Apples shouldn't be the only delicious fruit from Himachal you know. These citruses are equally delicious and a big part of Himachali cuisine and culture.
Apr 26, 2021 · 4 min read
Blessed with a diverse topography, Himachal Pradesh has a variety of citrus fruits which grow in the early onset of winters. Kimb, Chakotara, Galgal, and Jhamirdi are some varieties that grow in the lower regions of Himachal and are used in the local cuisine.
Kimb also known as Citrus Medica or just Citron is large and fragrant citrus fruit with a very thick rind. Like most of the citrus fruits, this is a winter fruit and is particularly enjoyed in the cold winter days under the shining sun. Relishing kimb is one distinct childhood memory.
Chhachha (local names have variations eg: Khatta) is made out of kimb. Winter greens such as mustard leaves, garlic leaves, mint and coriander leaves are crushed coarsely in a mortar and pestle to which green chilies, salt and jaggery are mixed in. The fruit is then savoured with this mixture.
Chakotara is a large, tart and tangy fruit from the citrus family which has acidity like an orange, slight bitterness and is easily confused with a pomelo. This sour fruit is very popular in the winters and is enjoyed with some green chili and salt. Chhachha can also be prepared with this fruit. This is particularly common as a mid-day neighborhood snack where all the women gather and make a big mix for all the kids who have been playing all day.
Galgal is also known as the hill lemon or Citrus reticulata. It is a species native to the Western Himalayas. The fruit is known for its ease of growth and tolerance to extreme weather conditions. A very popular preparation is the tangy and sour galgal pickle which is enjoyed with an array of breads like kachouri . Galgal juice is also widely used as a souring agent. The fresh juice is sometimes cooked and thickened to be preserved for later use. The mildly aromatic leaves of the galgal tree are used for making a Pahari delicacy called Hindra.
Jhamirdi also known as a rough lemon, is a very acidic fruit that is very similar to a galgal. The sharp citrusy taste makes it less palatable, and it is used as a cheap substitute for a galgal. The fruit can be very sour, chhachha can be made from it but would not be as good as a Galgal chhachha. A mixture of turmeric and jhamirdi juice is used for making kumkum.
Disappearing citrus, disappearing cultures
These fruit trees used to be in abundance here in the hills. Sadly, there has been a decline in their numbers. Growing up, I spent most of my winter days enjoying these pulpy and rich fruits. But today, we hardly see these fruits in the market, and what’s sadder is that a lot of people do not even recognize these trees anymore. When the fruits are used, they are only of worth as a cheaper substitute for lemons.
This biodiversity loss is a very scary part of the new mainstream diet that we are following. Not only is it a big loss for our culture, but also ecology. Gone are the days when one could find a diverse variety of fresh fruits and vegetables in the markets of Shimla. All we now get are those same vegetables that everyone wants to cook with and finding these fruits in the markets is almost impossible.
As a young cook, fresh out of culinary school, I feel that this issue cannot be sidelined anymore. Himachali cuisine lacks representation across the county. There are hardly any shops selling local food and even if they are, they are not doing a good job at it. The generation gap has widened and the younger ones do not feel inclined towards their tradition and food.
There has been tremendous growth in the small scale production of pickles, concentrates and juices industry in the state. More focus should be given on products derived from these diminishing varieties of citrus fruits. Not only will this support the population of these fruit trees, but will also ensure a reach into the consumer market, and will also boost the economy of the state.
Gaurish Shyam is a native of Kotgarh, a remote village in the Upper Shimla region of Himachal Pradesh. He has been born and brought up in Shimla. He is currently enrolled in the Culinary Arts program of Manipal University, Karnataka, and is very keen on exploring the local cuisine and indigenous ingredients found in Himachal. He has traveled across the state to learn the cuisine and has received training as a kitchen intern in various food establishments including a cheese factory.
Tenacious Bee Collective
Tenacious Bee (https://www.tenaciousbee.com/) is working with communities in Himachal to support local beekeepers in developing sustainable, non-exploitative methods of honey production. Their goal is the development of a robust local industry that brings ecological benefits to the area, financial benefits to local producers, and pure, high quality, unprocessed honey to consumers.