Rajasthani delicacy 'Ker-Sangri'
© Harish Jharia
The term desert always fascinated me since my childhood days, when I read and heard stories from the Arabian Nights series. I really wanted to visit a desert and see it all by myself. I specifically wanted to see the sand dunes, the storms, the lifeless endless uneven earth’s surface and an oasis situated somewhere at a far off distance with water bodies, green foliage and date palms.
'Ker' Fruits that are cooked to make 'Ker Sangri' Rajasthani delicacy
I visited the desert in Rajasthan, India many times. I had been to the Thar Desert in 1993 on an official visit. Thereafter, a part of my family shifted to Jodhpur about 3 years back and now I make frequent trips to this place. Nevertheless, when I went to the real desert and saw the environment and the people living in that unpopulated and arid world, all those fascinations vanished. I was simply disillusioned when I saw the hard life of the people in the desert, their sun burnt skin and the rampant poverty they lived in.
The 'Ker' Bush
In this article, I am not going to discuss the problems faced by the desert people. I am writing this article to share information about a wonderful desert tree called Ker. It is a thick green bush that attracted my attention. It can rather be called a tree or a shrub because some of them are about 15 feet tall. Whereas, most of them spread over huge area of sand in 5 to 6 feet high heaps of green foliage.
It is called a Ker or Kair shrub that has no leaves on it. It is simply a huge bunch of thin branches with triangular thorns. It produces a green berry like fruit called Ker or Kair that is used for cooking curries. Ker or Kair is a thorny bush (capparis decidua) found in the arid region of Rajastnan, India. Ker bush is a small moderate sized evergreen thorny tree. It has brilliant light bluish-green slender branches armed with conical thorns. Looking at this beautiful green tree with no leaves on it is a real wonderful experience. Growth of brilliant green colored foliage (bunches of thin branches) in a desert land is a natural miracle.
'Sangri' beans that are cooked to make 'Ker Sangri' Rajasthani delicacy
‘Ker Sangri’ is one of the greatest dishes in the menu of Rajasthani cuisine when Ker is cooked along with another desert vegetable called Sangri beans. This is a simple piquant and tangy vegetable preparation but it is cooked in all the hotels and restaurants with extra pride. Ker and sangri are not exotic vegetables, but are wild berries and beans that grow independently and abundantly in the vast desert areas specifically in Western Rajasthan that is Jaisalmer and Barmer.
The 'Sangri tree'
It is believed that that ker and sangri were discovered ages ago by Rajasthani villagers during times of a great famine when all other scarce natural vegetation had died and vanished away. Nevertheless, ker (small, radish berries) and sangri (longish beans) flourished abundantly even during the famine.
Attracted with the green and pinkish shining berries on brilliant green branches, delighted by their abundant availability, the villagers collected them and carried to their homes. In times of famine there was no water for cooking. Therefore, the villagers dried the berries and cooked them in vegetable oil along with chilies and other spices.
The dried vegetable kair, Kumita and sangri
The famine stricken people of the desert found something wonderful to eat with their bajra (millet) rotis (breads) and survive.