Sweet Cousin
Down To Earth|November 16, 2018
Sweet Cousin

It is a little-known vegetable called meetha karela that grows abundantly in the hills of Uttarakhand

Megha Prakash

THE ONSET of winter transforms vegetable markets in Uttarakhand into a visually delightful landscape—from brightly coloured fruits and vegetables to a variety of greens. During a recent trip to a local market in Kotdwar, a small town in the state, I heard a local vendor calling customers to buy fresh meetha karela.

“The vegetable grows wild in the hills and local people sell it for 3040 per kg,” said a Garhwali friend who was accompanying me. I turned to the vendor selling this bright green thorny vegetable with curiosity. A small talk with the vendor revealed that though it is called karela, it smells and tastes like cucumber. When I asked how it is consumed, he told me that people in the hills either eat the baby karela raw or cook it as a vegetable.

Many names; many recipes

A native of South America, meetha karela (Cyclanthera pedata) belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. It grows in abundance in Uttarakhand at a height of 1,500 to 2,000 metres and is known by many names. In Uttarakhand and in the nearby Tarai belt, it is called pahadi karela, Ram karela, parmal or kankoda. In neighbouring Nepal, it is called badela. According to a legend, Ram karela gets it name from the fact that during exile, Lord Ram relished eating it.

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November 16, 2018