Next time you get a craving for sweets, reach out for jaggery. Jaggery, or gur as it is known in several parts of India, is pure and unrefined whole sugar produced from sugar cane, sago palm, coconut palm and date palm. Rich in minerals and vitamins, jaggery is your best alternative to white, refined sugar and is popular across India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South-East Asia, parts of Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to Ayurveda, jaggery is useful in fighting lung and throat infections. It is also a source of iron and other essential minerals. According to popular Indian practice, jaggery is also eaten before any new project is undertaken.
Maharashtra is its largest producer—and perhaps the biggest patron—with almost every vegetable curry, dal and dessert (such as tilgul and puran poli) containing jaggery. In West Bengal and Orissa, jaggery is something of a rage during the harvest festival, being used in varieties of the home-made traditional desserts called pithe. In Tamil Nadu, it is used in chakkarai pongal prepared during Pongal, as also in traditional sweets from Karnataka like payasa, obattu (poli) and unday. In Gujarat, laddoos are made from wheat flour and jaggery.
Some of the benefits of jaggery are:
Fights asthma: Jaggery, rich in magnesium, helps relieve fatigue and relaxes muscles, nerves and blood vessels. It is thus an active combatant to asthma, migraine, tension and soreness in muscles.
Controls blood pressure: Rich in potassium, jaggery also has low amounts of sodium, which helps control blood pressure and reduces water retention.
Controls anaemia: It is also rich in iron, which helps increase the haemoglobin level in the body, and is effective in fighting anaemia.
Blood purification: Jaggery contains moderate amounts of calcium, phosphorus and zinc, which help in the purification of blood and the prevention of rheumatic afflictions and bile disorders.
Jaggery and horse-gram pancakes
300g horse-gram sprouts
50g egg white
50g banana purée
150ml soy milk
Beat the egg whites, add jaggery and banana purée. Now add horse gram followed by soy milk. Heat a flat griddle (hotplate), smear it with some oil. Pour pancake batter using a small ladle, spread evenly. Once cooked, serve topped with jaggery syrup, berry compote and banana slices.
Recipe by: Chef Ashish Rout of Ananda in the Himalayas