Let’s take a look at horse gram, the miracle pulse, and how it can benefit our health. Plus, there’s a recipe in here too!
You may be familiar with red, black and green grams, but even the most passionate foodies sometimes miss horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum). This low-profile, humble legume took its English name from its use as a staple food for horses and cattle. However, if you find the name discouraging, you can call it Kollu as it is in Tamil, Ulavalu in Telugu and Kulthi in Hindi.
Horse gram (Macrotyloma uniflorum) is a pulse crop widely cultivated and consumed in India since ancient times, and native to the south-east Asian subcontinent and tropical Africa. The US National Academy of Sciences has identified this legume as a potential food source for the future, thanks to its exceptional nutrition profile, drought-resistance and general hardiness.
Horse gram is the most protein-rich lentil found on the planet. It is very high-powered. That’s why race horses are fed with this gram, which is called horse gram in the market.
This important and under-utilized tropical crop is grown mostly in dry agricultural lands and keeps a rather low profile nowadays, but is ready to expand its reputation! Here’s why.
Horse gram: A superfood in its own right
Horse gram may not be inviting by the sound of it but its qualities are undeniably wonderful. It is:
- high in iron, calcium, and protein. In fact, horse gram has the highest calcium content among pulses and is one of the richest vegetarian sources of protein
- low in fat and high in carbohydrate content
- low in lipid and sodium content, and its slow digestible starch make ideal for diabetic and obesity patients
Does that sound more promising? Well we have only just begun. Let’s continue.
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Horse gram: Food or medicine?
Raw horse gram is particularly rich in polyphenols, flavonoids and proteins, the major anti-oxidants. In other words, it can keep your body young and vibrant! What’s more, scientists from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology have found that unprocessed, raw horse gram seeds have the ability to reduce high blood sugar following a meal, by slowing down carbohydrate digestion and reducing insulin resistance. This makes it an extra diabetic-friendly food!
The health benefits of horse gram seem to be innumerable. Just name a health issue and “kollu-power” will work for it! Traditional medicinal texts describe its use for asthma, bronchitis, leucoderma, urinary discharge, kidney stones and heart disease. Ayurvedic cuisine also recommends horse gram for persons suffering from jaundice or water retention. Rheumatism, worms, conjunctivitis and piles are also said to quail before the power of horse gram.
Horse gram has astringent and diuretic properties. It is also beneficial for extracting phlegm, and controlling fever and cholesterol levels. According to some studies, the lipid extracts of horse gram are beneficial for treating peptic ulcers, and it is said these magic legumes can reduce flatulence and control various menstrual problems.
Overwhelming, isn’t it?
Eating plenty of horse gram can actually help in the management of obesity as it has the ability to attack fatty tissue, thanks to its phenol content.
Kollu also has the ability to generate heat and energy in your system and therefore keeps you warm on a cold winter day.
I am sure horse gram is starting to become your friend by now. Let’s take a look at what a good friend it is for the planet too, with a few facts about its green power.
The agricultural relevance of horse gram
Prevents Soil Erosion: The vine grows very fast, and becomes quite thick and dense in a short period of time, thus preventing soil erosion. Horse gram is a valuable plant on sloping land with poor mineral content.
Drought Tolerant: Horse gram is remarkably tough and drought-resistant. It is capable of withstanding extended periods of drought with minimal work on the cultivator’s part. On dry lands with little access to technology or irrigation, horse gram is often the preferred crop. It is also grown in low fertility regions where other crop species may have failed. It is a great candidate for land reclamation programs.
All these factors combined make it a great cost-effective source of food, fodder, fuel supplement and manure.
Under-cover crop: We already mentioned horse gram is a low-profile legume and we had our reasons. It serves as a good understory crop in plantations in southern India. Because it requires relatively low levels of light, it can do its job hanging out quietly under the trees, and when it dies it enhances the quality of the soil.
Forage: Horse gram also provides animals with high quality forage. Its stalks and stems, which hold 30-40% of its nutrients, are widely used as animal feed. Kollu does not let any opportunity go waste.
So, horse gram takes care of you, Mother Earth, and animals too. Hopefully, this super hero has just found a place in your heart and will soon join your kitchen!
Horse gram recipes
If you are wondering how to consume it, here are two suggestions. You can follow Sadhguru’s advice and instructions and sprout the seeds, or try the yummy soup if you feel like having a hot dish.
Sadhguru: Many European stomachs may not be able to digest horse gram so it is good to sprout it, which makes it more easily digestible. Put the horse gram in a white cloth, soak the cloth in water for about six to eight hours, and then keep it closed. In about three days, the seeds will sprout. If the sprout is about half an inch out of the seed, you can eat it raw. It takes a lot of chewing and eating, and it is very good for the system.
Horse gram tends to increase heat in the body. If you feel too much heat, you must balance it by eating sprouted green gram, which cools the system.
Horse gram soup aka Ulavacharu
Horse gram : 1/2 cup
Tamarind paste : 2, 3 teaspoons
Pepper corn : 1 spoon
Cumin seeds : 1 spoon
Mustard seed : 1/2 spoon
Curry leaves : 1 sprig
Coriander leaves : 1 or 2 sprigs
Salt : to taste
Oil : 2 teaspoons
- Soak the horse gram seeds over night and pressure cook till soft.
- Drain the water and keep it aside for later use. (The water’s color will be chocolatey)
- Grind the dry roast mustard, cumin and pepper seeds to fine powder.
- Mash half of the cooked horse gram.
- Heat the oil in a pan and shallow fry the curry leaves.
- Add the tamarind paste, strained horse gram water, roasted powder, smashed horse gram and salt.
- Add sufficient water and make sure the gravy is not too thick.
- Add the remaining horse gram and mix.
- Remove from flame.
- Sprinkle finely chopped coriander leaves over the gravy.
- Serve with chapatti or steamed rice and enjoy!
Let us know how you find horse gram, and how your attempts to befriend it have gone!
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