Gond Katira (Gum Tragacanth) the traditional cooling agent for summers | drinks and desserts made with gond katira
Few years ago I was shopping at Roopak stores (Karol bagh, New Delhi) for my spices and found this pack of edible gum and picked up. When I brought all my grocery for billing, the kind gentleman on the counter asked me why you are buying this Gum (Gond in Hindi) in winters as this is the one used for summers. I was flummoxed as I knew only one type of gum that is called Gond in Hindi and is actually Gum Acacia.
But then it was a good opportunity to know more and I asked him about this special gum useful for summers. What I got to know made me buy 2 packs of the gum and experiment even if it was winter season. He told me this is Gond Katira or Gond Kateera which is used for making Hakimi sharbat in Pakistan and is used in Punjab and Rajasthan in India too. This was definitely one of those tribal medicines that became popular because it worked.
Further search led me to this video where Hakimi Sharbat (medicinal drink) made of Gond Katira is being sold as a cooling agent in summers. Gond Katira is in fact Gum Tragacanth that comes from Astragalus gummifer shrubs and if soaked in water the gum crystals bloom to become a firm jelly.
Gum Acacia and Gum Tragacanth both are collected from wild growing trees in the jungle.This is how gond katira (gum Tragacanth) looks when it starts blooming.
This jelly is mixed with any rose or khus (Vetiver) sharbat and served chilled to beat the summer heat in the northern plains. You get mouthfuls of the jelly when you sip this sharbat.
The bloomed jelly can be mixed with chopped nuts, raisins and Gulkand (sun cooked rose jelly) to make a cooling dessert that looks quite drab but can give all the trifles a run for their money. It doesn't even need any sugar in my case but one can add sugar to taste.
Note that old Gulkand is considered better for summers and I have a 2 year old jar that has lost it's beautiful red colour but the flavour is incredible.
Mixed with some fresh cream, nuts and fresh fruits this bloomed gum Tragacanth makes a pudding that looks good too.This pudding can be served as a breakfast porridge or a small portion as an evening snack. One can always make it into a dessert served with pomp.
Gond katira bloomed in plain water and then mixed with a little fresh mango pulp makes a great drink without any sweetener. The firm bloomed gum feels like falooda.
We tried it with mango cubes and fresh cream too and found that the bloomed gum adapts to just about anything.
After enjoying the bloomed Gond Katira with fruits mostly I decided to make it into a 'bubble tea' which normally uses cooked sago pearls (sabudana).
To make the bubble tea with God katira, add 1/4 cup brewed black tea (cold) to 1 cup full cream chilled milk and 1/4 cup bloomed Gond katira. Add a little honey, mix and enjoy.
This Gond katira bubble tea with milk and black tea was actually a nice change for me and made my lunch. The bloomed gum is filling and kepe you hydrated for long. Not that you don't need to drink water but it is good to have some vegetarian jello that hydrates too.
Try the bubble tea with gond katira this summer and let me know how you liked it. You would love the pudding made with assorted fruits, nuts and milk too.
To recap the facts, Gum Tragacanth is also known as Gond Katira in Hindi and as Manna, is derived from the tree Astragalus gummifer and is a native of western Asia.
Some old studies suggest that Gum Tragacanth helps flush out some fat from the human body and helps improve gut health.
Interestingly Gum Tragacanth helps to treat diarrhoea and constipation both and can be part of the regime for treating IBS. I have myself seen IBS getting treated with the combination of soaked (bloomed) gum tragacanth and probiotics like yogurt, sauerkraut and kanji etc.
Gum Tragacanth is a common additive in some food products as a thickener and emulsifier and is labeled as E413. It is a safe additive to packaged desserts.
We get Gond Katira in the spice market here in Delhi and many high end grocery stores too. You can buy online or let me know if you don't get it anywhere.