04 October 2013

Saffron - An expensive spice that has enormous values


Crocus sativus commonly known as Saffron is one of the well known and expensive spice used widely around the world. Saffron is said to be derived from the stigma of the saffron plant. The Saffron plant belongs to the family of Iridaceae. This plant is native to many places around the world such as Central and Southwest Asia, Greece, Central and Southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and the islands of the Aegean. Saffron is a perennial plant and it is believed to be originated about 3000 years back. The name Saffron is believed to be derived from the Latin word 'Safranum' and the plant is said to be cultivated first in Greece. Saffron is also called as 'Kesar' in Hindi and 'Kumkumapoo' in Tamil.

While searching about the history of this Saffron plant in India, I came to know that this plant was brought to India by Persians while they conquered Kashmir.

Saffron Flowers :
















Saffron is a perennial plant whose height ranges from 15 to 25 cm. It is mainly cultivated for its flowers and the spice derived from the stigma of the flowers. It consists of purple color flowers with red stigmas inside which is called as 'Saffron'. Each flower comprises three red stigmas and these stigmas are the female part of the flower. Even though it is a perennial plant, the flowering period of the plant is said to be from mid or late October to first / second week of November and it is also said that sometimes it might vary depending upon the temperature during the spring and autumn. The purple buds can be seen in the autumn and only in October it get sets to bloom. The Saffron plant gets well adapted to a cool dry climate with rich soil conditions. As per some analysis, researchers say that it requires about 70,000 to 2,50,000 flowers to make one pound of saffron.

As we have seen already, Saffron is nothing but the three stigmas inside the flower and it is used commercially only after the stigmas are dried properly. Some cultivators of Saffron say that a Saffron cannot be duplicated so easily as their original aroma and color shows off how fresh it is. The word Saffron is said to refer the color 'yellow'. The flower of the Saffron flower is believed to possess a sweet honey-like aroma which also has the taste of little bitterness.

Saffron threads :

















Images Courtesy : Internet

Cultivation of Saffron in India :

Kashmir is predominantly known for its Saffron cultivation. As we have seen earlier it is the Persians who are believed to have brought the Saffron plant to Kashmir. The Pampore town near Srinagar of Jammu and Kashmir is popularly known for its Saffron cultivation for about 2500 years !!!

Kashmir is considered one among the three prominent places of Saffron cultivation around the world. The Kashmir Saffron is believed and widely recommended by many legends for its innate quality. It is said that major part of the Saffron cultivated here are exported to many countries around the world. It is said that there are three grades of Saffron in India . They are Saffron Lachha, Saffron Mongra and Saffron Zarda. It is believed that the Saffrons of Kashmir has long deep red colored stigmas. The legends of Saffron cultivation says that the size of the stigmas determines the quality of it. Since Kashmir possess the rich alluvial soil, the saffrons grown here is said to have a magical aroma by its cultivators. Amidst all the Saffrons produced around the world, the Kashmir saffrons are always well known for its flavor, color power and its wonderful aroma. The Saffron cultivation is a boon for many cultivators because of its rich value . As per an article read in a popular newspaper, as on March 2013, it is estimated that the Saffron would approximately cost Rs. 2.5 lakh per kg.



Saffron at home


Uses of Saffron :

          ~*   Saffrons are mostly used for culinary purposes. It is believed that only a little amount of Saffron can be used and it is said to be more than enough for dishes. Consuming more than its normal level is not advisable.

            ~*  Saffrons are mostly used in culinary to add flavors, colors and taste to the food.

            ~* The kesari powder that are used for adding colors to the food is derived from the leftover bits of Saffron harvest. The kesari powder is obtained from leftover bits of Saffron and little turmeric added to it.

           ~*   The Kashmir saffrons were soaked in water to provide golden yellow color and it is used for fabric dye.
           
            ~*  Saffron is also used as perfume.

            ~*   Despite its culinary uses, it is also possess medicinal values. Saffrons are used to suppress cramps and are also said to be used for  anesthetic purposes.

            ~*  Saffrons are also used in herbal medicine for treating respiratory problems.

         ~* It is also used in the treatment of health disorders like asthma, paralysis, insomnia, heart diseases, hemorrhage, flatulence and gout.

            ~*  As per an article in Times of India, 'Saffron' has been named under the 'Eight Indian spices that prevents cancer'.  A natural carotenoid dicarboxylic acid called 'Crocetin' is identified to be the primary cancer fighting element of Saffron. It is believed that this 'Crocetin' acid not only prevents the progression of this disease but it also decreases the size of the tumor by half which helps to cure the cancer completely.  
I think the price of the Saffron doesn't matter when it does such a miracle to a person suffering from diseases like cancer.

Note : consult your physician before following the above points.

In Kashmir - the Kingdom of Saffron, no celebration is said to be complete without their traditional dish called 'Saffron Kehwa/ Kashmiri Kehwa'. Here I'm sharing about that beverage ,

Kashmiri Kehwa :

(Servings for 4)

Ingredients :
                                                                                       
Kashmiri Green Tea  - 4 teaspoons
Saffron threads        - 4  pinches
Cardamom               -  2 (crushed)
Almonds                  -  8 (blanched & chopped)
Cinnamon                -  1 stick
Cloves                     -  2
Sugar                      -  2 teaspoons                          
                                                         
                                                   

Method :

        Boil 3 cups of water along with cloves, cardamom and cinnamon. Then mix this with 4 teaspoons of green tea. Leave this mix to boil and infuse for a while in low flame. At the other end, dissolve Saffron in a little water by gently rubbing it . Now Once the tea is ready, strain it and add this Saffron liquid to it. Then garnish it with chopped almonds and serve hot.


References :

 kashmirkesarkingdom.com
 indianetzone.com  
 timesofindia
 Recipe Source : vegetalindia                         
               
          
Saffron cultivators in Kashmir says that not a single part of the plant is wasted. They say that after harvesting the Saffron in the late autumn, the petals of the flowers are used as vegetables and the stems are given to the animals. They consider the red stigmas - 'purest Kashmir Saffron' as 'The Golden herb'. Indeed it is a golden herb gifted by God with enormous values.


07 September 2013

VIBGYOR Series - 'R' for 'Red' - Strawberry Fruit


This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is RED.

The color red is often said to symbolize love and energy. It is also related to excitement, passion, power, courage, aggressiveness, anger and prosperity. 

Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) or garden strawberry is believed to be a hybrid species which comes under the Rosaceae family. They grow successfully in the temperate climatic conditions. The wild strawberry comes under the same family. Only the garden strawberry is cultivated widely for its edible fruit. The strawberry fruit is not a true berry because this fruit is said to be an aggregate accessory fruit ( a fruit in which the pulp/flesh of the fruit is derived from the adjacent tissue exterior to the carpel and not from the ovary of the plant ).

The Strawberry fruit is well known for its sweetness, bright red-color, aroma and juicy appearance. It is said to be consumed in large quantities all over the world in the form of juices, flavored milk, cakes, ice creams, chocolates and pies. Strawberries are used either freshly or as preserves.

As we look into the history of this plant, it is said that the first garden strawberry was grown in France in the 18th century. Before this, only the wild strawberries were grown.




Strawberry cultivation in India :

         As I read in a site about the strawberry cultivation in India, it was said that the strawberry cultivation was not that much successful in India till 2010. It is said that the strawberry plants cannot be grown successfully in hot climatic conditions. Hence it is hard to grow them in tropical and sub-tropical climates like in India. But in today's technological world, even such an obstacle can be cleared. In 2010, three learning institutes of Bihar has tried cultivating Strawberries using their scientific and technological skills which worked out successfully. The three institutes are Bihar Agricultural University, Sabour (Bhagalpur District) , Tirhut College of Agriculture, Kholi (Muzaffarpur District) and Rajendra Agricultural University, Pusa (Samastipur District). In that site they have mentioned that these three locations have produced about 300 kg of Strawberries (i.e. 661 pounds). Since the production of strawberries costs high, the Bihar Government is also said to have lend their support financially for this cultivation. With their support this group is said to have developed a safe laboratory for the production of Strawberries and other high value crops. This laboratory is called as polyhouse which allows to control the agricultural and climatic conditions. This polyhouse helps the production of Strawberry as it require cold conditions throughout the year.
Source of information : http://strawberryplants.org



Images Source : Internet


In India, Strawberries are well suited to the hilly areas and places with moderate temperature. Almost 80 percent of Strawberries are produced in Mahabaleswar, Satara district of Maharashtra. Mahabaleswar is also known as Strawberry capital of India. It is said that in 2010, 500 to 600 tonnes of Strawberries have been exported to UK and European countries from this place. The Indian Strawberry season is from November to March. Other than Mahabaleswar, Strawberries are grown commercially in places like Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajasthan, Delhi, Haryana, West Bengal, Bangalore, the Nilgiri hills and Delhi.

How to choose best Strawberries :

                     Look out for plumpy, tender, bright colored strawberries with leaves attached to it. Choose full ripe fruits which gives you the exact nutrients. Don't choose either under ripe or over ripe fruits.

Nutrition's that are naturally available in Strawberry :

                     Vitamin C, Fiber, Calcium, Potassium and magnesium.


Health benefits and medicinal values :

              ~*As per some facts shared on a site, one cup of Strawberries(approx. 10 fruits) are said to yield about 150 percent of Daily value (DV) of Vitamin C. It says that you can obtain more Vitamin C for just 50 calories.

              ~*They are also rich in fiber which gives us 3 grams DV in one cup.

              ~*One cup of Strawberries are said to have 240 mg( 7 percent DV) of Potassium and 10 percent DV of Folate.

              ~*Strawberries are said to be good for your bones and hormones.

              ~*As per the article in Times of India, the Strawberries can also cure inflammation-related arthritis and inflammation-related eye diseases. And most importantly it helps in vanishing your wrinkles.
           
              ~*Some researchers at Harvard's Brigham and Woman's Hospital, Boston have found that Strawberries can save you from memory loss or atleast postpone it for 2 to 2.5 years.

              ~*It helps in preventing cardiovascular diseases.

              ~*It helps in regulating blood sugar and also decreases the risk of type 2 Diabetes.

              ~*It helps in preventing certain types of cancer.

              ~*It possess anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.

              ~*The entire strawberry plant is said to be used for treating depressive illness. Then I hope that it helps me ;)

Note : Consult your physician before following any of the points above.

Strawberry recipes for you :

1.Strawberry Banana smoothie :

Ingredients :
(for serving two persons)

Two bananas,
Ten  ounces of organic Strawberries (Stemmed and sliced),
One cup of milk,
Six ice cubes and
one tsp of honey

Method of preparation :

Chop the peeled banana into pieces and freeze it for two hours. Then add all other ingredients to the banana mix and blend it for a min or half a min either using blender or mixer. Blend it until it gets smooth. And your Strawberry banana smoothie is ready to serve now :)

Recipe courtesy  :  www.mnn.com (Mother Nature Network)

2. Strawberry velvet by Chef Sanjeev kapoor :

Ingredients :
(for serving four)                                              
                                                                           
Strawberry crush           - 1/2 cup,
Strawberries (chopped)  -  8,
Yogurt                          - 4 cups,
Vanilla Ice cream           -  4 scoops,
Ice cubes                      - 10 to 12

Method of preparation :

Blend the Strawberry crush, yogurt, vanilla ice cream and ice cubes using blender or mixer. Pour this mixture in serving glasses and keep it in refrigerator for a while only just before serving. Then garnigh it with chopped strawberries :)

Images Source : Internet 


References :

whfoods.org
bbcgoodfood.com
wikipedia
www.mnn.com
theindianvegan
freshplaza.com
strawberryplants.org


Ending up the VIBGYOR Series with a fruitful note. Thanks CBC for such a wonderful opportunity to blog on colors. It was a colorful week and I enjoyed this series personally.

Wishing you all the sweetness of Strawberry in your lives. Have Blessed and fruitful years ahead :)

06 September 2013

VIBGYOR Series - 'O' for 'Orange' - The Flame of the forest

This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is ORANGE.

The color orange is believed to emit warmth and happiness, stimulates enthusiasm and creativity and it is also said to be one of the healing color.

As we saw the golden shower tree in the previous post, here we gonna see yet another native tree of India which is popularly known as 'Flame of the forest'. As like the name describes the bright orange colored flowers of this tree looks like a flame of fire when seen in clusters. As like the Golden shower tree, this 'flame of the forest tree' has also been given a commemoration by the Indian Postal Department by issuing a postal stamp after it.


Nomenclature :

Botanical Name     :    Butea monosperma

Common Name     :    Flame of the forest / Palash / Dhak / Palah / Parrot tree /Keshu (Punjabi) /                                           Kesudo (Gujarati) / Modugu chettu (Andhra Pradesh) / Palas,Palashi (Bengali)

Tamil Name          :     Parasu / Porasum / Parasa

Hindi Name           :    Chichra tesu / Kankrei

Butea monosperma/ Flame of the forest is a tree that comes under the family of Fabaceae and it is native tree of India and Southeast Asia. They are also called as parrot tree. This tree is of 6 to 12 m height. This tree has irregular branches with gray bark. The flower of this tree are bright orange colored and said to be in full bloom from January to March. The flowers are said to have five petals that constitutes of either one standard wing or two smaller wings. The flower is also believed to have a curved keel (prow/bow-shaped pair of petals) and this is the reason why this tree is also called as the parrot tree due to its curved keel. It is said that this tree kills mosquitoes. As the vibrant color and smell of the flowers attracts them, they get caught in the fluid gum of this tree, so that they can't escape. It is also said that the eggs laid in this tree never gets hatched.


Flower of the 'Flame of the forest tree'















Images Source : Internet 

The leaves of this tree are dark green in color. This tree is also known as a sacred tree since the leaves has the trifoliate pattern. Ancient people believed that those three leaflets represents Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. The flame of the forest tree is said to be associated with the spring season in West Bengal and it was associated by none other than the great poet Rabindranath Tagore in his poems. He felt that these bright orange color flowers of this trees resembles the fire.

Another interesting fact about this tree is, the infusion of flowers of this tree gives us a wonderful coloring substance which are said to be used in water-paint and for making dyes. In ancient days, it is believed to be used for making color for the Holi festival.

Health benefits, medicinal and other uses :

           ~*  I read somewhere in the web that a good charcoal can be obtained form this tree.

           ~* The gum from this tree is said to be a powerful astringent which are used for treating hemorrhage from stomach, diarrhea and dysentery.
                 
           ~* The bark of this tree is believed to possess astringent bitter and pungent properties.

           ~* It is used for curing tumors and ulcers.

           ~* It is used in the treatment of spleen disorders and digestive disorders.

           ~* The decoction is used for the treatment of cold, cough and fever.

           ~* Even the leaves of this tree is said to possess the astringent property as like the bark. They are used to cure boils and pimples.

           ~* The root part is used for treating elephantiasis, night blindness and for other eyesight defects.

           ~* The flower part is used in the treatment of leprosy and to reduce swellings.

           ~* The powder made from this flower is used for healing fractured bones and used for healthy bones.

            ~* Since the leaves of this tree are strong , they are also used as wrapping papers

Note : Strictly consult your physician before using it.

References :

http://www.worldagroforestry.org
http://www.indianetzone.com
http://www.flowersofindia.net
http://www.la-medicca.com


Hope these orange flowers would have brighten up your day ! Have a nice day :) 


05 September 2013

VIBGYOR Series - 'Y' for 'Yellow' - The Golden shower tree

This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is YELLOW.

Yellow is often related to original thought, optimistic, cheer, intellect and inquisitiveness.

Today my post for yellow is about a tree that can be seen around India which invites us with its vibrant yellow color flowers and it is 'The golden shower tree'.

Cassia fistula aka Golden shower tree is a plant that comes under the family of Fabaceae. This tree is native to India and it is the state flower of Kerala. Outside India, this tree is a national tree of Thailand and its flower is a national flower of Thailand. This tree comes under the category of ornamental plants. The Golden shower tree can be widely seen in the regions of Southeast Asia, Pakistan, Myanmar, Thailand and Sri Lanka. It is said to be a semi-deciduous(shedding leaves annually) tree. The flowers of this tree were used in rituals during the Vishu festival especially in Kerala and in other parts of India. And another notable feature of this tree is , the Indian Postal Department have issued a postal stamp to commemorate this tree. The Laburnum road in Mumbai is said to be named after this tree.





The Indian postal stamp
featuring Golden shower tree



















Images Source : Internet


Nomenclature :

Botanical Name :  Cassia fistula

Common Name :  Golden shower tree  / Indian laburnum

Tamil Name      :  Konrai ( கொன்றை)

Hindi Name       :  Amaltas / Bendra lathi/ dhanbaher / girimaloah

English Name    :  Golden shower cassia



Image Source : Internet

The Golden shower tree is said to be in a height of 10 to 20 meters. The flowers are yellow in color. The flowers are set to bloom from the late spring season upto summer. It is said that the tree can withstand high temperature and it is a drought-tolerant tree. It can be grown at any well-drained soil and it was said that they are also slightly salt tolerant. Flowers can be found in abundance in this tree and sometimes they also hide the presence of leaves with its flowers. The whole tree is believed to grow well at adverse situations. To outshine well in adverse conditions is one of the best feature of this tree and it shows us how well we can manage our life during  adverse situations in our life. It helps us to grow personally :) As I read somewhere in the web, it is said that the flowers bloom more when there is more heat and direct sunlight. Since this tree is well adapted to dry conditions, it is said that they can be damaged during cold conditions. The stalks of the tree which is said to be upto 30 cm in length holds the dark green leaves and bright yellow flowers in clusters. The flowers of this tree are seen like hanging downwards. These bright flowers attracts bees, butterflies and insects.


The fruits of this tree are dark-brown pods which comes under legume (leguminous plant that has long seed pod) category. They have many seeds in it. It is said that even after the pod gets dried, the seeds are not dispersed naturally. Instead, as per researchers perspective, the seeds were believed to be dispersed by some animals like bear and jackals in the forest which feeds on the fruits of this tree.

Medicinal values and health benefits :

               * The pulp of this fruit is used as a laxative and the bark is used for treating skin infections.

               * It is believed that it is also used for relieving asthma, heart related diseases and fever.

               * In Ayurveda medical system, this tree is called as 'aragvadha' which means 'disease killer'.

               * The fruit is said to be rich in vitamin K. It is a good source of iron and manganese.

               * The root of this tree is said to be used in the treatment of cold and cough.

               * The bark of the tree helps in cleansing the blood and is used to eradicate inflammations.
             
Sources of information :

ayurvedicnaturalhomeremedies.com
wikipedia
rajanjolly.hubpages.com


 
Since these bright yellow flowers are just lifting up the energies, it would be a delight to see such trees on the streets of our country. This tree not just provide beauty to the place it is planted, but also provides some valuable uses.


04 September 2013

VIBGYOR Series - 'G' for 'Green' - The Coriander plant


This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is GREEN

Whenever I come across the word 'Green' , I could only imagine about our beautiful mother Nature. The greeny environment just comes in a flash before me. But today I'm not sure how much greeny is our surroundings. In between the years there was a gradual decline in the number of trees in our environment and also the habit having gardens in houses had faced a decline. But in just the past two years the situation has improved inch by inch by many nature enthusiasts and by some of the organisations and I wish it continues to improve more. Since I have already posted about the awareness on tree plantation, importance of trees in the Universe and Kitchen gardening in this blog, here I would like to share about a plant that I like personally and which takes part in our daily cooking. It is none other than Coriander.

Coriander is an annual herb which comes under the family Apiaceae. Its botanical name is Coriandrum sativum and it is known as one of the world's oldest spice which is said to be originated back to 5000 B.C. It is native to South Europe, Asia and North Africa. It is also called as Cilantro (Spanish word) or Chinese parsley. In India, it is called as 'dhania' in Hindi language. The coriander plants are generally soft plants and they are 50 cm tall. Since it is a tropical crop, they prefer a frost-free climate during flowering and the formation of seeds. All parts of the plant are edible. The seeds and leaves are used as common flavoring agents in cooking.

Coriander comes not only under a herb, but also under the spice category. The coriander leaves goes under the herb category whereas the coriander seeds goes under the spice category. The leaf portion is often referred to as cilantro and seeds were said to be referred as coriander in some countries. But the entire plant is called as 'Coriander'.




Cultivation of coriander plant :

                  In India, Coriander plant is cultivated in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. They are generally cultivated in loamy(clay and sand with humus) soils since they are not tolerant to alkaline and saline soils. It is an irrigated crop.

Nutritive value : Carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamin A and vitamin C, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, folic-acid, beta carotene,

Medicinal values and health benefits :

                ~* It is considered to be a potential medicine for anxiety and insomnia.
                ~* It lowers blood sugar levels.
                ~* It is said it helps in cleansing the kidneys.
                ~* This plant is a great source of fiber, iron and magnesium.
                ~* The mixture of coriander juice and turmeric is said to be used as a toner for skin and it is used in the treatment of acne (a skin condition marked with red pimples).
                ~* Both the coriander leaves and seeds is said to contain antioxidants which avoids spoilage of foods.
                ~* It is said that they possess anti-inflammatory property.
                ~* It is used to treat type 2 diabetics as per some research done with mice.
                ~* Coriander leaves provides relief for indigestion problems.
                ~* It is said that these coriander leaves helps to reduce nausea and it is also used to promote healthy liver function.
                ~* Coriander is said to have pain relieving properties which helps in reducing headache, muscle pain and arthritis.

Coriander chutney for sandwich/ salads / side-dishes :

                 Grind 1 cup of coriander leaves along with 2 or 3 green chillies, 1/2 inch of ginger and add salt of your taste. Then add 1 or 2 tsp of lime juice to it(optional).  Finally fry some mustard and cumin seeds in oil separately and add it to the chutney if you serve it as a side-dish. In case of sandwich you can avoid it. This chutney would be awesome with sandwiches.



Images Source : Internet 

Apart from chutney, there is lot of dished that can be done with coriander's such as coriander rice, coriander

Coriander can be easily grown in your kitchen garden . Make use of this wonderful herb that God has gifted us :)


03 September 2013

VIBGYOR Series - 'B' for 'Blue' - Bluebirds


This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is BLUE

My most ever favorite color would always be blue & all of its shades. I'm so happy to post about it :) 

The blue color is said to be the coolest color and its meaning is often related to sincerity, spirituality, trust, loyalty, serenity and  the color of inspiration. It is said that it would be liked by many conservative people and mainly it symbolizes peace and the Virgin Mary.

Since I have already posted about some plants under Violet and Indigo, I have opted to choose a bird here under Blue. So let us see about a bird called 'Bluebird' and also about one of the blue-colored birds of India.

Bluebirds are said to be omnivorous or insectivorous birds and they fall under the genus Sialia of the thrush family. Many would say that the color of the bluebird's back is the piece of sky as they possess the sky blue color.The native of this bird is America, especially North America in particular. There are three different species under this single Genus of Sialia . They are,

                            *Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis),
                            *Western Bluebird ( Sialia mexicana)and
                            *Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides ).

Eastern Bluebird
         
Western Bluebirds. The dark one is male and light one is female

Mountain Bluebird
Images Source : Internet

The male bluebirds are said to be brightly colored when compared to the female bluebirds. These Bluebirds are well known for their sweet songs. Bluebirds feeds on small fruits and insects. Coming to their nest, it is the male bird starts off building the nest, but it is believed that only the female bird has to complete the nest finally and decides about the place of the nest. Bluebirds are said be in royal blue color and they are well known for their chirps like 'chir-we'. They prefer to live in open fields or grassy areas with some scattered trees.  The Eastern Bluebirds is said to be the state bird for both New York and Missouri. The Mountain Bluebirds can be found in rocky mountain areas and they are entirely blue compared to eastern ow western bluebirds which has some orange spots in them.

Sources of information :

state.nj.us
http://news.nationalgeographic.co.in

Blue(colored)bird in India - Himalayan Bluetail :

Similar to the above Bluebird, here in India, we do have a blue-colored bird which is somewhat similar to that bluebird which is known as Himalayan Bluetail ( Tarsiger rufilatus) . Coincidentally this Himalayan Bluetail bird also fall under the same family of Bluebird, the 'thrush' family and it is native to Asis. It is a small passerine bird an it is also related to Red-flanked Bluetail and considered as its subspecies. But these two birds differ as Red-flanked Bluetail is a long-distant migrant and it has more intense blue color in their upper parts whereas Himalayan Bluetail is a short-distant altitudinal migrant.These birds can be seen at Himalayas, Sikkim, Nepal, Northeast India, Thailand (during winter) and South China. The habitat of these birds is said to be coniferous hill forests.

They are often seen flicking their their tails and wings. The adult male birds are said to have blue upper parts whereas the female bird has brown upper parts. They can be identified with a blue tail.



Male Himalayan Bluetail

Female Himalayan Bluetail
Images Source : Internet


It would really be a wonderful experience to witness them directly. It is so pleasing to see the blue colored birds. Hope you all would have seen any of these birds or may get a chance in future :)


02 September 2013

VIBGYOR series 'I' for 'Indigo' - The Indigo plant - source of your Indigo jeans

This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is INDIGO

Do you all know from where does the color dye of your dark blue/indigo jean or the denim jean comes from ?  I'm not sure how many of us knows it. I came across about it only just when I was preparing this post. The main use of indigo as a dye was considered for a cotten yarn which plays a vital role in the production of Denim cloth for blue/indigo jeans. It is where the quest for indigo dyes came from once upon a time.  I read that this dye for dark blue jeans/Indigo jeans comes from the plant 'Indigofera tinctoria' and let us see about this plant here.

The meaning of Indigo color are being related to intuition, wisdom , perception and it is said to promote deep concentration.

Indigofera tinctoria is one of the plant which acts as a source for Indigo dye. As this plant has been grown worldwide, its native is still unknown. But this plant is said to be adopted by tropical and temperate Asia and several parts of Africa. But this plant is believed to be one of the native plants of India. In India, this indigo plant can be found in the some forests of South India, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Punjab and Orissa.

Nomenclature:

Botanical Name    :    Indigofera tinctoria

Common Name   :     True Indigo/Nili

English Name      :     Indigo















The Indigo plant('Indigofera tinctoria') comes under the shrub category whose height ranges from 1 or 2 meters. Based on the climatic conditions they are cultivated, the plants were termed as annual/ biennial/ perennial. Its leaflets are pinnate and light green in color. The flowers of this plant comes in variety of colors like violet/pink or some intensive blue which is called as Indigo.

Some facts on this Indigo plant, 'Indigofera tinctoria' :

Indigo is said to be one of the most common dye right from the ancient times. Many Asian countries like India, China and Japan were said to be using this indigo dye for many centuries. Countries like Egypt, Peru, Greece, Rome, Britain and Africa were also been aware of this dye. But amidst of all countries, India is believed to be the oldest nation well known for its Indigo dyeing from the ancient years. It is believed that the Venetian explorer Marco polo was the first one to report about the preparations of Indigo dye in India when he passed through India in 13th century.

This dye plant was considered and said to be one of the cause for Mahatma Gandhi's first satyagraha against some taxation system by the British on the indigo cultivators in Champaran, Bihar, India. Indians were said to be the masters of this dye. This plant 'Indigofera tinctoria' was found to be one of the most high dye yielding plant compared to any other dye plants and hence the English country thought to explore about this in their own place. Before they could establish and cultivate this plant, it is said that India was the supplier of Indigo dyes to the Europe even before the Greek-Rome period. History says that this plant was one of India's foremost profitable export to the old world(Europe) in ancient times. It seems there was a revolt behind Indigo cultivation in a factory at West Bengal, India. Check that entire story behind that revolt in this link Click here


How do we get the dye from this plant ?

The Dye is said to be obtained from the leaves of this plant. The leaves are said to be soaked in water and they are processes to fermentation. This phenomenon helps to convert the glycoside indican (It is the fast occur blue dye)  present in the plant into blue dye indigotin - the indigo dye. Then this precipitate obtained form this phenomenon is said to be mixed with some strong base like lye which is encrusted, dried and powered. This final powder is mixed along with some more substances to give us the various shades of indigo blue colors.

Indigo plant extract sample
Indigo dye powder

Indigo Jeans

Images Source : Internet except the picture of jeans.


In today's technology-centric world, this indigo dye can be easily obtained through many chemical synthetic reactions from the various plants that has a specific chemical compound of Indigo. But once upon a time, few centuries back when the economic condition is too low, the indigo dye obtained from this plant 'Indigofera tinctoria' which is very rare those times were obtained by the above process and it was very expensive those days so that only the rich could afford it. But today due to the invention of synthetic indigo dyes, the demands were met and hence it became the cause for the decline of India's export of natural indigo.


Medicinal uses of the Indigo plant 'Indigofera tinctoria' :

                ~* The plant is said to cure chronic bronchitis.

                ~* It is said that it helps in reducing lumbago(pain in the lower back) and nervous disorders.

                ~* The juice extracted from this plant is used for treating hydrophobia.

                ~* The root and stem of this plant is used for curing heart diseases, hepatitis, fever, insanity and cephalalgia(Headache and head related pain).

                ~* Apart from this plant. the Indigo color is used in the treatment of thyroid problems.

                ~* The Ayurveda and Siddha medicinal systems uses this plant in the treatment of arthritis, vertigo (a sensation of whirling and loss of balance), worm infestations, jaundice, anemia, urinary complications, palpitations( irregular heartbeats) of the heart and asthma.

                ~* The bio-active components of leaves of this plant are used in the treatment of Lung cancer.

                ~* It is also used for hair coloring under specified directions and used for hair related diseases.

Note : Kindly consult any physician before using it.

Sources of Information :

http://www.satvikshop.com/
http://www.downtoearth.org
http://en.wikipedia.org
http://motherherbs.trustpass.alibaba.com/

Even though there is a decline in natural indigo dye in the recent past compared to today's synthetic indigo dye, the demand for natural dye is slowly increasing due to its medicinal values and its pollution less natural qualities. It is believed that at present this indigo plant is still being cultivated at many parts in India, especially in northern Karnataka, Africa and Central America.

Hoping that natural methods should be followed rather than the synthetic one for a pollution free environment.


01 September 2013

VIBGYOR Series - 'V' for 'Violet' - December flower


This post is part of the Chennai Bloggers Club's CBC VIBGYOR BLOG TAG where some
 of us will write a post on the colours of VIBGYOR each day starting 1st of September to 
the 7th of September. The colour theme for today's post is VIOLET

As soon as I came to know about CBC's VIBGYOR week( #CBCVIBGYORBLOGTAG ), I have just got into it without having a second thought since basically I love colors and posting about them seemed so interesting. And today I'm gonna start it with one of my favorite color Violet

The meaning of Violet color is often related to spirituality, royalty, good judgement and it is also said to be used in meditation.

I'm sharing about a flower which is in color of VIOLET. The plant name is Barleria cristata and it belongs to the Acanthaceae family which is commonly known as December flower. This plant is native to India, Southeast Asia, Southern China and Myanmar. It comes under the category of perennial shrub and it is well adapted to colder climates. The stem of this plant is said to be robust enough to withstand until they are frost and they can even flourish in poor soil conditions. It is considered to be a widely cultivated ornamental hedge plant.

Nomenclature :

Botanical Name - Barleria cristata

Common Name - Bluebell barleria / Philippine violet / Crested Philippine violet

Tamil Name      - Semmulli (செம்முள்ளி) / December poo(டிசம்பர்  பூ)

Hindi Name       - Vajra danti



This shrub ranges from 60 - 100 cm of height and the flowers are said to be 5 cm long. It is said tht some thorns arise at the axil of leaves. The flowers are available in variety of colors such as Violet, white, mauve and pink.

These flowers are also called as December flowers since they start blossoming in the month of December and they are found in abundance in the months of January and February. It is said to be propagated through cuttings and it adapts to more or less sunlight for growth.  Flowers are generally trumpet or funnel-shaped. This shrub needs pruning at regular intervals. As I have came across some sites some have mentioned that this shrub is invasive, but a researcher has said that it was a wrong perception. According to researchers they have said that it is pest resistant above the ground level and the root has to be protected properly from root-knot nematodes especially on sandy soils. Some have also mentioned it as a weed. They have suggested that before planting it must be layered with mulch and some organic matters. Some say that this plant welcomes humming birds.


Images Source : Internet

Medicinal values of Crested Philippine violet :

(The following uses includes folklore and as well as scientific facts)

                         ~* Leaves and roots of this plant are used to treat cough, bronchitis and pneumonia.

                         ~* The roots and leaves are also used to reduce swellings.
                   
                         ~* Seeds of this plant is said to be used as an antidote for snake bites.

                         ~* It is said to be used for toothaches and anemia.

                         ~* Some say that this plant can be used for blood purification and it is also used in the treatment of diabetics.

                         ~* The whole plant is said to be boiled in water for the treatment of cold and flu.

                         ~* The juice of roots of this plant is said to relief indigestion.

                         ~* It is said that the leaves of this plant are also used to treat hepatic diseases, but it is not proved yet.

                         ~* They were commonly used as garlands once upon a time.


Sources of medicinal use :

findmeacure.com
stuartxchange.com
biomedcentral.com


Despite having such beautiful flowers, this plant gets lesser attention these days when compared to the previous years. But still they do find a place as decorative flowers in some gardens. Some even use it for fencing the garden to give a uniform color around the boundaries. Hope this plant gets noticed better in the near future.



03 August 2013

Nutritious Pomegranate - Invaluable gift from God's paradise


Pomegranate ( Botanical Name :Punica granatum) is one of the oldest well known fruit which has stupendous values. It is categorized under shrub which is also said to be tree by some researchers. Its height ranges from 16 to 26 ft. Pomegranate is said to be a native of Persia. But it is widely cultivated in Africa, The Mediterranean, Europe, Indian subcontinents and in the Southeast Asia. It is considered under one of the powerful fruits.

As we move back to history, Pomegranate was said to be one among the oldest fruits since it was seen right from 100 B.C. The pomegranate is considered as a sacred tree in various religions. Almost every religion considered that the fruit has an eternal value. Many believe that it symbolizes prosperity,resurrection of Christ, fruitfulness, ambition and fertility. Ancient peoples considered this fruit as 'King of all fruits' and the most interesting fact about this fruit is that the crown shaped edge at the top of this Pomegranate fruit is said to be one of the reasons behind design of crowns that was used to honor the kings.





Pomegranate cultivation in India :

                  One of the major advantage about Pomegranate is, its drought - tolerance capacity. Hence it can also be cultivated in areas with hot climatic conditions. Among the world countries, India comes under a part of largest Pomegranate productions. As per National Horticulture Board in India, Pomegranate is commercially cultivated in Maharashtra at large scale. Whereas in states like Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan there are cultivated at small scale. I read somewhere that about 60-70 percent export of Pomegranate from India comes from Maharashtra. In India, the Pomegranate plants generally grown throughout the year. It is said that the tree takes almost 4 to 5 years to bear fruits and once the fruit starts appearing it takes 120 - 130 days to get ready for the harvest.




Pomegranate Tree at Vellore

















Images Courtesy : Internet
The image at the right is from my capture taken during an evening at Ratnagiri temple, Vellore, Tamil Nadu


The Pomegranate fruit may take such a long time to harvest, but I would say its quite worth waiting for such an astonishing fruit. The reason behind the words 'worth waiting' can be found below :

Astonishing values of Pomegranate :

                    ~* Pomegranate are said to be purely antioxidants. These Pomegranate seeds avoids blood clotting and it is said that it acts like aspirin tablet.

                    ~* Pomegranate seeds are very much good for the human heart. It is said to increase oxygen levels to the heart when consumed as juice.

                    ~* Pomegranate helps to reduce the risks of heart diseases, breast cancer, atherosclerosis (disease of arteries) and cholesterol. It also helps to control high blood pressure.

                    ~* It helps you to control your weight, fights against cell damage and it minimizes aging. This fruit helps you to avoid wrinkles in skin and helps to have a healthy skin.

                    ~* Pomegranate is used in the Ayurveda medicines over thousands of years. It is used to cure diarrhea, dysentery and intestinal diseases.

                    ~* The Pomegranate juice helps to prevent the risk of heart diseases, prevents viral infections and it helps to slowdown the worsening of human cartilage.

                    ~* Pomegranate is rich in fiber which helps proper digestion. Regular intake of this fruit helps to improve immunity and blood circulation since it is also rich in Vitamin-C.

                    ~* It also helps in reducing dental plaques(that causes tooth decay). The juice helps for strong teeth.

                     ~* The fruit and juice is used is said that it may prevent stroke and helps in reducing Alzheimer's disease.

                     ~* Since this fruit has natural sugars it is said to be safe for diabetes.

                     ~* It helps in fighting bone loss and helps during menopause.

Culinary Use :

                    ~* The seeds of the fruit can be taken directly or can be consumed in form of juice which has more advantage.The Pomegranate juice can be added in soups, sorbets and can also be used as flavors in cakes.

                    ~* Pomegranate seeds can be used in salads to increase the taste as well as to garnish.

                    ~* One of my personal experience is my mother used to sprinkle the Pomegranate seeds over the curd rice and give it. Just try this if you like. It tastes good and also adds nutritious value.


After reading this now, you might have understood why I said its worth waiting for this fruit. Make use of this wonderful invaluable gift from God's own nature.

I hereby thank my mother for suggesting me to post about Pomegranate.

Sources :  globalhealingcenter.com
                nutrition-and-you.com
                wikipedia.org
                National Horticulture Board.

Thanks for reading :)

23 July 2013

Canna Lilies - Best solution for water scarcity


Canna ( Canna Lily) plant is said to be a genus of nineteen species of flowering plants as per wiki. Even-though they are not a true lily, it is named so. The Canna Lily is a plant that has bright color flowers and it is also an agricultural plant. This Canna lily plant is considered to have the world's richest starch sources. It is tropical American plant which needs at-least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight. Due to this feature, this plant is grown around the world where these condition can be met. The flowers of this plant of usually red, orange or yellow in color.





















Images Source : Internet

Uses of Canna Lily :

   ~ They are widely used in Horticulture and as ornamental plants.

   ~ The rhizome ( i.e. horizontal underground stem ) of this plant is said to rich in starch which can be consumed by humans. The foliage( plant leaves) is used as animal fodder.

   ~ The fiber in the stem can be used as a replacement for jute.

   ~ The seeds are used as beads in jewelry and it is said that a purple dye can also be obtained from these seeds.

   ~ In Thailand, these Canna plants acts as a traditional gift for Father's day.

   ~ If you are an ardent bird watcher then it would be an additional treat for you to plant this plant as this plant attracts humming birds.

   ~ Last but not the least, most importantly, the Canna lily plant can be used to filter the impurities/pollutants. 


Now coming to the main crux of this post, the grey water recycling done with the help of this Canna plant can save you from water scarcity. This is what I have read about just few days back.

What is Grey water ?

           Grey water is nothing but the waste water that is being produced from baths, sinks and washing machines. This grey water completely differs from black-water which is a sewage. Hence grey water is safe to use and recycle.

Grey water recycling (GWR) :

           Grey water recycling (GWR) is done in many ways. The recycled water is used widely used for irrigation purposes , indoor reuse and in critical situations. The vital point to be noted is not all kind of purification methods is potable. Some of the recycling methods were done without purification and some were done with purification.

The grey water recycling process that I have read in 'The Hindu' Newspaper just few days back comes under the recycling method with purification that is done in the biological way which includes this Canna plant as a main source for purification.

Here's the link from 'The Hindu' newspaper where I read about this process :

http://www.thehindu.com/features/homes-and-gardens/

If you go through that entire article, you can understand how much benefits we would get through this process. It is mentioned that this GWR process was already mentioned along with the rain water harvesting system that was implemented in the year 2002. But very few are aware about this till date. Today, almost many cities including Chennai are in quest for uninterrupted water supply especially during the summer. An apartment in Adyar, Chennai is said to be free from this quest as they have implemented this process with the help of the Canna lily plant.

I hope that this process would be a solution for water scarcity, pollution free environment and for an adequate ground water source.

Thanks for reading :)

07 July 2013

Furious Nature - The Uttarakhand Tragedy


Nature is not just known for its beauty, but also for many disasters. It is all about how carefully we treat our nature. When we cause so much harm to our own surroundings, it shows off the result in some means of disasters.Everyone of us would have heard about the recent disaster that had happened in Uttarakhand where many of them died and most of them were stranded. It is widely said that this Uttarakhand tragedy is not uncommon since that area is always prone to natural disasters. But some researchers and environmental enthusiasts say that it is also caused due to deforestation, construction of more dams that needs tunneling the ground and also due to some careless constructions of buildings, lodges and homes in the river bed which are being washed away in the floods.

Uttarakhand aka Uttaranchal is a northern state of India which was partitioned from Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. As per wiki it is said that Uttarakhand is the 19th most populated state in India. Since Uttarakhand is mostly covered by mountains ( Himalayas in the northern side) and forests it acts an important tourist site. Uttarakhand is one among the most famous pilgrimage sites where the sacred temples like Kedarnath and Badrinath is located. It is where the two major rivers of India the Ganga and the Yamuna originates at Gangotri and Yamunotri respectively. They were said to be caused by the glaciers melts, lakes and streams in their place. Adding to this there are two national parks such as the Valley of Flowers and the Nanda Devi national park located in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand which are considered under the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many of the most famous hill stations of India like Nainital and Mussoorie are located in Uttarakhand.




Being such an enriched state, Uttarakhand has also been prone to earthquakes and floods always. But this time it has faced something bigger and harder than before I guess. As we all know there was a major cloudburst in the state this year in MID-June, it is said that it takes almost two or five years to resume back to normal. Since the tragedy has happened in the middle of the pilgrimage season, thousands of lives has been ruined. Due to this cloudburst, heavy floods had washed away many lives, buildings, pathways and bridges which made many people left stranded and helpless. Many lodges, hotels and houses have also been washed away by floods. The surprising fact is that despite this heavy downpour and lashing floods has washed away the compound walls of the Kedarnath temple, the Kedarnath Shrine has survived and is safe. And it is also said people inside the shrine has been saved while others were dead in front of the temple.









Images Courtesy : Ibnlive.com

But anyhow people whomever have survived this calamity had said that they have found and seen God in the Indian army and the ITBP ( Indo- Tibetan Border Police ) who played a brilliant and vital role in rescue operations. NDRF ( National Disaster Response Force )and NDMA ( National Disaster Management Authority ) have also done their part in the rescue operations. They used some ladders, ropes and even constructed small winch like machines to evacuate people. Most of all the IAF ( Indian Air Force) have also done a major Chopper evacuation to rescue stranded people. But the hardest part is many people have missed their loved ones.

Salute to all the brave hearts of the Indian Army, IAF, ITBP, NDRF, NDMA and some adventurer's who played a vital role in saving lives.

Many people who went there along with family members, have missed some or whole while returning back. It is reported that some people who have been rescued have placed some camps there and are waiting for their family members with hope. Despite these rescue operations, as I have read yesterday in the web that almost 1200 children were still missing. And the most terrible part is a 3 year old girl who is rescued with fractured legs is missing her family. She was found alone at Gaurikund and she got treatment at Doon hospital, Dehradun and got recovered now. Unfortunately this young child couldn't find her family yet. Hope their family reaches her soon.

Here I'm sharing few websites through which you can help since there are still missing peoples and relief's are being distributed.

http://chennai-cares.blogspot.in/
http://www.savethechildren.in/
http://www.giveindia.org/

'Google crisis response' has played a vital role to find the stranded people. They have also provided maps related to floods. Additional information's were provided in PTI.
Uttarakhand Floods Information as provided by Google :

Uttarkashi                                : (+91) 1374-226461
Chamoli                                   : (+91) 1372-251437, 9411352136
Rudraprayag                            : (+91) 1364-233727, 9412914875
Control Room (Uttarakhand)   :  (+91) 135-2710334, 9557444486

Since many people are still missing, the NDRF are planning to deploy some devices to trace them. As per this move, they have accepted to use a drone named 'Daksha' designed by Dr.Senthil Kumar of the Madras Institute of Technology ( MIT ). Here's an article from The Hindu Newspaper about it.
http://www.thehindu.com/

And kindly check this following link for some information regarding the cause of floods, how it can be tackled etc.,
http://ibnlive.in.com/news/

Preventive measures for such Natural disasters :

                   * We can't stop a natural disaster, but still we can avoid some of the causes of it. First thing is as much as we can, we must stop constructing buildings in or near the river beds.

                   * We must stop deforestation which is a very concerned issue. By cutting down the trees, we ourselves are creating damage to ourselves. By planting trees or conserving the existing trees we can make sure that excess water is consumed by the roots of the trees. In places like Uttarakhand, deforestation in mountains causes the landslides. It is said that planting Oak and Pine tress in these places could help to resist such situations.Have a look at this link in the Economic times about this: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/

                   * A proper rain water harvesting system and drainage system has to be constructed in a way that  it collects excess water. It is said that proper maintenance of these systems can avoid landslides.

                   * Constructions of dams must be regulated properly.

                   * Weather forecasting systems can be updated and regulated properly.

Hope we can still handle such situations wisely by studying the nature of our locality and regulate the activities according to it to avoid major disasters.

Hoping that everyone finds their missed loved ones soon.