The Himalayas are one of the most picturesque mountain range in the world. These mountains are home to not just amazing cultures and traditions, but are blessed with rich flora and fauna, unique to the range. The Himalayas are also home to a lot of wild vegetation, which not only adds to the beauty of the mountains, but also holds immense utility for the locals. Some of the shrubs and plants growing in the Himalayas have special medicinal properties, which make them very useful, for example – Timla, Hisalu, Kafal, Bedu, Ghigaru, Khubani, Siriphal, Burans, etc. Most outsiders might have a tough time spotting these plants growing in the wild, but for the locals, these are special season delights and home staples that they have grown up with. A lot of times, you will find them being sold on the roadside in baskets as you travel through the Himalayas.
Have you ever tried the Hisalu? You must.
What are Hisalu?
Scientifically called as Rubus ellipticus, Hisalu are golden raspberry-like fruits that grow in the wild in the Himalayas, especially in the state of Uttarakhand. The Hisalu plant belongs to the rose family, and is abundant in Uttarakhand and Nepal, parts of China and the Philippines. The taste is unique to these berries but can be described as a delicious sweet-tart flavor. Hisalus are commonly used for treating indigestion, stomach pains and headaches too. It is also used to ease symptoms in diarrhea, dysentery, colic pain, peptic ulcers, diabetes and jaundice. A large part of medicinal properties are found in the roots of the Hisalu plant. Locally Hisalu is also called as Aiselu, Ashilo, and Aisayloo.
Where did Hisalu originate?
The golden Himalayan Hisalu berries originated in the temperate Himalayan region and is native to South East Asia. The berries grow from Pakistan to Nepal and Southern China as well as in Bhutan, Myanmar, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand. It has also been found on the Hawaii islands, especially around Maui, as well as in the Andes mountains region in South America.
If you are passing through the Nainital, Bhimtal, Mukteshwar, Almora belt, Hisalus would be a common sight in the summer months. It is also available in other surrounding areas in the state. The berries are packed with many vitamins and is considered to be a great source of energy. Hisalu berries, besides being eaten as is, are made into delicious jams by the local people. The fruit perishes quickly and has a very short shelf life. This is why jams are the primary way to preserve the fruit. Hisalu plants are leguminous, hence the root nodes fix nitrogen in the soil, making the soil nitrogen-rich, more fertile, and nutrient-balanced for future crops. It grows wild, and is quite invasive in nature, often competing with commercially grown crops for space. Each bush will produce about 1-2 kg of hisalu berries a week. The plant’s invasive nature makes it a great option to prevent soil erosion in the hilly regions.
In Nepal, farmers make a unique wine from the aiselu or hisalu berries. This wine turns out to be a cheaper one to make, considering the berries are abundantly available, and can be readily mixed with sugar, and stashed aside for fermentation. There are various organizations working to help farmers build on this. Hisalu wine is a unique beverage and have an edge for its flavor properties. The Nepalese also make wine from another wild fruit – chutro or the Himalayan barberries.
While making jam or wine at home may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I do have a recipe to make a delicious phirni from Hisalu. So, if you ever come across some Hisalu berries, get some handfuls, and lets make it into a delicious phirni.
Here’s the recipe for the Jhangora Hisalu Phirni –
100 g Jhangora millet, soaked for an hour, then coarsely ground
2 liter milk
2 cup water
0.5 cup sugar
2 g cardamom powder
5 g walnut pieces
250 g Hisalu berries
50 g cream or malai
- Boil the milk
- Add the jhangora, sugar, cardamom powder and walnuts
- Stir well
- Refrigerate for one hour
- Mash the hisalu berries to obtain a smooth pulp
- Add the berry pulp and cream to the refrigerated milk
- Mix well
- Garnish with dry fruits and raisins
So, let’s get some golden raspberries and make some tasty phirni!