In India especially in the South, pickles are an integral part of the culinary culture, and they are prepared throughout the year using a wide variety of ingredients. However, during certain seasons, specific types of pickles are more commonly made due to the availability of seasonal fruits and vegetables.
Many of us have wonderful memories of the incredible aromas wafting from our mother’s kitchen when pickles are made at home! There are very few pleasures in life on par with eating a freshly made pickle like Avakaya with rice and ghee!
The exact ingredients and preparation methods may vary across regions and households, as each family has its own unique recipes and variations. Pickles are typically enjoyed as a condiment or accompaniment to rice, dosas, idlis, or curd rice, adding a burst of flavor to the meal.
Since it is currently May, which falls during the summer season in South India, there are a few popular pickles that are often made during this time:
Mangoes are widely available during the summer season, and mango pickles like Avakaya, Mangai, Meetha Achar, etc are a staple in South Indian cuisine. Raw mangoes are used to make this pickle, which is typically spicy, tangy, and sometimes slightly sweet. The mangoes are cut into pieces and mixed with spices, salt, oil, and other flavorings. They are then left to marinate for a few days to develop the flavors.
Lemons are another popular fruit used for pickling in South India. Lemon pickles are typically sour, spicy, and tangy. The lemons are cut into small pieces and mixed with spices like mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, and oil. They are then kept in airtight containers for a few weeks to allow the flavors to meld together.
Gongura, also known as sorrel leaves, is a leafy green that is abundantly available during the summer season. Gongura pickle is a specialty of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana regions. The gongura leaves are sautéed with spices, including red chilies, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and garlic, to create a tangy and flavorful pickle.
Tomatoes are available throughout the year, but during the summer season, when they are at their ripest, tomato pickles are often prepared. Ripe tomatoes are chopped and cooked with a mixture of spices, including mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, red chili powder, turmeric, salt, and oil. The result is a tangy and slightly spicy pickle that complements a variety of South Indian dishes.
Pros & Cons of Eating Pickles
Here are the benefits of consuming pickles:
- Probiotic Benefits: Fermented pickles, such as traditional lacto-fermented pickles, can contain beneficial bacteria, known as probiotics. These probiotics promote a healthy gut by supporting digestion and aiding in the balance of gut flora.
- Antioxidant Content: Some pickles, particularly those made from fruits and vegetables with vibrant colors, can be rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help protect the body against oxidative stress and may have potential health benefits, including reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases.
- Flavor and Variety: Pickles add a burst of flavor to meals and can enhance the taste of various dishes. They provide a tangy, salty, or spicy element that can make meals more enjoyable and interesting.
- Low in Calories: Pickles are generally low in calories, which can be beneficial for individuals who are watching their calorie intake or trying to lose weight. They can be a satisfying addition to a meal or snack without significantly increasing calorie consumption.
Though pickles have a lot of benefits they should be consumed in moderation due to:
- High Sodium Content: Pickles are often preserved in high quantities of salt resulting in high sodium content. Excessive sodium intake can contribute to high blood pressure, fluid retention, and other health issues. Individuals with hypertension or those on a low-sodium diet should moderate their pickle consumption.
- Added Sugar and Artificial Ingredients: Some commercially produced pickles may contain added sugar, artificial preservatives, and other additives to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life. These additives may not be desirable for those seeking a more natural or healthy diet.
- Tooth Enamel Erosion: Pickles, especially those that are acidic, can potentially contribute to tooth enamel erosion due to their high acidity levels. It is advisable to consume pickles in moderation and rinse the mouth with water afterward to minimize the impact on dental health.
- Risk of Food Contamination: Improperly prepared or stored homemade pickles can carry a risk of bacterial contamination. It is essential to follow proper hygiene practices, use clean utensils, and ensure appropriate storage conditions to minimize the risk of foodborne illnesses.
Pickles are an indispensable part of South Indian meals and there are innumerable people who love their pickles. As with any food, some moderation must be exercised when eating pickles. Those with acidity and other health conditions should be extra careful when choosing to eat pickles
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