How to use Neem, the wonder tree
Neem has been a traditionally life supporting tree in India. The Ugadi festival is a sacred reminder of its role in our health. Neem is considered a form of the Divine Mother, the life energy itself. In Bangalore temples, Tulsi, Neem, Lemon and Turmeric are all considered divine and given as prasad.
The festival of Ugadi in Bangalore (Gudi parwa in Maharashtra, first day of Chaitra Navratri in North India, Bihu in North East India) is not complete without neem leaves. Young neem leaves and flowers are eaten by themselves with jaggery, or in the food itself.
I learnt that in South Asian countries also, neem flowers and young leaves are added to salads! In Bangalore, we have neem rice, neem pachadi, neem rasam, neem dry spice mix, with many many variations to the basic ingredient neem flowers/leaves.
Neem recipes from Bangalore
Dry Neem flowers spice mix (Vepampoo Podi)
- Dry neem flowers: 2 tbs
- Urad dal: 1/4 cup
- Chana dal: 1/8 cup
- White Sesame seeds: 1/8 cup
- Red chilly: 1
- Cumin seeds: 1tsp
- Ghee: 1tsp
- Salt to taste
In a pan, heat ghee. Add Urad and Chana dal, red chilly, cumin seeds, and stir till the dals get lightly toasted.
Lower the heat. Add neem flowers and toast some more. Add seasame seeds and stir till the seasame sputters.
Add salt. Transfer to a plate to cool. Grind when cool. Store airtight.
Like the North Indian Bukunu powder this can be served with puri or rice with ghee.
Neem flowers Rasam (Vepampoo Rasam)
- Tamarind ball: 1 Lemon size (or equivalent tamarind paste)
- Turmeric powder: 1/4 tsp
- Salt to taste
- Water: 3 cup
- Ghee (clarified butter) or seasame oil: 2 tsp
- Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
- Asafetida: 1/4 tsp
- Dry red chilly: 1
- Neem flower (dry): 1tbs
Soak tamarind in warm water and mash. Sieve and use the pulp. Or use equivalent tamarind paste. Boil it with water, turmeric and salt. Simmer for 5 minutes.
Heat a pan, add ghee, mustard, red chilly and asafetida. Lower the heat, add neem flowers and toast lightly.
Add the mixture in the pan to the simmering tamarind. Do not allow to boil. Remove from heat and serve.