Nellikkai Thuvayal – Gooseberry Chutney Series

Gooseberry is one of those nutritious fruits that often brings back nostalgic memories. When we used to travel during school vacations to my paternal grandmother’s native place in down south Tamilnadu, the houses that had ‘nelli maram’ or the gooseberry tree was a special place for me. ‘Arunelli’ – the yellow and extremely sour, smaller variety of gooseberry was my favorite. With the beautiful Kutralam Falls nearby and the monsoon setting in, the village would have intermittent pleasant showers and chill air. The fields, farm lands, and the tall trees imparting different shades of green, would present such a soothing atmosphere, that the developed cities should beg for.

Visiting elders and relatives of the close knit family was a routine, common to most households. Also, introducing the third generation to other relatives of the extended family was part of those village visits. That is one of the major tasks of grandfathers and grandmothers, providing essential links through generations.

Coming back to gooseberry, most houses would welcome you with the arunelli maram in the frontyard, with bunches of the delicious fruit. I think the hosts should have been amused seeing my eyes rest on the gooseberries than in their conversation, I would always come back with packs of berries, the fruit and the taste I’ve treasured in my memory till today.

By Abhishek Jacob at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44823119

Post vacations, back at home in the city, thankfully those days, there were no branded food outlets in the corner for junk intake. On the way back from school, arunelli/gooseberries sprinkled with salt and chilli powder was a favorite walking partner. This memory glittered back during my Cambodia days, where I could buy arunelli from the street vendor with salt and chilli powder.

photo taken from dosaikal.com/the cambodia connections-I, my post back in April 2013.

The other gooseberry is the bigger variety. While arunelli is a snack in hand, periya nellikkai is versatile. Eat it raw, make thuvayal/chutney or pickles, make nellikkai saadham/rice, thayir pachchadi/yoghurt raita – the options are endless.

First, enjoy the sourness of nellikkai; then, have a tumbler of water; get amazed by the sweetness that spreads in your mouth.

Setting new nutrition goals during the Covid crisis, I had been trying out different kinds of thuvayal/chutneys with periya nellikkai/big gooseberries. The fruit is at its nutritious best, when consumed raw. Hence, I try to add gooseberries without roasting or stir frying in the dips i make. Also, I have tried to add chinna vengayam/shallots in the fried chutneys, as a replacement for normal onions.

As a thuvayal series, I would like to share a few of those chutneys in the coming posts.

See you all soon.

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