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Fruits and Vegetables Native to India: A Bounty of Bio-Diversity

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India, endowed with diverse agro-climatic zones, boasts an exquisite array of fruits and vegetables that have been cultivated and cherished for centuries. This cornucopia of indigenous produce not only defines the vibrant tapestry of Indian cuisine but also reflects the country’s rich biodiversity and cultural heritage.

1. Mango – The King of Fruits: The mango, revered as the “King of Fruits,” holds a special place in Indian culture. With over a hundred varieties, each possessing a unique flavor profile, India’s mango orchards yield a sensory feast during the summer months. From the succulent Alphonso to the sweet and tangy Langra, mangoes are integrated into desserts, chutneys, and refreshing beverages.

2. Banana Varieties: India is home to many banana varieties, each with a distinctive taste and texture. From the robust Robusta bananas used in cooking to the slender and sweet Cavendish bananas enjoyed as a snack, the banana’s versatility in Indian cuisine extends to both savory and sweet dishes.

3. Drumstick – The Nutrient-Dense Pod: The drumstick tree, native to India, produces elongated pods known as drumsticks. These nutrient-dense pods are a staple in South Indian cuisine, lending their unique flavor to sambar and other regional delicacies. Drumstick leaves, equally nutritious, find their way into traditional curries and soups.

4. Jackfruit – Nature’s Meat: Jackfruit, known as “Kathal” in Hindi, is a versatile fruit with a fibrous texture that resembles meat. This native Indian fruit is celebrated for its culinary adaptability, used in both savory and sweet preparations. Popular dishes include jackfruit curry, biryani, and the beloved jackfruit dessert, “Kathal ka Halwa.”

5. Okra (Bhindi) – A Culinary Staple: Bhindi, or ladyfinger (okra), is a quintessential vegetable in Indian cuisine. With its unique mucilaginous texture, okra finds its way into curries, stir-fries, and snacks. Stuffed bhindi and bhindi masala showcase the vegetable’s culinary versatility.

6. Indian Gooseberry (Amla) – The Immunity Booster: Amla, or Indian gooseberry, is renowned for its high Vitamin C content and medicinal properties. Amla is consumed fresh, pickled, or transformed into amla candy and chutneys. It plays a significant role in Ayurveda for its immune-boosting and rejuvenating qualities.

7. Ridge Gourd (Torai/Turai): Ridge gourd, known as Torai or Turai, is a common vegetable in Indian households. Its mild flavor and tender texture make it a versatile ingredient in curries, stir-fries, and soups. Ridge gourd is appreciated for its nutritional value and ability to absorb flavors in various culinary preparations.

8. Betel Leaf (Paan): While primarily known for its role in traditional chewing practices, the betel leaf is also utilized in culinary creations. It imparts a distinctive flavor to dishes, especially in paan, a popular after-meal digestive treat.

9. Curry Leaf – Aromatic Essence: The aromatic curry leaf is an essential component in Indian tempering (tadka) and seasoning. It adds a unique flavor to various dishes and is a key ingredient in South Indian cuisines like curry leaf-infused coconut chutney.

10. Teend (Capparis decidua/Kair): Teend, also known as Kair, is a small fruit native to arid regions of India. Despite its modest size, teend packs a punch with its tangy and slightly bitter taste. This fruit finds its way into pickles, chutneys, and traditional recipes, where its unique flavor adds a delightful contrast to savory dishes.

11. Eggplant (Brinjal): Eggplant is a popular vegetable with glossy purple skin and creamy flesh. It has a slightly bitter taste and absorbs flavors well when cooked. It is used in dishes like baingan bharta, achari baingan, and stuffed eggplant curries.

12. Bitter gourd (Karela): Bitter gourd is a unique vegetable with a distinctive bitter taste. It is known for its numerous health benefits and is used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. Bitter gourd is often cooked with spices or stuffed to reduce its bitterness and create flavorful dishes.

13. Bottle gourd (Lauki/Dudhi): The bottle gourd is a long, cylindrical vegetable with pale green skin. It has a mild, refreshing taste and a soft texture. It is commonly used in Indian curries, dals, and soups and to make cooling beverages like lauki juice.

14. Snake gourd (Chichinda/Pudalangai): Snake gourd is a long, cylindrical vegetable with waxy green skin. It has a slightly sweet taste and a crunchy texture. It is used in various Indian dishes, including curries, stews, and stir-fries, and is also known for its medicinal properties.

15. Tinda (Indian round gourd): Tinda is a small, round vegetable with light green skin. It has a subtle, delicate flavor and a tender texture. Tinda is commonly used in Indian cooking to make stuffed vegetable dishes, curries, and stir-fries.

16. Cluster beans (Gawar ki phalli): Cluster beans are small, slender beans with a slightly bitter taste. They have a crunchy texture and are commonly used in Indian stir-fries, curries, and side dishes. Cluster beans are known for their high fiber content and are a popular choice for a healthy diet.

17. Ivy gourd (Tindora/Tendli/Kovakkai/Kundru): Ivy gourd is a small, elongated vegetable with green skin and white flesh. It has a slightly tangy taste and a crunchy texture. Ivy gourd is often used in Indian cuisine to prepare stir-fries, curries, and pickles.

18. Colocasia (Arbi/Taro root): Colocasia is a root vegetable with a brown, hairy exterior and starchy white flesh. It has a mild, earthy taste and a sticky texture when cooked. Colocasia is used in various Indian dishes, including curries, and fried snacks, and as a thickening agent in gravies.

19. Pointed gourd (Parwal/Potol): Pointed gourd is a small, cylindrical vegetable with green skin. It has a mild, slightly sweet taste and a tender texture. The pointed gourd is often stuffed or used in curries, and it is a popular vegetable in Bengali cuisine.

20. Amaranth (Chaulai/Thotakura): Amaranth leaves are vibrant green leaves with a slightly earthy flavor. They are highly nutritious and commonly used in Indian cooking to make stir-fries, dal, soups, and fritters. Amaranth leaves are known for their rich iron and calcium content.

21. Indian spinach (Palak/Keerai): Indian spinach is a leafy green vegetable with a mild, slightly earthy taste. It is commonly used in Indian cooking to prepare curries, soups, and side dishes. Indian spinach is highly nutritious and a rich source of vitamins and minerals.

22. Yardlong beans (Barbati/Boda/Chawli): Yardlong beans are long, slender beans with a crunchy texture and a mildly sweet taste. They are often used in Indian stir-fries, curries, and salads. Yardlong beans are a good source of dietary fiber and are popular in regional cuisines.

23. Cluster fig (Gular): Cluster fig is a small, round fruit with a sweet, juicy flavor. It is commonly used in Indian cuisine to make chutneys, jams, and desserts. Cluster figs are also consumed fresh and are considered a nutritious fruit.

24. Indian broad beans (Sem ki phalli/Avaraikkai): Indian broad beans are large, flat beans with a slightly sweet taste and a firm texture. They are used in various Indian dishes, including curries, stir-fries, and rice preparations. Indian broad beans are a good source of protein and fiber.

Complete List of Vegetables Eaten in Ancient India

  1. Agastya. (Agita, Hindi-Hatiya )—Flowers are cooked. Caraka Sakavarga.
  2. Agnimanthaka. (Premna Inlcgrifolia, Hindi-Arni)— Susruta.
  3. Alabu, (Lagenaria vulgaris, Hindi-Laukl )—Yajurveda
  4. Aluka. (Tubers)—Caraka mentions Plndaluka etc., Susruta also mentions Madhavluka, Hastyaluka, Kasthaluka, Samkhaluka and Raktaluka
  5. Amlikakanda. A bulb grown in Assam., Caraka.
  6. Andika, (Nymplial alba)—Its fioweirs were eaten,
  7. Ankalodya. {Root of little blue lotus) Caraka,
  8. Asuri. (A kind of Brassica, Hindi-Rai) Caraka.
  9. Asvattha. (Ficus religiosa, Hindi-Pipal) Caraka.
  10. Avaka. (Blyxa oryzetorum, Hindi- Sivar)—Kashmir potherb-Yajurveda
  11. Avalguja. (Same as Bakuci, Hindi-Babaci) Caraka
  12. Bhandi (Ladies finger?, Hindi-Bhindi)—Caraka, According to Rajanighantu it is manjistha.
  13. Bllvapatra. (Leaves of aegle marmelos, Bel ke Patte) Caraka.
  14. Bimbipatra. Leaves of the large-flowered Bryonia. Leaves are cooked.
  15. Bimbitika. (Large-flowered Bryonia, Hindi-Kundaru) fruit is cooked. Sushruta.
  16. Bisa. (Lotus stalks, Hindi-Bhis) Caraka. The diggers of lotus stalks are mentioned in the Rigveda
  17. Barbati, (Indian Night shade, Hindi-Badi Kateri) Sukuta.
  18. Cakramarda. (Ovalleaved Cassia.)
  19. Camgeri. (Indian Sorrel, Hindi-Caupatia) Caraka. A leafy vegetable.
  20. Canchu. (“Water cressa or Carchorus Aentan—gularis, Hindi: Cancu) Caraka.
  21. Cilli. (Purple goose-foot, Hindi-Bada Bathua) Caraka.
  22. Cicinda. (Snakegourd, Hindi-Cacenda) fruit is cooked Caraka.
  23. Cirbhita. (A kind of cucumber, Hindi-Phut) Kautilya, Caraka.
  24. Citraka. (Plumbago zeylanica, rose-colored lead wort, Hindi-Cita) Kautilya, Caraka.
  25. Ervaruka. (Cucumber, Hindi-Kakadi) —Caraka.
  26. Gandira. (Hindi-Kadua Zimikand) Caraka.
  27. Gangeruka. (A little thorny plant bearing a white nectareous flower) Caraka.
  28. Gojihva. (Elephants foot?, Hmdi-Gazavan or Gojibhi) a leafy vegetable. Caraka.
  29. Grnjana. (Carrot root, Hindi-Gajar) a root. Caraka.
  30. Jivaka. (A plant growing in the Himalayas having a bulbous root and round and long leaves. Pentaptera Tomentosa) Susruta.
  31. Jivanti (Sarsaparila, Hindi-Jivanti) Best pot herb. Caraka.
  32. Kadali, (Plantain, Hindi-Kela) Flowers and fruit are cooked. Susruta
  33. Kakamaci. (Nightshade Hindi-Makoya) Caraka.
  34. Kakandola. (cowhage) Caraka.
  35. Kalambi (Red Malabar nightshade, Hindi-Kalami Sak) Caraka, a leafy vegetable.
  36. Kalasaka, (Maraya Korniji, Hindi-Chuka) Caraka, a leafy vegetable.
  37. Kaldya, (Field pea, Hindi-Matar) Kautilya and Caraka. See pulses.
  38. Kalinga, (Water melon, Hindi-Tarbuj) Susruta.
  39. Kantakarika, (Bitter sweet night shade, Hindi-Kateri) Susruta.
  40. Karavella. (Mormodica, Hindi-Karela) Fruit is cooked. It is called Karivrnta in the Kasyapa Sam. It is mentioned in the Jain canonical works and Susruta.
  41. Karbudara, Hindi-Kachnar, Caraka.
  42. Karkaruka: (Very small pumpkin, Hindi-Chota petha) Susruta.
  43. Karkasa. Same as Karkotaka:  a kind of Patola. Caraka.
  44. Karkati (a variety of cucumber, Hindi-Kakadi) fruit is cooked.
  45. Karkotaka. (Mormordica charantia, Hindi-Kakoda), Caraka.
  46. Kaseruka. (Cyperus rotundus, Hindi-Kaseru) a root— Caraka. See fruits.
  47. Kathillaka. (A pot herb. The red variety of Punarnava) Caraka Sakavarga,
  48. Keluta. Same as kembuke Hindi-Kemua or kobi: Tuber is eaten. Caraka.
  49. Kosataki. (Luffa pentandra, Hindi-Kadavi Torai) Fruit is cooked. It is indigenous. Kautilya, Susruta.
  50. Kovidara, (Bauhitiia variegata, Hindi-Lal Kachanar) Kautilya. Caraka.
  51. Krauncadanl. (a water tuber, Hindi Kauncadan) Caraka.
  52. Kulaka (Hindi-Kerela or Parval bheda) Caraka.
  53. Kumarajiva. Hindi-Jivasaka. Caraka.
  54. Kumuda, (Nympha lotus, Hindi-Safed Kamal), Caraka.
  55. Kuntalika. (Phyalis Indica, Hindi-Pansokha) Su^ruta.
  56. Kusmanda. (Pumpkin gourd, Hindi: Sitaphala) Fruits are cooked. It is considered the best vegetable. Caraka.
  57. Kusumbha, (Safflower, Hindi-Kasum) Kautilya, Caraka.
  58. Kutheraka, (A kind of holy Basil, Hindi-Tulsi Bheda) Caraka.
  59. Kutinjara, (Wild Goosefoot, Hindi-Jangli Bathua). Caraka.
  60. Kutumbuka. (Hindi: Guma ke patte) ; Same as Dronapushpi: A leafy vegetable. Caraka.
  61. Laksmana. A plant having upon its leaves red spots Av. II. 25.3, Caraka.
  62. Langali, (Hindi Kalihari) Caraka.
  63. Lasuna. (Allium sativum, Garlic root, Hindi-Lahasuna) A tuber, Kasyapa Sam.
  64. Lonika. (Common Indian Parselone, Hindi-Luni or Kulfa) A leafy vegetable. Caraka Sakavarga
  65. Lottaka. Hindi-Laba marisa Caraka, sakavarga.
  66. Mandukaparni, (Indian pennywart, Hindi-Brahmi) Caraka and early Jain canonical works.
  67. Marisa. (Amaranthu olcvaceus. Hindi-Marisa) A leafy vegetable.
  68. Marvuaka. (Vangueria spinosa, Hindi-Marua) Kautilya
  69. Masaparni. (Teramus labiolis or Glycine labialis, Hindi:vanaurada). Caraka Sakavarga.) Dhanvantri calls it Kamboji which shows that it was grown in the Kamboja region.
  70. Methika. (Fenugreek, Hindi-Methi). According to Dr. P. K. Gode it was imported from Persia. Susruta mentions A^vabala which is a variety of methika. According to the Dicy. of Eco. Products (VI iv p. 86) it is wild in Kashmir. The word methaka is mentioned by Dhanvantari 
  71. Mulaka. (radish, Hindi-Muli) Caraka. Sakavarga. Soft unripe radish is considered good.
  72. Munjataka,Nibu grown in Northern India especially Kashmir, where it is called Mohoyaka.) Caraka.
  73. Nadi (Carchorus Oiltarius.) Caraka.
  74. Nalika. (Hindi-Nadi ka Sak) Same as Kalasaka,
  75. Nalini. Same as Bisa Hindi-Bhis. Caraka.
  76. Nandimasaka. (Hindi~Undi manavaka) Caraka.
  77. Nimba. (Margosa tree, Hindi-Neem) Caraka.
  78. Nispava. (Flat bean, Hindi-Bhalbans) Caraka.
  79. Nyagrodha. (Ficus betighalesis, Hindi-Bad) Rv. 1 . 24.7. Caraka.
  80. Palankya. (Spinacia aleracea, Hindi-Palak) a leafy vegetable. Early Jain canonical Works, Caraka.
  81. Panasa. See fruits.
  82. Palandu. (Allium Cepa, Onions, Hindi-Pyaz) A root. According to the Dicy. of Eco. Products it originated from” Persia and Afganistan. Patahjali, Ap. Dh. Su. I. 17.26.
  83. Parpataka. (Justicia procumbance, Hindi-Pittapapada) Caraka.
  84. Parvani. Same as Indra Varuni. Caraka.
  85. Patha. (Velvet leaf. Hindi-Patha) Av. II. 27.4, Kautilya and Caraka.
  86. Patola. (A kind of snakegourd, Hindi-Paraval) Fruit is cooked. Probably used by early Dravidians. Buddhist canonical works and Caraka.
  87. Phanji. (a kind of leafy vegetable same as Bhanrgi) Caraka.
  88. Piluparni. (Hindi-Marbel) Caraka.
  89. Pindaluka. (A white variety of Alocasia, Hindi-Ratalu?) a root Kautilya, Caraka.
  90. Plaksa. (Ficus arnottiana, Hindi-Pilkhun) Yajurveda and Av. V. 5. Caraka.
  91. Prapunnada, Same as Cakramarda. Caraka.
  92. Punarnava. (Hog’s weed, Hindi-Visakhapara) Susruta.
  93. Puskarabija (Nymphaea. Stellala, Hindi-Kamalgatta) Rv. VI. 16.13 Caraka. Sakavarga.
  94. Rajaksavaka also called Dugdhika. Caraka Sakavarga.
  95. Rajamasa. (Cowpea, Hindi-Rajma) See Pulses. The Hindi word lobla is from the Greek word Lohos. According to De Candolle it is a native of Brazil and came to India from Mauritius. (Vol. VI 91 p. 186).
  96. Sakuladani, (Purple Lippa, Same as Jalapippali, Hindi: katuki or Jalapippali). Caraka Sakavarga.
  97. Salmali (Bambax Ceiba, Flowers are cooked.) Hindi: Semal Rv, VII. 50.3 etc. Caraka.
  98. Saluka. (Nymphaea lotus, the root of waterlily,Hindi~Kamalkand) Av. IV. 34.5, Caraka.
  99. Sana. (Crotalaria – juncea, Hindi-Sana) Av. II. 4.5, Kautilya and Caraka.
  100. Satala. (Soap nut acacia, Hindi-Satala) Susruta.
  101. Sarangesta. Same as Manjistha Hindi~Majltha) Caraka.
  102. Sarpachatraka. (Mushroom, Hindi-Khumbi) Caraka varga
  103. Sarsapa. (Brassica Campestris, Mustard, Hindi-Sarson) leaves and stalk. Chand Up. 11. 14.3, Caraka.
  104. Satapuspi. (Leaf of Dilseed, Hindi-Soya) Vagbhata 11. According to Dicy. of Eco. Products VI. 1,187 it is a native of India.
  105. Satavari. (Asparagus racemosus, Hindi-Satavar) Kautilya Caraka.
  106. Sati. (Long Zedoary, Hindi-Kachur) Same as Karcura Caraka.
  107. Satina, (a kind of pea, Hindi-Matar) Sutota.
  108. Simbi. (a legume) Fruit is cooked. The Hindi word Sem seems to be derived from it. Kautilya.
  109. Sigru. (Moringapte rygosperma. Horse radish tree, Hindi-Senjana) a leafy vegetable. It is also called Saubhanjana. Kautilya.
  110. Sirnavrnta. Same as Cirbhita. Susruta.
  111. Slesmataka. (Myxa, Hindi-Lasora) See fruits.
  112. Sreyasi. Same as Gajapippall. Caraka.
  113. Srngata. (Trapabispinosa, Hindi:Singhada) See fruits.
  114. Sudarsana. Same as Vrsaparni. Mbh. Anu. 91.42.
  115. Sunisanaka. (Naisilea qudrifolia, Hindi-a kind of Methi). Caraka Sakavarga.
  116. Surana. (Yam. Hindi-Zaminkand) According to the Dicy. of Eco* Products (Vol. VI (i) p. 363) it is indigenous in India. Caraka. Sakavarga.
  117. Susa: Same as Kasamarda, Hindi-Susavi or Kasaundi) Caraka. Sakavarga
  118. Suvarcala, (Sunflower, Hindi-Hulhul) Caraka. Sakavarga,
  119. Talapralamba. Tender leaves of palm tree. Caraka. Sakavarga
  120. Tanduliyaka, (Prickly Aniarantb. Hindi-Chauldi kd bheda) a leafy vegetable. Caraka. Sdkavarga,
  121. Taruni: a tuber also called Saha (Susruta).
  122. Taruta. (Hindi-Tirtkand) Caraka. Sakavarga,
  123. Tilaparnika, Hindi-HulhuI Same as Suvarcala. Caraka.
  124. Tindisa, (a kind of Cucumber, Hibiscus ficulneus, Hindi-Tinda?) Fruit is cooked. According to the Dicy. of Eco. Products it is indigenous.
  125. Trapusa. (a kind of cucumber, Hindi: Khira) mainly grown in northern India. (Caraka)
  126. Trparni, Same as Hamsapadika. Caraka.
  127. Upodaki, (Basella cardifolia, Indian Spinach, Hindi: Poi) a leafy vegetable—Caraka.
  128. Udumbara. (Ficus Glemorata, Hindi-Gular) Caraka.
  129. Urubuka. (Cucumis melo, Hindi-Lal Aranda) Rv. VII. 59.12. Yajurveda, Av. XIV. 1. 17. and Susruta.
  130. Urvaruka. (Cucumis sadvus, Hindi–Kachariya) Rv. VII. 59.12. Caraka.
  131. Utpala. (Blue lotus, Hindi-Nila Kamal). Caraka,
  132. Vajrakanda, a tuber mentioned by Kautilya.
  133. Vamsankura. (shoots of a bamboo, Hindi-Bans ke Ankur). Caraka.
  134. Vanatiktaka, (Same as Kiratatikta. Hindi-Kalamegha), Caraka.
  135. Varsabhu: (Boerhavia diflusa.)
  136. Vartaka or Vrntaka. (Brinjal, Hindi-Bengan) Fruit is cooked. A fruit like brinjal can also be seen in Ajanta paintings. De Candolle’ thinks it is indigenous. (Caraka and Jain canonical works.)
  137. Varuna. (Crataeva nurvalla, Hindi-Varna) a leafy vegetable. (Av. VI. 85.1 etc.)
  138. Vastuka. (White goose-foot, Hindi-Bathua) a potherb. Considered good. (Caraka and Jain canonical works.)
  139. Vatsadani (Coculus Cordifolius, Hindi~Giloya) A leafy vegetable Caraka. It is called Guduci by Susruta.
  140. Vetragra. (Soft sprouts of Calamus Rotang, Hindi: Bent kd Agla Bhag) Caraka, Vagbhata II.
  141. Vidarikand. (Canvovulus panicuktus, Hindi: Bilaikand) a root. Caraka.
  142. Vrksadani (a parasite, hindi-Banda) Susruta.
  143. Vrkadhumaka, Probably same as Trivrta Caraka.
  144. Vrsapuspa. (Hindi:aduse kd phul) Caraka.
  145. Yatuka, (White Salaparni) Caraka.
  146. Yavani. (The leaf of Bishop’s weed) Caraka.
  147. Yavasaka. (kind of Vastuka, Hindi- Khet papada) Grown in Bengal. Caraka.
  148. Yuthika. (Jaminum aruiculatum, Hindi-Juhi) Sutota.

Summary

Exploring the fruits and vegetables native to India unveils not just a culinary spectrum but a celebration of biodiversity woven into the fabric of daily life. Each region contributes to this diverse cornucopia, ensuring that Indian cuisine remains a vibrant reflection of the country’s rich agricultural heritage. These indigenous treasures not only tantalize the taste buds but also bear testimony to the sustainable and harmonious relationship between the people and the land they call home.

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