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The bounty of ‘basant ritu’

The bounty of ‘basant ritu’

Living in the land of four seasons, I miss ‘basant ritu’, one of the six seasons in Nepal and a time of new growth and renewal, transitioning from the cold winter to warmer temperatures and longer days. During basant ritu, Nepal’s natural beauty is on full display, with lush greenery and colorful blossoms from the lowland of Tarai to the highland mountains. The English word ‘spring’ simply does not capture all the essence of basant ritu.

The lush greenery and colorful blossoms provide us with many vegetables, and one of them is ‘koiralo ko phool’ (Mountain Ebony—Bauhinia variegata). While having the tangy and spicy ‘achaar’ (pickle), I used to feel that nature has blessed us with this bountiful and tasty flower. After exploring the culinary world as a chef, I realized that we have actually underutilized koiralo.

According to researchers, the origin of koiralo had first been reported in the East Indies area. It grows at 1300 m altitude but is also found in deciduous forests and occurs up to 900 m altitude in dry mixed forests. Koiralo trees are mostly found in tropical and subtropical countries. It’s native to many countries including Nepal, India, China, Pakistan, Burma, North Thailand, North Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. It’s quite common in the Indian states of Tamil Nadu to as high as Jammu and Kashmir.

It’s called ‘raktakanchan’ or ‘phalgu; in the Sanskrit language. In many languages, the name of koiralo is derived from Sanskrit’s raktakanchan, including ‘devakanchanamu’ (Telugu), ‘kanchanal’ (Punjabi), ‘kachan’ (Odia), and ‘kachnar’ (Hindi). In Pahadi Hindi, it’s ‘koliar’ or ‘koiral’. In English, it has different names, including Mountain Ebony, Orchid tree, Camel’s foot, Napoleon’s hat, Paper mulberry, and Poor man’s orchid.

We, Nepalis, mostly use buds and flowers, whereas in India leaves and seeds are used. The leaves of the koiralo plant are used in the preparation of curry, in the form of vegetables, consumed as a side dish along with rice, and used as flavorings in meat and fish. Apart from making pickles, the flower is used in the preparation of curry, raita, flour; cooked as a vegetable; flavoring of meat and fish; and filler in pakoras.

The seeds are rich in several amino acids and are used as pulses in several regions of northeastern and central India. The buds are used for making pickles, curry, flour; flavoring agents in many products; used for making vegetables; and young buds of the flower are used for making various tasty broths. It’s said that the roots, stems, leaves, blossoms, and seeds of the kanchanara are all filled with beneficial nutrients and medicinal substances that offer incredible benefits for general health.

In Nepal, two koiralo items are popular. One is a flavorful vegetable—boiled koiralo ko phool possesses a unique taste and texture, often described as slightly bitter with a subtle sweetness. It can be stir-fried, sautéed, or incorporated into curries for a delightful twist.

A tangy pickle is another popular way to enjoy koiralo ko phool in Nepal. Pickling preserves the flowers and adds a burst of flavor to meals. Here, I will run you through how to make it. The recipe is from my late mom. You can tweak the recipe to your liking to create your own version of the pickle.


400 gm koiralo ko phool

4 medium-sized potatoes

1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped

2 spring garlic chopped

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

2 gm turmeric powder

2 gm ground cumin

2 gm red chili powder

17 gm white sesame seeds, roasted and ground

1 gm Sichuan pepper Timur, ground

3 gm fenugreek seeds for tempering

2-3 dried red chilies, broken into pieces

2-3 green chilies, chopped

30 ml raw mustard oil

30 ml vegetable oil

1 lime or lemon, juiced

10 gm salt


First, boil the koiralo ko phool. In a pot of boiling water, blanch until slightly softened but retaining some texture. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.

Next, boil the potatoes: In a separate pot, boil the potatoes until tender. Peel and cube them, adding them to the bowl with the koiralo ko phool.

Pour all the powdered spices on top of the potato and koiralo mix.

Put vegetable oil in a pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the fenugreek seeds and let them sputter for a few seconds. Add dry chili, fry until black, and pour on top of the spice mix. Cover for a minute.

Add chopped onion, green chilies, and dried red chilies to the mixture with the rest of the raw mustard oil.

Mix with the rest of the raw mustard oil.

The author is a UK based R&D chef