and bringing those sparkling memories back? This recipe is my way of celebrating the ancient wisdom and the inspiration for it - the Mother Earth.

All about Neem Tree
Neem: India’s Miraculous Healing Plant (book)
Sacred trees of India

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra, Indian Ingredients, Indian Kitchen, Neem (Vepa) (Sunday April 22, 2007 at 7:19 pm- permalink)
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The New Home of Mahanandi:

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