With summertime here in all her blazing glory, Vijhay Ganesh Murugavel – founder of Maiyam – is sharing his insights on how to keep ourselves hydrated at a time when our bodies most demand water.
Based near Auroville, Maiyam is an ingredient-driven platform exploring a nature-friendly lifestyle while promoting traditional food practices, curating bespoke dining experiences, and hosting cooking workshops in addition to consulting with restaurants interested in inculcating this style of cooking.
Here, Vijhay delves into the hyperlocal foods that can help us stay hydrated in time-honored methods. The starting point is understanding the produce that grows in abundance in our fertile fields during the summer months, from gourds and grains like jowar, to farm-fed dairy products and plant-based oils. For generations after generations we have adapted to these produces as access to fresh food was mostly hyperlocal. Why does it often come as a surprise then to learn that it is these native varieties of produces – that hold the key to staying fit and healthy through the summer?
Watery veggies are one of the most overlooked and yet precious sources of nourishment.
- Cucumber: Remove the seeds and consume raw with the skin as a salad with every meal.
- Bottle gourd: Can be had raw as a salad or cooked as subji or poriyal.
- Pumpkins: Can be had raw or cooked; white pumpkin in any form is also a popular choice for the summers.
- Bitter gourd: A summer vegetable that cools and cleanses (worms) out of the system.
- Banana stem: An excellent source for cooling the body, banana stem can be milked and added to buttermilk or just had as a juice on its own. An added benefit is that its fibre can cleanse our system if chopped and cooked as a subji.
There are various kinds of native and heirloom varieties of rice and wheat available in India. Contact your local organic stores to find them as indigenous locally sourced grains are packed with a better quality of energy and minerals as compared to the processed or packaged kind.
- Rice Kanji: Steam raw rice, cool it and soak it overnight with water, having your Kanji the next morning for breakfast!
- Rice for meals and Thalis: Steamed rice with a spoonful of cultured ghee is great for balancing the heat-induced by rice, while providing more starch to the body (as there is no excess water after cooking). The “drained” cooking method of rice is better for a sedentary life as a portion of starch content is drained in excess water.
- Jowar: Rotis made from Jowar are the best alternative for wheat during summer.
- Cow’s ghee: Try to get a hold of cultured ghee – ghee made from the butter of curds, particularly from indigenous cows. Processed ghee from a factory-farmed cow has limited benefits due to the poor quality of fodder coupled with a sedentary lifestyle of the cow. In comparison, a healthy cow feeding on diverse fresh grass from large fields naturally develop cultures or healthy bacterias in milk, which can be instantly distinguished in the aroma of ghee.
- Curd: Curd from Buffalo milk is cooling to the body, while cow milk curd is not suitable for summer.
- Buttermilk: Both cow and buffalo curd without fats are one of the best sources to cool our body. Have plenty and often if you are not in an air-conditioned room.
Did you know: in the villages of Andra and North Karnataka, green chilies are considered to be vegetables in summer as they are abundantly grown as the climate does not support other vegetation. If you’re wondering how the locals manage to eat chilies in summer and still manage the heat, the answer is revealed in their unabashed consumption of buttermilk and cultured ghee (a by-product of buttermilk), which helps to compensate for the heat and heat-inducing foods!
- Fenugreek: They are not just cooling but also cleansing due to their bitterness.
- Coriander seeds: In any masala, this is the predominant ingredient because it nullifies the heat-induced from other pungent ingredients such as red chills, pepper, and dry ginger. Boil water for 10 min with coriander seeds and consume them hot or at room temperature as a replacement for plain water.
High fat oils are not meant to be heated; they are best had raw. However if you need to cook it for tadka, then use sparingly and within smoking point, adding raw oil at the end as dressing. Mustard oil is one of the few oils meant to be smoked before consuming.
- Sesame oil: Sesame oil made with palm jaggery is best suited for summer and the palm jaggery balances the heat generated by sesame. Pure sesame oil however is not suitable for summer.
- Coconut oil: one of the best oil for summer as it has the natural ability to cool our body without any balancing ingredient.
- Cane jaggery: A moderate quantity is good but excess consumption leads to dehydration.
- Palm jaggery: The best source of sweetener during summer as it cools our body.
- Palm Candy: Not as good as jaggery as it is further refined, but a great replacement for white sugar.
Avoid having fruit in salads, instead having fruits as a snack in themselves for better absorption.
- Mango: Summer is known for mangoes and it is absolutely good to consume them as long as we can consume them with their skin.
- Melon: Any melon is a great source of hydration as long as we do not mix it with other varieties of fruit.
- Banana: The best snack during the summer! Choose any local and native variety.
To conclude, Vijhay shares with us an anecdotal story from the summer of 2017, which captures the essence of this article.
“I took a train in general class from Chennai to Mumbai to experiment with my food practices by not consuming water during summer. I was very well aware that I am going to be traveling inside a steel tube heated by the hottest of the sun. It was almost a 2-day journey and I faced many unbearably hot moments and yet without a drop of water I was completely hydrated and energetic, how did I manage?. The answer is fruits, I packed my bag with enough melons and bananas and I observed a fruit fast during the entire journey.”
For more of an ingredient-led and traditional approach to food, follow Vijjhay @Maiyam_PastFood @VijhayGaneshM.
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