There are numerous festivals that have graced our land, however, there are a few that hold cultural significance and add to its splendour. The significance of agriculture has always been a jewel in the crown for India. Honouring the roots, the entire country comes together in January to celebrate the abundance and prosperity brought by the new harvest season.
Every region of India celebrates this and welcomes the new harvest year with great joy. Punjab and Haryana celebrate Lohri in the north. West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra worships the sun god on Makar Sankranti. Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry celebrate Pongal, Gujrat observes Uttarayan and Bihu is celebrated in Assam. So, this has both a religious as well as cultural relevance. Though having different names the spirit remains the same across the country.
This festival also marks the end of winter and the onset of spring which offers various seasonal produces that are fresh, healthy and optimal for consumption. From green leafy vegetables to colourful fruits, grains and legumes, this season supplies some rich finds that are also added to the delicacies of the harvest festival. Let’s take a trip around India and find the significance of seasonal eating, its health benefits. Also, we would surely be taking a spoonful of all the scrumptious food traditionally prepared for this festival.
We have often heard nutritionists talk about a rainbow diet that preferably includes fruits and vegetables of various colours that are part of the seasonal produce. Seasonal eating refers to eating the right seasonal foods at that time of the year when it’s harvested. The aim is to benefit from these fresh foods that are at their best taste and provide numerous phytonutrients. This enriches the mind and body with amazing nutritional benefits and combats diseases.
Why is Eating Seasonal Important?
The concept of eating seasonal comes from the fact that seasonal foods are filled with tons of nutrients and micronutrients that help the body to adapt to climatic conditions and prevent its respective diseases. January is the time for flu and fever where your immunity gets compromised. The chilly winter also causes vitamin D deficiencies and diseases like arthritis. Thus, seasonal fruits and vegetables are required to fulfil the requirement of the time.
Seasonal foods also taste better than the stored and frozen foods available in the market. The natural, newly harvested produce are sweeter, garden fresh, unprocessed and enhances the flavour of cooked meals.
Since seasonal foods do not require storage and transportation, they are affordable. They are picked up from local, nearby places and sold at markets. These make them not just healthy but also inexpensive than their packaged alternatives.
Also, by eating seasonal, you are helping and supporting the local farmers. Saving the environment from unnecessary pollution caused by transportation and refrigeration.
Health Benefits of Eating Seasonal
Winter nutrition is all about citrus and green leafy vegetables. Let’s take a look at the health benefits that the new harvest foods provide.
- Loaded with Antioxidants- There are vegetables like spinach and carrots that are rich in antioxidants. While spinach has lutein and zeaxanthin in abundance, carrots contain carotenoids and anthocyanins that help to neutralize the harmful free radicals in our bodies.
- Source of Vitamin C- Vitamin C is an essential nutrient that is needed for the body for the growth and repair the tissues. January is an ideal time to eat fruits like oranges, kiwi and berries to maintain the level of vitamin c in the body and avoid colds and flu that attacks the immune system of the body.
- Source of Vitamin D– Winters make you curl up your blanket and stay inside. Thus, it may lower the natural vitamin D in the form of sunlight and cause deficiencies. Mushrooms and oranges are foods that are winter produce and are loaded with vitamin D properties.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health– Sweet potatoes are potassium-rich vegetables and mustard are January finds and contribute to heart health. These also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Harvest Produces in January and their Nutritional Value
Fruits (100 grams)
- Dates: Dates contain 277 kcal, 74.97 g of carbohydrates, 1.81 g of protein, 0.15 g of fats and 6.7 g of fibre.
- Kiwi: This sweet exotic fruit contains 61 kcal, 0.5 g fat, 3 mg sodium, 15 g carbohydrates, 9 g sugar, 3g dietary fibre and 1.1g protein.
- Oranges: Oranges can be called a superfood with its tremendous benefits. One large orange contains 88 kcal, 1.3 g of protein, 20.1 g of carbohydrates, 0.4 g of fats and 2 g of fibre.
- Grapes: This high water content fruit has 69 kcal, 0.2 g of fats, 16.5 g of carbs, 1 g of fibre and 0.5 g of protein.
- Chikoo: Though having a high GI score, chikoo has other nutritional value. 100 g of chikoo contains 98 kcal, 0.7 g of protein, 21.4 g of carbohydrates, 1.1 g of fats and 10.9 g of fibre.
Vegetables (100 grams)
- Spinach: Iron-rich food that has 26 kcal, 2 g of protein, 2.9 g of carbohydrates, 0.7 g of fats and 2.5 g of fibre.
- Radish: 100 grams of radish contains 17 kcal, 0.7 g of protein, 3.4 g of carbohydrates, 0.1 g of fats and 1.6 g of fibre.
- Carrot: Carrot contains 48 kcal, 0.9 g of protein, 10.6 g of carbohydrates, 0.2 g of fats and 4.4 g of fibre
- Sweet Potato: This vegetable has an excellent amount of carotene that benefits eye health. It has 86 kcal, 1.6 g of protein, 20.1 g of carbohydrates, 0.1 g of fat and 3 g of fibre.
Popular Harvest Recipes
- Sarson Da Saag
A popular recipe from Punjab and a delicacy for Lohri, sarson da saag contains all that is needed to fulfil one’s nutritional requirement.
- 1 bunch mustard leaves
- ½ bunch spinach
- 4 cloves garlic (chopped)
- 2 inch ginger (chopped)
- 1 ¼ onion (chopped)
- 4 chilli
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 cup water
- 2 tbsp. cornmeal
- 2 tbsp. ghee
- A pinch hing / asafoetida
- Firstly, wash and finely chop 1 bunch of mustard leaves and ½ bunch of spinach.
- Put the chopped leaves in a pressure cooker along with 2 cloves of garlic, 1-inch ginger, ¼ onion, 2 chilli and ½ tsp salt.
- Now add 1 cup water and pressure cook for 4 whistles.
- Then, mash until coarsely ground.
- Next, add 2 tbsp. of cornmeal and mix well.
- Cook for 5 minutes or until the mixture thickens. keep aside.
- Now in a large pan, heat 2 tbsp. ghee, and sauté 2 cloves of garlic, 1-inch ginger and 1 green chilli.
- Next, sauté 1 onion until it turns golden brown.
- Add in cooked and mashed leaves and mix well and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes
- Finally, enjoy sarson da saag with makki di roti or with chapati.
2. Til Laddu
A famous healthy sweet for Bihar, Jharkhand and a favourite during Makar Sankranti.
- Sesame Seeds/ Til- 1 ¼ cup
- Ghee- 1 tbsp
- Jaggery- 1 ¼ cup (chopped into pieces)
- Peanuts- ¼ cup (roasted and chopped)
- Cardamom Powder- ½ tsp
- Dry roast the ingredients one at a time on medium-low heat stirring frequently
- Allow the roasted ingredients to cool down before processing
- Grate the jaggery or break it into small pieces using a pestle
- Simply pulse 1 to 2 ingredients at a time and grind everything in multiple batches
- Massage the final mixture well to help release the oils from the sesame seeds and peanuts which will help bind the ladoo
3. Sweet Pongal
A must-have during Pongal, sweet pongal is a perfect balance of rich and sweet.
- Rice – ½ cup
- Moong dal / paasi paruppu- ¼ cup
- Jaggery -1 cup grated
- Cashew nuts- 2 tbsp
- Raisins- 2 to 3 tbsps
- Cardamom- 4 pods
- Ghee- ¼ cup
- Dry roast rice and dal separately until it is hot to touch
- Pressure cook rice and dal together with 2 1/2 cups water. Mash well and keep aside (for new rice, add only 2 cups water)
- Heat 1/4 cup water in a pan and add jaggery to it. When it dissolves, strain it to remove any impurities
- Boil jaggery water with one teaspoon of ghee on medium heat. Take a cup of water, add a tsp of jaggery syrup to it. If it does not dissolve then it is the right stage to add mashed rice and dal
- Add mashed rice, dal mixture and cook for a few minutes until everything gets blended. Add cardamom powder at this stage.
- Fry cashew nuts in a teaspoon of ghee. Remove from the pan and add to the rice dal mixture.
- Add the rest of the ghee and fry raisins until they puff up and add it to the rice dal mixture along with ghee
- Cook for a few minutes on low heat until everything gets blended well. serve hot.
Among the festivities filled with fun and laughter, do not forget to keep yourself healthy and safe. We at HealthifyMe also wish you good health and a very prosperous harvest festival.