Jaggery is an unrefined sugar replete with essential nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, zinc, copper, sodium, chloride, and vitamins A, B, C, D and E.
Eating jaggery helps in blood purification, aids digestion, relieves joint pain, bolsters energy levels and boosts immunity.
As evidenced by its mention in ancient Sutras, jaggery has been a part of Indian cuisines for at least a millennium. It is used in both sweet and savoury dishes across India.
Sushruta, the father of Indian medicine and surgery, made small balls out of jaggery, sesame seeds and peanuts and used them as an antiseptic. This is where the concept of laddoos began. Later, each state started making its own variety of laddoos with jaggery as the base.
- Gujarati Cuisine
Jaggery is a staple of the Gujarati cuisine. This is because Gujarat has a semi-arid climate. Water-wise, it is a dry state. To maintain electrolyte balance and prevent dehydration, the people of Gujarat use jaggery in lentil soups (daal), side dishes and sweets. In addition, it also acts as a great energy booster.
- Harvest Festival Specials
All over India, jaggery is consumed a lot during harvest festivals in the peak of winter. This is because it provides enough calories to keep the body warm in addition to its immunity boosting properties.
In Maharashtra, people make tilgul, a sweet made from sesame seeds and jaggery. In Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, the sweet is called gajak, til na ladoo, tillava and ellu-bella, respectively. In Tamil Nadu, jaggery is used to make chakkara pongal (Jaggery rice). Lohri in Punjab is celebrated with jaggery and peanuts. Bengalis use a palm jaggery and coconut filling to make pithey and patishapta.
- Other Cuisines
The Bengali cuisine uses palm jaggery in daal to balance the spicy, salty and sour components.
In Oriya cuisine, cakes or piṭhas contain jaggery.
Assam’s popular sweet dish, til-pitha, is made of rice powder, sesame and jaggery.
In Karnataka, sweets such as obbattu, paayas and unday use different kinds of jaggery. A dash is generally added to sweeten sambar and rasam.
In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, jaggery is used in sukku kaapi, a dry ginger coffee that is consumed to cure the symptoms of cold and cough.