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The goodness of gahat

The goodness of gahat

If you’ve ever traveled along the Prithivi Highway, you might have noticed a small market called Baireni Bazar. About 166 years ago, Mahesh Khola, a small tributary of the Trisuli River, flowed over Baireni. Around 1858, Subba Homnath Khatiwada and his father, Mukhiya Pandit Nandalal Khatiwada, decided to connect Mahesh Khola and Trisuli in Galchhi to use the three kilometers long riverbed and valley for agriculture.

However, there was a 300-meter-high hill between these two rivers. So, Subba and his father decided to remove that hill. They were the tax collectors (mukhiya) of that area and called hundreds of volunteers from 15 villages with their traditional arms and farming equipment.

They also collected a special ingredient to melt the strong stones supporting the hill – gahat, the horse gram. It’s said that they collected 17 muri (almost 11 kilograms) and cooked it in four different vessels, using the soup to melt the foundation stones of the hill.

Gahat, also known as horse gram or kulthi in Madhesh, has a rich history in South Asia. Researchers suggest that people have been eating horse gram since 2500 BC, for over 4500 years, making it older than the Ganga Basin Civilization and the Vedic Civilization. During the time of the Saraswati River Civilization and Harappan Civilization, horse gram was commonly consumed. Evidence of this lentil has been found during excavations in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh of India, indicating its use in the Harappan era.

The medicinal properties of horse gram are mentioned in ancient texts like the Vedas and Tamil Sangam literature. In Tamil Sangam literature, many books describe the properties of horse gram. Excavations in Payyampalli village in the Vellore district of Tamil Nadu have revealed evidence of animal domestication and plant cultivation, with pottery making and Horse gram cultivation found in the village.

Overall, horse gram has been a staple in South Asian diets for thousands of years, with its historical significance dating back to ancient civilizations.

Horse gram is considered one of the most nutritious pulses available. According to Ayurveda, it’s a superfood that offers numerous health benefits. It’s known to be effective against diabetes, cholesterol, and kidney problems. The nutrients in horse gram help reduce hunger and make you feel full faster, making it ideal for weight loss. Its name comes from its historical use as both human food and feed for horses.

Despite its nutritional value, horse gram is often seen as a food for the poor, especially in southern India. This misconception has led to less research on its benefits compared to other pulses. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend horse gram as a diuretic, which helps increase urine flow and can be consumed as a soup twice a day for four weeks to see results.

According to Ayurvedic practitioners, horse gram is known for its diuretic properties, which help increase urine flow. Consuming horse gram soup twice a day for four weeks can show visible results in this regard.

For asthmatic patients, a common Ayurvedic remedy is to consume a paste made from boiled horse gram and pepper. This can help reduce cough, cold, and congestion, providing immediate relief and aiding in managing breathing problems, although it’s not a cure for asthma.

They also suggest that due to its diuretic properties, horse gram is effective in assisting the removal of kidney stones. Including horse gram in your regular diet can also help prevent the formation of kidney stones, as it contains certain compounds that make these stones soluble.

Indian scientists have found that raw horse gram seeds have the ability to reduce high blood sugar levels after a meal. They achieve this by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and reducing insulin resistance. This makes horse gram an excellent food choice for diabetics.

Horse gram seeds are rich in polyphenols, flavonoids, and proteins, which are major antioxidants found in fruits. These antioxidants contribute to overall health and well-being. Raw horse gram is packed with polyphenols, flavonoids, and proteins, making it a nutritious option. It’s also low in fat and high in carbohydrates, which is beneficial for heart health.

Consuming plenty of horse gram can aid in managing obesity as it has the ability to target fatty tissue, thanks to its high phenol content. Horse gram, especially when consumed as soup, can generate heat and energy in the body, keeping you warm on cold winter days. It’s rich in iron, calcium, and protein. It contains the highest calcium content among pulses and is one of the best vegetarian sources of protein. Due to its high iron content, horse gram can help cure irregular menstrual cycles and increase blood hemoglobin levels.

One downside of horse gram is its phytic acid content, which can block nutrient absorption in the body. However, soaking, sprouting, or cooking horse gram seeds before eating can significantly reduce this. Horse gram isn’t just good for humans; it’s beneficial for the land too. Its vines grow quickly and densely, helping to prevent soil erosion, particularly on sloping land with poor mineral content.

Horse Gram is tough and can withstand long periods of drought with minimal effort from farmers. It’s often grown in dry areas with limited access to technology or irrigation, making it a preferred crop. It’s also cultivated in regions where other crops may struggle due to low fertility. Because of its hardiness, it’s a great choice for land reclamation projects.

Next time you enjoy ‘gahat ko daal’, remember to appreciate our ancestors for giving us this superfood, which we seem to have ignored in recent times.

Baral is a UK based R&D chef