Recently we discussed ways to include all six tastes in your meal, with the addition of chutneys and pickles. Another way to enhance the beauty, taste and medicinal properties of your menu is to use garnishes. In this article we will look at some Ayurvedic garnishes, their culinary use and health benefits.
Cilantro or coriander leaf is among the most popular Ayurvedic garnishes. It has a sweet taste, reduces pitta, aids digestion and soothes mucus membranes. Cilantro is anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory, alleviates arthritis and lowers blood sugar. More amazing still, it chelates heavy metals like lead and mercury, helping remove them from the body. So be sure to include plenty of cilantro in your daily diet!
As a garnish, cilantro is often paired with coconut. Coconut is sweet and cooling, calming pitta and reducing burning sensations and pain. It is strengthening and nourishing, is high in fibre, and gives food an excellent taste.
Mint is another well-loved garnish found in India--where it is called pudina--and across the Middle East. As a cooling pungent, mint affords unique benefits for pitta and for use in hot weather. But it also has benefits in winter as it is diaphoretic (promotes sweating) and helps relieve colds and flu. Mint soothes the digestion, calms the nerves and helps urinary tract inflammation.
I love to pair mint with paprika for a colourful effect. Like mint, paprika is good for urinary and respiratory problems, so there is a good synergy as well as a colour contrast.
Parsley is a favourite garnish in European foods. For a Mediterranean flavour and appearance, choose flatleaf parsley, used widely in Italian and French cuisine as well as in Tunisia and Morocco, where it is called maadnous. Curly parsley is a mainstay of garnishes and sauces in Britain. The curly leaves are a very handsome garnish with a more pungent taste than flatleaf parsley.
Unlike cilantro, parsley is mildly warming with a pungent taste. Parsley is a good diuretic and emmenogogue. Beneficial for vata and kapha, it makes an excellent garnish choice in fall and winter.
Slivered almonds are a garnish useful in both sweet and savory dishes. Known in Sanskrit as vatada and in Hindi as badam, almond is heavy, oily and warming, qualities that make it perfect for vata. Yet by its sweet taste and heavy quality it also relieves pitta. It is demulcent, aphrodisiac, enhances semen production and builds ojas, our core strength and immunity. Almonds fried in ghee add a delicious taste, aroma and crunch.
Pomegranate seeds are a favoured garnish in Persian and Indian cuisine, used in soups, curries and meat dishes as well as desserts. Known in Sanskrit as dadima, pomegranate is a 'superfood', pacifying all three doshas and acting as a brain tonic, demulcent and general tonic. Pomegranate lowers cholesterol and blood pressure and inhibits breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, and leukemia. It adds a burst of flavour, colour and phyto-nutrients to any dish.
- What is Culantro? (garden-eats.com)
Alakananda Ma M.B., B.S. (Lond.) is a Certified Ayurvedic Doctor (NAMA) and graduate of a top London medical school. She is co-founder of Alandi Ayurveda Clinic and Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula in Boulder Colorado, as well as a spiritual mother, teacher, flower essence maker and storyteller. Alakananda is a well known and highly respected practitioner in the Ayurveda community both nationally and internationally.
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