Family:  Brassicaceae

Synonyms: Discovium gracile, Discovium ohiotense, Lepidium diandrum, Lepidium majus, Lepidium praecox, Nasturtium majus.

Common Name: Wild Pepper Grass

Local Name:Alon (अलों)

Alon is an erect herbaceous annual of Western Himalaya, commonly seen growing along roadsides, fields, waste land, disturbed sites, prairies and pastures up to an altitude of 1500 m. 

Alon in growing wild

It is usually considered as a weed of fields and waste areas. Alon is easily propagated by seeds and can grow in most soils with sunny, dry locations.

Young leaves, unripe seedpods, flowers, roots and seeds of alon all are edible. These can be eaten both raw or cooked. Young leaves and flowers are eaten raw in salad or a garnishing agent in various food items. Leaves and shoot terminals are cooked into saag along with other available greens. Leaves are also a good addition to traditional recipes like parantha, rayata  and kachru.

Close-up of alon plants in natural habitat.

Alon green seed pods.

Unripe seed pods plus seeds are also eaten raw or cooked in soup and used as condiment to flavour food items as a substitute of black pepper. Roots are crushed and mixed with vinegar and salt before eating.

Alon is nutritious and rich in vitamin c 1. It has been used to treat vitamins c deficiency and diabetes1 .Local people harvest alon  from wild habitat as a source of food, fodder and medicine for local personal use.

Harvesting alon seed pods for cooking.

Alon Plant:

Plant is erect, usually hairy, branched, annual herbs, 30 -50 cm tall.

Basal leaves lyrately pinnatifid, attenuate at base, hairy; middle and upper cauline leaves simple, with sharply toothed and hairy margins.

Flowering shoot tip of alon

Flowers are white, in dense racemes. Petals longer than the sepals.

Fruits almost orbicular with a broad but shallow apical notch.

Seed, two. 

Close-up of alon seed pods

Alon edible plant parts can be best harvested from spring end to autumn season of the year, Seedpod, seeds and roots need to be harvested in sustainable manner. Collect root when flowering and fruiting is over for ensuring sustainable harvesting.

Edible Uses:

Whole alon plant is edible and plant parts are eaten both raw or cooked to harness their nutritive and medicinal values. Except root all the plant parts can be finely chopped and added to rayata, soups and various food items as a garnishing material.

Young leaves are used as potherb with other greens of the season. The leaves contain protein, iron, vitamin A and vitamin C 2. These can be cooked to make parantha (Chapatti stuffed with paste of chopped leaves, spices and cooked with oil), Kachru (Bread spread made of basen and spices) a traditional recipe eaten as a snack with chutney and tomato ketch-up. Leaves can be dried for later use.

Vegetable:

Ingredients:

Young leaves, flowers of alon and other greens, 1 kg; mustard oil, 3-4 table spoons; coriander powder, 1 table spoon; fenugreek powder, ½ table spoon; cumin seed, 1 tea spoon; turmeric powder, 1 table spoon; red chilies, 2-3; chopped medium sized onions 2-4; garlic, 4-5 cloves; ginger paste ½ table spoon; boiled potatoes and salt, according to taste.

Alon leaves collected for making vegetable

Method:

Boil alon leaves and other available greens till they are soft.  Then mesh manually or in a mixer. Then sauté with hot mustard oil and the spices listed before in sequence. This sauted saag is then ready and can be served as such or can be mixed with 2 or 3 chopped onions or boiled potatoes and cooked for another 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Alon saag ready to serve

Masala oats:

Masala oats is a quick morning breakfast cooked with oats, green veg. spices with or without curd.  Here masala oats are cooked with green alon pods and curd in following manner.

Ingredients:

Alon green seed pods, 1-2 cup amount; oats, 3 cup amount; curd/ butter milk, cup amount; olive oil, 2-3 table spoon;3 chopped medium sized onion, 2, red or green chilies, 3-4, ajwain (carom seeds), ¼ tea spoon, turmeric powder, 1/4 table spoon; black pepper, ¼ tea spoon, mint and coriander leaves,1/2 cup amount; salt according to taste.

Method:

Saute alon seed pods in hot oil with spices listed above and cook till these are  soft. Add  equal amount of oats and water. Cook for 2-3 minutes and add curd, ajwain,  Cook till oats are soft  add black pepper powder and chopped coriander / Cyclospermum leptophyllum leaves for garnishing. Mix well and serve.

Soup:

Ingredients:

Locally available vegetable (chopped) of summers, leaves and green pods of alon ,1/2 kg; mint leaves,10-15 (chopped); corn flour, 1 spoon; black pepper powder,1/4 tea spoon, salt acc.to taste.

Alon leaves and seed pods collected for soup making.

Method:

Boil leaves, green pods of alon and vegetable in one litre water till they are soft, mesh these manually and sieve the extract in a container. Add to it mint leaves, corn flour, black pepper and salt, then boil for 5-10 minutes. Now soup is ready to serve.

Vegetable plus alon seed pods soup ready to serve.

‘Rayata’:

Ingredients:

 Flowers, green pods and finely chopped leaves of alon,1/2kg; curd, 1kg; Chopped medium sized onion, 3-4, red or green chilies, 3-4, black pepper, ¼ tea spoon, black salt according to taste.

Ingredients for rayata making.

Method:

Take curd in a bowl. Add to all above in sequence. Mix well and serve.

Alon leaves addition to rayata

Kachru or sosaru:

For preparing a kachru, ingredients required are 1kg fresh leaves and flowers, 1/2 kg besan (black gram powder) or corn flour. 1 cup amount fresh coriander leaves,1/2 table spoon ajwain, 3-5 green chilies, ½ table spoon turmeric powder, 2-3 chopped onions and salt according to taste

Method:

Make a paste of leaves, besan or corn flour and spices. Heat some oil on a flat heating pan. Put this paste over a pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes then kachru will be ready to serve.

Parantha:

Ingredients:

Finely chopped leaves, 250 g; boiled medium sized potato/ fig fruits; 4-5, Oil or ghee. 8-10 table spoon; wheat flour, 4 cup amount; chopped medium sized onion, 2-3, red or green chilies, 3-4, black pepper, ¼ tea spoon, black salt according to taste.

Ingredients for parantha making.

Method:

Mesh boiled potato/ fruits. Add to it chopped  leaves and spices listed above. Mix well to make Fine paste.

Paste of meshed Ficus auriculata fruitsalon leaves and spices for parantha making.

Now parantha dough is prepared by mixing wheat flour and water. Knead dough till it is soft, let it rest for sometime. Make small round balls of dough, stuff paste inside balls and roll to thin layered flat breads, Now in hot tawa smear some oil and place flatbread over it. Cook both sides by applying oil. Now parantha is ready to serve. Serve it hot with chutney / tomato ketchup/ pickle/ butter/ curd according to choice.

Paranthe and rayata made of alon leaves ready to serve

Poha:

Poha is a quick morning breakfast or evening snack prepared from beaten or flat rice flakes, spices, onion, potatoes, peanuts/groundnuts and veggies according to choice.

Ingredients:

Beaten rice flakes, 3 cup amount; young leaves and seed pods of alon, 250 kg; groundnuts,1/2 cup amount; veggies (Peas. carrot etc) , 1 cup amount; boiled potato,1-2; mustard oil, 2 table spoons; coriander powder, 1 table spoon; fenugreek powder, ½ table spoon; cumin seed ¼ table spoon; turmeric powder, 1/4 table spoon; curry leaves,1/2 cup amount;  red chilies, 2-3; chopped onions 2-4; garlic, 4-5 cloves; ginger paste ½ table spoon and salt according to taste.

Method:

Take flakes in a strainer, pour water over them and rinse quickly. Drain water completely, rinse once more and set aside to soften. Heat oil in a pan and fry peanuts/groundnuts. Remove these and set aside in a plate. Now sauté spices in hot mustard oil in same pan and add alon seed pods, cubed potatoes and veggies according to choice. Saute for a minute. Cook till these are soft. Add poha mix well and cook on a very low flame until turn hot. Squeeze lemon juice. Garnish poha with roasted groundnuts or peanuts and serve with chutney.

Alon seed pods poha ready to serve.

Roots recipe:

Alon roots, ½ kg; oil, 4-5 table spoon; vinegar, 1 table spoon; green chillies, 1-2; mint leaves, ½ cup amount; chopped medium sized onion, 2-3; chopped tomato,2-3; black salt according to taste.

Method:

Crush roots in a mortar and pestle.  Give these crushed roots a shallow fry and add vinegar, chilies, chopped onion, tomatoes, mint leaves and salt according to taste. Now recipe is ready to serve. It is eaten as a snack with tomato ketch-up.

Seek professional advice before treating this plant medicinally.

Medicinal Uses:

Alon is nutritious and generally detoxifying 1. It has been used to treat vitamins c deficiency and diabetes, and to expel intestinal worms1. The herb is also diuretic and benefit in easing rheumatic pain1. The root is taken to treat excess catarrh within the respiratory tract1.

Chemical constituents:

Contains high levels of vitamin C1.

Other Uses:

Apical plant parts of alon are used as green fodder for domestic animals.

References:

  1. Purohit SS, Sharma AK, Prajapati ND, Kumar T. (2009); A handbook of medicinal plants: a complete source book. 2:352-3.
  2. (https://www.ediblewildfood.com/peppergrass.aspx).

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