Maddhu or aati payasam | A medicinal desert made once every year

Right after July 17, Aati thinga or Kakkada thinga, according to the Kodagu calendar, has begun. Aati thinga is also known as the Ashada month in the Hindu calendar. This is a very culturally significant month, accompanied by heavy rains, bone-chilling gusts of wind, and heat strokes. A weird combination, I know. This month is characterized by mushroom and bamboo hunting, fish and crab hunting, hefty paddy field works, and cold feet, of course. This month, traditionally, has no significant festivals, since the people are immersed with the paddy field works. But this month is very unique for its weird climatic conditions. Being amidst heavy monsoon, it is also the time when the earth is at its aphelion point, farthest from the sun, when the northern hemisphere is enjoying its summer months. Thus, the heat strokes and wet clothes at the same time.

Ancestors and gramps say that this month is also characterized by the birth of very strong babies with the strength of an elephant. It is advised to also to drench your head with coconut oil, to avoid heat strokes. This month has specific cuisine to keep the body warm, like bamboo curry, mushroom curry, crabs, etc. There is one particular dessert that specifically describes aati thinga.

Aati thinga is also celebrated in the coastal belts as aatida amavaasye. On the new moon of the aati thinga, a kashaya or decoction is made from the bark extract of Alstonia Scholaris or Hale mara or devil tree. A bitter and spicy concoction is had in the early morning by the family members in small quantities.

Maddhu or aati payasam is made from the leaves of maddhu soppu or Justicia wynaadensis leaves, a medicinal plant, endemic to the Western Ghats. This plant grows in the shades of the Kodagu belt and has many medicinal properties. Traditionally, it is believed that this plant, if cooked on the 18th day after the onset of Aati thinga, has 18 types of medicines. It can be cooked any other time though. Let’s get on to the recipe, shall we?

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Maddhu soppu or Justicia wynaadensis leaves and stems- Half a kg
  • Water- 3 litres
  • Rice – 1/4 kg or 250 g
  • Jaggery ( Black) – 2 and a half block or 100g
  • Salt
  • Grated coconut- half a coconut
  • Ghee
  • Honey

Instructions

  • Begin by plucking the fresh maddhu soppu or Justicia wynaadensis leaves and stems and clean them. Brush of insects and stack them together for easy rinsing.
  • Rinse the stack of leaves with tap water and strain.
  • Take 3 litres of water and add the leaves along with the stem. Let it boil for 40 mins, till all the indigo-coloured juice has been extracted.
  • Strain the indigo-coloured liquid.
  • Place the liquid back on the flame and let it boil.
  • Rinse your rice.
  • To the boiling extract, add the rinsed rice and stir it in.
  • When the rice has cooked ( 25-30 mins), add in jaggery and salt to taste.
  • After the jaggery has melted, add the grated coconut.
  • Let it boil for a couple of minutes and take it off the flame.
  • Serve hot with a tablespoon of homemade ghee and honey.

Facts for you

  • Consuming this paysam will lead to a reddish-pink urine for a couple of days, which is completely normal because of the flavanoids that weren’t absorbed by the body.
  • The leaves of Justicia wynaadensis has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatary properties and helps to fight the infections from the rainy season. It is beleived that the leaves loose their medicinal properties after the 18th day. It has excellent anti-oxidant properties and improves the immune system.
  • The hale mara or Alstonia scholaris bark extractant is an excellent  astringent tonic, anthelmintic, and antiperiodic. It is consumed as medicine for chronic diarrhoea and advance stages of dysentry.

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