Kumatiya, a small, spiny tree typical of Rajasthan, has a great deal of appeal. In addition to being a part of the territory’s traditional agroforestry system and a source of complementary revenue with its gum arabic, it also offers a gratifying gourmet treat: its seeds.
Kumatiya nominated to the Ark of Taste Megha Varma, General Manager of SUJÁN hotels in India.
Today, our Ark of Taste heads for India, and more precisely Rajasthan, literally the “land of princes”. There, Jaisal Singh – Vice President of Relais & Châteaux and founder of SUJÁN, a company promoting sustainable tourism – awaits us there. SUJÁN runs three luxury campsites in this region: The Serai, Jawai and Sher Bagh. All three are members of Relais & Châteaux.
Jaisal explains to us that his love for this territory is a family legacy. His parents discovered the region in the 1970s, and they truly fell in love with the little-known paradise that is Ranthambore National Park. They have been committed to protecting tigers and other wildlife ever since. Jaisal himself was a council member of the foundation in charge of the park in his youth. He is therefore enthusiastic about participating in the 2021 edition of Food For Change, which features the Relais & Châteaux network highlighting endangered products through the Ark of Taste.
Unsurprisingly, Jaisal has decided to bring a product from Rajasthan aboard the Ark. Kumatiya is a small, spiny tree with pods that contain shiny, flat seeds used in the local cookery. They are especially essential in preparing panchkuta, a dish emblematic of the festivities dedicated to the goddess Shitala. The other main seasonings of the dish are also local ingredients: ker and gunda seeds, sangri pods, and amchur, or dried green mango.
Kumatiya seeds are also used in other recipes such as kumatiya kadhi, a traditional curry of Rajasthan prepared with chick peas, ghee, hot pepper and yoghurt. They may be added to the famous side dish raita, the sauce prepared with yoghurt and vegetables that is often served with spicy foods.
Kumatiya is also a source of gum arabic, a raw material that may be used in endless ways, including as a food emulsifier. It also plays an important role in the territory’s traditional agroforestry system, particularly because it efficiently captures the nitrogen from the air and fixes it in the soil, contributing to its fertility.
The development of intensive agriculture in the region, as elsewhere in the world, has driven farmers to cut down trees. Unfortunately, kumatiya cannot hold its own when compared with other species that produce more gum arabic. People have forgotten that the trees provide shade for legume cultivation, and thus offer three sources of revenue while respecting the soil, an infinitely wiser approach than concentrating on a single high-yield crop. As the proverb goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.”
The SUJÁN company has already planted a number of kumatiya trees around camp Jawai, and it makes the seeds available to encourage the local populations to do the same elsewhere in the area. Meanwhile, aware of how important the tree is to the region’s ecosystem, the Central Arid Zone Research Institute of Jodhpur is working to improve its productivity in gum arabic in order to make it more appealing as a crop.
As for those who wonder what kumatiya seeds taste like... Well, they taste like the future, of course!