What is Amchur?
The spice amchur is unripe or green mango fruits which have been sliced and sun dried. The name comes from Hindi am, mango. The spice is either whole or ground and sometimes seasoned with turmeric. The mango tree is native to the India-Burma-Malaysia region and is one of the oldest cultivated fruits. In India it has grown for over 4,000 years; the various uses of the fruit are probably ancient.
After the European explorations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it has spread to all parts of the tropical and sub-tropical world, especially Africa. The mango, apart from its place as a fresh fruit is most famous as a chutney or pickle ingredient.
The mango retains a special place in Hindu mythology and ritual. Lord Gautama the Buddha was presented with a mango grove and the Mogul Emperor Akbar (1556-1605), ordered a huge plantation of 100,000 mango trees to be planted. The mango tree is a member of the family that includes the cashew and pistachio nut.
The dried slices are light brown with a rough surface. Ripe mango slices are also dried and are orange brown. Amchur powder is finely ground but with a slightly fibrous texture. It is beige in colour.
Bouquet: Sour-sweet, warm and slightly resinous.
Flavour: Slightly sweet and acidic.
Cooking with Amchur
The use of amchur is confined chiefly to Indian cookery, where it is used as an acid flavouring in curries, soups, chutneys, marinades and as a condiment. The dried slices add a piquancy to curries and the powder acts as a souring agent akin to tamarind. It is particularly useful as an ingredient in marinades, having the same tenderizing qualities as lemon or lime juice. However, where, for instance, three tablespoons of lemon or lime juice are required, one teaspoon of amchur will suffice. Chicken and fish are enhanced by amchur and grilled fish on skewers, machli kabab, is well worth trying.
Health Benefits of Amchur
The mango tree is so old and of such popularity in India and the Far East that it is not surprising that every part of it yields some specific or other. The leaves, the bark, its resin, the flowers, the fruit, the seed, all are utilized. The unripe fruit is acidic, astringent and antiscorbutic, and in the dried condition, amchur is particularly useful for the latter purpose. Of the mango’s other properties, its dyeing quality is of interest. In India, cattle are fed on mango leaves and their urine is used as a yellow dye, the active principle in this being xanthone. Needless to say, the fabric treated thus has its own special bouquet.
Plant Description and Cultivation
An evergreen tropical tree, 10 – 40 m (30 – 130 ft) in height, very long-lived (over 100 years), with a dense overhanging canopy. The trunk is greyish-brown, rough with many branches. The leaves are dark green and shiny. Tiny, five-petalled cream to pink flowers occur on branchlets. The flowers open at night and in the early morning. The fruits are sweet, medium-sized rounded oblong drupes, with thickish green to orange skin over sweet orange flesh, sometimes fibrous, around a large flat stone.
Mangoes grow in tropical regions with marked wet and dry seasons, the dry period being necessary for good flowering and fruiting. Biennial cropping is usual. Mangoes will grow on a wide variety of soils provided the climatic conditions are right. Usually propagated by seedlings. Many trees grow in the semi-wild state.
Spanish: mango, manguey
Indian: aamchoor, aamchur, amchoor, amchur; aam-papar (dried mango sheets); a(a)m