The plant wealth in Northeast India region includes a wide range of wild, edible indigenous herbs such as mint, coriander, parsley, rosemary, and flavorful chives. At least 1 or 2 wild edible plants is always a part of the local's daily diet.
Speaking of chives, there’s one lesser-known variety, Allium hookeri, commonly called hooker chives packed with a ton of flavour and medicinal properties.
In Meghalaya, it’s called Ja-ut in Khasi and it’s well-loved by the locals.
So What's Allium Hookeri?
Botanists call it Allium hookeri Thawtes, commonly known as Hooker chives is a wild, grassy perennial herb.
It's one of the least-known among the 700-strong Allium species. Even so, it’s well-known for centuries in Chinese and Korean cooking and medicine.
In many Southeast Asian countries, the herb’s been cultivated for ages as food and medicine. It grows abundantly in Southern China, especially in the Yunnan region, Myanmar, India, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and even as far west as Greece. Although Hooker chives grow anywhere, it loves moist, well-drained soils, away from shade.
It may belong to the Liliaceae, or onion, family, but it has no bulbs. Rather, it has rhizomes (underground stems) that are shaped like shrunken fibrous roots.
You can usually spot these chives in markets of Meghalaya from August to March.
How Do Locals Use Allium Hookeri?
Allium Hookeri is a popular herb of Northeast India.
In Meghalaya, Allium hookeri or ja-ut leaves and roots are consumed fresh. The roots go well with potatoes and other vegetables, enhancing their taste and flavour. The leaves add punch to broths and fried veggies, converting an otherwise bland meal into a tasteful spread.
Ja-ut or hooker chives replaces onions in fish curry, fermented fish chutney (tungtap) or phan-khleh (mashed potatoes). Raw leaves add zing to the salad. But ja-ut isn’t for food alone, it’s also useful in treating ailments like cough and colds, digestive and circulatory problems.In Manipur, it's called maroi napakpi. As traditional food, every household uses maroi napakpi fresh or in dried form as a spice or condiment. Because of its unique taste and aroma, this herb is the preferred choice over onions in the preparation of traditional dishes.
Local healers of Manipur have, for ages, been using this ‘neutraceutical’ herb as food and medicine. Manipuris have long learned to sun-dry the plant to preserve it. They regularly pack it to their relatives staying away from their home State so that their dear ones can continue to savour the herb’s combined nutritive and curative benefits.
Why You Should Include Allium Hookeri in Your Diet?Here's why:
- Medicinal benefits of Allium hookeri are mainly because of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
- According to studies it also has anti-diabetic properties and helps promote bone health.
- It contains essential nutrients such as natural carbohydrates, proteins, fatty acids, and anti-oxidant properties. This makes Allium hookeri an excellent food supplement and great potential as a nutraceutical.
- Its root also makes for a perfect natural preservative because of its antioxidant activities.
Besides having all these health benefits Allium hookeri adds a unique taste to your food and salad. At the same time, it reduces bad cholesterol level and improves heart health. It also tones up the digestive system and regulates the circulatory system.
What Makes Allium Hookeri Unique As a Food?It contains an abundance of sulphur compounds. The sulphur lends the herb its onion-like scent. The other major components include:
- ascorbic acid
- amino acids
- phenolic and polyphenolic compounds
- Sugars and fats
Phytosterols are plant sterols with similar structures to cholesterols. When included in our diet they can lower cholesterol absorption in the intestine and can help reduce coronary heart disease with minimal risk. (Source)
How Traditional Healers Use this Herb to Cure?Traditional medicine practitioners in Manipur use it for:
- Curing ulcers and stomach ailments using the juice of its leaves’ juice with salt
- Reducing high body temperature and blood pressure by applying a paste of its leaves’ decoction on the forehead
Kong Ribha Khriem, a traditional healer from Meghalaya says that consuming Hooker chives helps you regain your health.
For this, grind dried Hooker chives roots into powder and take a teaspoonful mixed with water daily for a few days. It will invigorate the weakened body. This finds mention in Ribha’s father’s list of traditional plant remedies. She says it also helps people with:
Weakened large intestine
You might want to know how you can use hooker chives at home.
Well, similar to how the Northeast people use it. Here are a few ways.
Ways You Can Use Allium Hookeri?
- You can consume the leaves fresh or dried and powdered. Ditto with the roots.
- Grind dried roots into powder and store in an airtight bottle.
- Sprinkling a teaspoonful or the required quantity on your stews says Kong Ribha, will not only infuse flavour to your food but help maintain good gut health as well.
Zizira loves to explore Meghalaya and discover these ancient herbs and plants that have been used by the tribes for generations to enrich and rejuvenate their health. And we share them with you every week. Read these interesting stories from Meghalaya and the farmers of this region. Subscribe to our newsletter today.