The mahua tree is a frost-resistant species that grows in tropical and subtropical forests. It is abundant in many parts of India, including Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, Karnataka, Gujarat, and Rajasthan.
The tree flowers in summer and on an average, yields 80-320 kilos of flowers. The flowers bloom at night and fall before dawn, with the yellow flower carpeting the ground under the tree. The flowers are sun-dried and stored to be used throughout the year. Once dried, they are dark brown, resembling raisins—in appearance and flavour, with a more pronounced sweetness, floral notes, and slight bitterness.
Here is an interesting savoury preparation of mahua flowers the Wild Food Project team tasted, during a visit to Palghar. We were surprised by how well the aspects of sweet, salt and spice of the bhaji came together.
|Dry mahua flowers||1 cup|
|Coriander powder||1 teaspoon|
|Red chilli powder||½ teaspoon|
|Turmeric powder||¼ teaspoon|
|Blend of black pepper, cinnamon and black cardamom powder||¼ teaspoon|
|Garlic cloves (crushed)||8-10|
|Green chillies (chopped)||2|
|Masala bhaji (torn)||5-6|
What You Will Need
Crush the black pepper, cinnamon and black cardamom.
Boil the mahua flowers with salt for 8-10 minutes.
Remove from heat, strain out the water and let it cool. Squeeze out excess water from mahua flowers and add all spice powders into it and mix well.
Crush the garlic cloves, slice the onion, and chop the green chillies before you start cooking on the stove.
Heat oil in a pan on medium flame.
Add garlic, masala bhajji, green chillies and curry leaves. Sauté until the garlic changes colour.
Add sliced onions, and sauté the mixture for 2-3 minutes, or until the slices become translucent.
Add the mahua flower, spice mixture, some water; and cover it with a lid.
Let it cook for 3-4 minutes on low flame.
Take off the cover, and cook the bhaji on high flame, until the excess water evaporates.
Turn off the flame and serve hot.
Masala bhaji is a tribal vegetable, indigenous to Palghar. You could use tulsi as a substitute, as it’s unlikely to be available in most other geographical locations.
The seasonal mahua flower, too—even in its dry form—is not available in most parts of the country. The Locavore’s objective in publishing this recipe is to document varied cuisines, and not to promote the sale of the flower, unless you are certain that it is legal to procure it where you live.
The Wild Food Project team met Shakuntala at her home during their first trip to Palghar in Maharashtra. This recipe was originally published in the zine created as part of the project, and has been edited to The Locavore’s format. The Wild Food Project aims to study, archive, and celebrate indigenous forest produce in India, and the vast traditional knowledge that surrounds it.
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