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Himalayan Balsam Seed Curry Recipe

Himalayan Balsam (Impatiens glandulifera) has been eaten in India for hundreds of years. I first came across the reference in Sir George Watt’s six volume ‘A Dictionary of Economic Products of India’ 1889-1896. In it he mentions that the seeds are eaten, having a nutty flavour, while the young leaves where used as a vegetable.

In this recipe, my friend Chris Holland from Wholeland, is going to be showing you how to make a spontaneous Himalyan Balsam seed curry using leftovers in his kitchen.

This recipe serves 2 adults and 1 nine year old child.

Step 1

Go out and forage for Himalayan Balsam seed. Harvest as much as you think you need for a curry.

The pods burst at the slightest touch, to the squeals of young children, who find this plant an amazing toy while out walking. Mind you, I find it fun to burst the pods and I’m 44!

Step 2

Depending on how dried the seeds are their colour will vary from a milky, soft white, right through to a dark black.

Chris and I have both found that you can eat the seed at any stage of their colouration. Try and remove as much of the green seed pod as you can. But don’t obsess over it, as you can see from the photo above, there is still quite a bit left in the seeds after Chris had cleaned them.

Step 3

Take 1 onion and slice it up.

Step 4

Now add a few glugs of olive oil.

Step 5

Add the onion and fry gently until translucent and soft.

Step 6

Take 1 swede and cut into small cubes about 1/2 inches square.

Step 7

Now this is where Chris “cheated”. You need to add some curry paste, and the best curry pastes I find are  Pataks. Chris used the Balti curry paste for this recipe.

Step 8

Add 2 tablespoons of your chosen curry paste, and mix in and fry with the onion for 1 minute or so.

Step 9

Now add your Himalayan Balsam seed…

Step 10

… and stir in.

Step 11

Next mix in your cubed swede.

Step 12

Add hot water until it just covers the contents of your saucepan.

Step 13

Now slice up a couple of sticks of celery.

Step 14

Add the celery to your curry along with a small chunk of creamed coconut. The more creamed coconut you add, the thicker your curry will be.

Step 15

Take 1 or 2 tomatoes and chop.

Step 16

Thinly slice 1 red pepper, and then chop into small pieces.

Step 17

Add the pepper and tomato and simmer gently until the vegetables are tender. But cook for at least 15 minutes.

Step 18

Eat with white or brown basmati rice.

Aside

Chris’s son Mali looks on thinking his Dad is mad for eating such strange food. Especially as you won’t find Himalayan Balsam listed in any of the wild food books that are available.

About the Author Robin Harford

Robin Harford is a self-taught ethnobotanist, and has spent over a decade traveling, researching, recording and uncovering the traditional and contemporary use of wild plants in Britain and beyond. More recently his work has taken him to Africa, India, SE Asia and Europe. He is a co-director of Plants & Healers International, a non-profit that connects people, plants and healers around the world.

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2 comments
Sheila says

Hi I have a book with Himalayan balsam in which has a recipie for curry. It’s called the hedgerow handbook by Adele nozedar. Adele also recommends the leaves for salads and steamed stems served with butter and lemon juice like asparagus I know you know about it because it says the curry is your recipie.
Kind regards.

Sheila

Reply
    Robin Harford says

    Hi Sheila – I know Adele and know her book. However my recipe only uses the seeds. I do not recommend that you eat any other part of the plant. I have not found any references to other cultures eating any other part in my ethnobotanical research. There is a lot of confusion surrounding HB, and much of it comes from sloppy research. There are other plants in the Impatiens genus that are edible, but I can find no mention of HB at all. I own the books the others claim to have got their data from. I can’t find anything. I also trawled through India’s leading botanical research institute when I was last there… nothing, apart from the seeds being mentioned. And it comes from that continent, so one would think they would have recorded these other uses, if they had existed.

    Reply
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