Have you ever heard of a bean called Guar or Cluster Bean? It just looks like French beans and it looks a bit more green and one could say “fresher”. In India it is a very common Vegetable and recently it received some extra attention from the Industrial world for it’s gum. Besides that it is commonly sold in Indian markets as a Food Item. My Indian followers will know, that the Guar Beans are commonly used in Curries and Bhajis, from the poorest to the richest houses. Before I came to India, I had no clue of it’s existence and health benefits!
Cluster Beans are quite bitter, even after cooking. Many will agree that, this isn’t a turn on, because let’s face it, healthy food isn’t always pleasing to the tongue. However, a bitter Vegetable mostly indicates, that it’s a power food for nowadays health problems. Guar has been proved to be helpful in treating diabetic conditions. The bean has a good amount of dietary fibers and proteins, which is helpful in weight loss treatment. The stomach takes time to digest the fibers, keeping your stomach full for a longer time, so you end up eating less and thereby tend to loose weight easier. Apparently the Cluster beans are further stuffed with Vitamin C and K, the latter being important in the bone health and in the development of a healthy fetus.
This particular bean seems to have more names then you can imagine. We in Goa call it Chitjo Mitjo, in Hindi and Marathi it is known as Gawaar, in Kannada as chavalikayi. The rest of the world seems to be sticking to Gaur, Gavar, Guwar or Cyamopsis tetragonoloba. The names might come handy, if you are in a Indian market or in an other foreign market. I know, how tedious it can be, when you try to explain the vendor what you are looking for, but he seems to be oblivious of the food name and it’s existence, until he presents you the wanted by throwing in some odd name. By the way Guar is a Hindi word, meaning Cow food!
Some years back it was one of those dirt cheap food vegetables in the Indian market. I mean, anybody could afford it. Over the years it received quite a price boost. The Gum, extracted from the seeds, is mostly used in the Western Food industry as thickener, binder and stabilizer in variety of foods such as in the Ice cream industry. Further it is used in the textile and paper industry, for ore flotation, in the manufacture of explosives and in the hydraulic fracturing of oil and gas formations. Incidentally the business has been booming in the production of Guar, due to the popular use of the Gum in the fracking technology.
I may quote from Reuters….
“Fracking has been called the technology that will change the geopolitics of energy, boosting domestic North American gas supplies to such an extent that experts predict the net importing region will soon turn into a significant gas exporter.
It has also turned guar into a precious commodity farmers now call “black gold”. In the Rajasthani city of Jodhpur, under the shadow of an ancient fort, traders buy guar seed at 305 rupees ($5.5) a kg, a 10-fold increase from a year ago.”
That is why Guar can not be fed to cows anymore, because of the value hike. Yet, at least we can still afford the beans for our own use. In Goa a kg of Cluster beans is still around 20 – 30 INR (~0.3 €), but the poor are the ones who are suffering here again. Guar is considered a staple food in many Indian houses, so imagine if you couldn’t afford a common bean type in your region anymore!
Bhajis, curries and Daals are what we like to eat and that is how we use the Cluster beans. Today, I wanted to share with you all our Cluster Bean Bhaji recipe. To smooth the bitterness down, we add Garam Masala and sometimes even scraped coconut and Jaggery sugar. This recipe isn’t hot hot hot, in fact it’s kind of mild for somebody who isn’t used to spices. I know what it’s like to get used to pungent hot food, plus I want to see more Westerners getting used to spices, so to understand how they effect.
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