Illustrations by Trinankur Banerjee
Illustrations by Trinankur Banerjee

The 2019 ingredient planner

Celebrate the season's bounty with local produce that balances the various elements of the body in accordance with the principles of Ayurveda and holistic living. Yatendra Rawat, executive chef at Ananda in the Himalayas, offers a selection of common as well as lesser-known ingredients that champion good health. Each month has an ingredient to match, based on its harvesting season, freshness index and 'prana', or life force

January

BATHUA SAAG (Chenopodium album)

Bathua is a much-loved winter green across north India. Use it in various forms—as the hero ingredient of a delicate stir-fry, as a base for a hearty winter soup or a dal. It can also be chopped, blanched and used as filling for making nutritious rotis or parathas or whipped together with yogurt and spices to make a raita. Rich in vitamins, fibre and amino acids, bathua warms the body and is also believed to cure constipation.

February

COMMON NETTLE (Urtica dioica)

Indigenous to Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the leaves of the plant have a sharp sting when in contact with human skin. Yet the biting, peppery flavour that emerges when boiled make it a great addition to any vegetable or dal. It can also be made into a stand-alone stir-fry or used to add depth to a chicken curry. Nettle leaves are rich in vitamins A and C, iron, potassium, manganese, calcium and protein. Nettle leaves are also believed to be beneficial in treating kidney and urinary tract disorders.

March

POINTED GOURD (Trichosanthes dioica)

Ubiquitous to most Indian kitchens, the pointed gourd or parval is stuffed, cooked into sabzis and even blanched in sugar syrup and served as a dessert. Try a different iteration by grilling it in the oven and serve with a light seasoning. It is important to not overcook the vegetable and also remember to eat the seeds as they are nutritious and beneficial in treating gastrointestinal problems and constipation.

April

BITTER GOURD (Momordica charantia)

From spicy karela chips to the Bengali shukto (vegetable stew), pickles and curries, bitter gourd has a starring role in a number of regional delicacies, bringing depth of flavour with its trademark bitterness and texture. Try something new by cutting thin slices of the gourd and slow roasting them into crisps. These can be used in salads, sandwiches and as a garnish or snack. Karela is rich in iron, magnesium, potassium, calcium and vitamins A and C. It also helps in lowering bad cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke.

May

FIDDLEHEAD FERN (Matteuccia struthiopteris)

This seasonal green vegetable is a great addition to the pantry. To allow the delicate flavour of the fern to shine through, avoid the typical sabzi treatment with ginger, garlic, tomatoes and onions, and cook lightly. It is an excellent source of vitamins C, B3 and manganese. It also helps build immunity.

June

MANGO (Mangifera indica)

Make this king of fruit the centrepiece of your larder in June. Use raw mango in salads and seafood. From aam ka panna to smoothies and lassis, there is a raw and ripe mango variant for every summer drink. While the Alphonso may be the most coveted of all mangoes, explore local variants for diverse flavours and textures. The mango’s health benefits are many, from lowering blood glucose levels to improving hair and skin health.

July

APRICOT (Prunus armeniaca)

In its fresh form, the apricot is a great addition to the summer larder. Apricots can be grilled, poached or used fresh in salads, cold meat platters or as an accompaniment with a roast or the sweet surprise in a lamb biryani. It can be preserved as a jam or relish or made the hero in a range of tarts and cakes. Rich in vitamin A, apricots are good for the eyes and keep the immune system healthy.

August

CUSTARD APPLE (Annona reticulata)

Come monsoon, remember to keep a regular supply of this creamy fruit in your refrigerator and use it in different ways in the kitchen. Turn it into a salsa by combining custard apple bits with onion, cucumber, lemon juice and salt or whip into milkshakes. Rich in vitamins and antioxidants, the custard apple builds immunity, controls blood pressure and aids digestion.

September

POMEGRANATE (Punica granatum)

The pomegranate can be juiced, eaten fresh, used as a topping for cheesecake, added as a lovely textural element in salads or dried and ground into a mix for healthy cookies. An aesthetic and flavoursome addition to dishes, it is rich in antioxidants and also believed to be an aphrodisiac.

October

WATER CALTROP (Trapa natans)

Singhara or water chestnut can be eaten raw, boiled or ground to make flour which is a healthy alternative to wheat. When combined with amaranth flour, it works well for a range of baked products and is good for a gluten-free diet. Singhara acts as a coolant, and is believed to cure jaundice, indigestion and nausea.

November

SWEET POTATO (Ipomoea batatas)

Welcome the winter with heart-warming sweet potato delicacies. Opt for baked sweet potato chips rather than the traditional fries. Grill them as a side dish or boil them and use as a mash or purée into a soup. Roasted sweet potatoes, sprinkled with lemon juice and spices, make for a delicious snack. The sweet potato is an excellent source of vitamin A and is lower in fat and sugar than white potatoes.

December

GREEN CHICKPEA (Cicer arietinum)

Tender chickpeas in their fresh form are called choliya—it can be sprouted and used in salads, stir-fried lightly with onion and cumin, or mashed and used as a stuffing for parathas. It is a good source of folate (vitamin B9) and contains antioxidant vitamins A and C. These green chickpeas are also a non-allergenic fresh source of protein.

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