Agase Hoovu Thambuli | ಅಗಸೆ ಹೂವು ತಂಬುಳಿ is a Dakshina Kannada / South Karnataka style healthful yogurt based side dish. It is an awesome way to consume Agase Hoovu – edible flowers and not know it.
As the warmer months are here (Hello March!), we love to eat Thambuli for its cooling effect on the body. read what is Thambuli
Agase Hoovu is edible and can be eaten as a vegetable in multiple ways. One of the easiest and so good for health, Agase Hoovu Thambuli is a rarity in the urban kitchens though. Partially, due to lack of knowledge about it, limited access and/or lack of familiarity with foods cooked in the earlier generations.
The Sesbania Grandiflora – Agastya tree is not uncommon in villages or the country side, but for us city dwellers, not everyday can we find these flowers. Keep reading to know why the tree is named so.
I got hold of the flowers only because Amma sent me the freshest Agase Hoovu. She knows, finding such ingredients brings me immense joy. I was overjoyed indeed because it brings me fond memories of my green eyed nonagenarian Grand aunt who would wield her magic and turn these into delicious food memories for us.
Agastya tree grows in various parts of India and used in many regional cuisines, to my surprise. Though the leaves can be commonly found in the market, flowers and beans/pods are precious uncommon commodities.
Buds and blossoms can be recognized from their unique blunt sickle shape. Young buds are covered fully in a green sheath of sepals and appear like chillies from an angle and the delicate off-white blossoms sit cupped in light green sepals.
Agase Hoovu grow in a variety of colors – red (Lohita), white (Sita), Peeta (Yellow) and blue (Neela) colors. So far, I have seen only the white flowers.
Flowers are mildly bitter in taste when compared to the bitter leaves.
Common English Names:
Sesbania Grandiflora (botanical), Hummingbird tree blossom, August Tree, Swamp Pea, white dragon tree, west Indian pea
Other Vernacular Names
I love learning the names of produce in different languages and hence I include them here for those of you who have similar interests.
Muni pushpa (meaning sage’s flower), Muni Priya (that which is dear to the sage), Vakra Pushpa (curved flower) in Sanskrit
Agathi Poovu (Keerai for leaves) in Tamil
Agasthya chettu or Agise Chettu in Telugu (also Avisaaku but not to be confused with flax seeds)
Hadgyachi phoole (Hadga) in marathi
Agasti in Hindi, Oriya, Nepali
Bok Phol in Bengali
When I went to the Yeshwanthpur Bhanuvaara Santhe, I heard the local kannada speaking village vendor folks call Agase Hoovu as Acche Hoovu, probably a variation used colloquially.
I found it very interesting (via instagram) that Sesbania is not just used in India, but also very much consumed in other south east asian countries.
Thailand (called Khaee), known as Katuray in Philippines
Kembang Turi / Toroy flower in Indonesia.
Agase leaves are called Kathuru Murunga in Sinhalese and Sri Lankans use them extensively in their cooking.
Where to find the flowers?
The flowers are normally not seen easily in the markets like other commercially available produce. Best chances of finding them are by foraging or through a local vegetable or flower vendor from the older generation who knows or has access to it or if you have a tree growing nearby.
Agase soppu – the dark colored pill shaped thick-ish leaves are more commonly seen in the local markets, especially days before Dwadashi. You could inquire about the flowers with a vendor who sells the leaves.
Preparing the flowers for cooking
If you are familiar with preparing Banana blossoms for cooking, you might know that stamens and pistils, the reproductive part of the flower are inedible and indigestible. For that reason, they have to be removed before using the blossoms in cooking. As you can see in the image, they are the central parts of the flower, hidden in the middle of the petals.
How to eat this Thambuli
Agase Hoovu Thambuli is meant to be eaten in small quantities as the first few morsels of the meal.
Since the flowers have Pitta and Kapha balancing properties, they tend to aggravate Vatha dosha. Those with Vatha prakruthi should take care not to over indulge.
Thambuli should always be made fresh and served immediately and preferably eaten for lunch.
Medicinal properties of Agase Hoovu
In South India, especially Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the leaves, flowers and the pods are all eaten as vegetables. All parts of the tree are used in home remedies, Ayurvedic Oushadha (medicine) as well as Siddha Vaidyam.
The flowers are used in natural medicine for lowering blood pressure as it keeps arteries flexible.
Plant based biotin from Sesbania flowers is beneficial for maintaining healthy hair and skin.
They have anti-cancer, anti-toxic, anti-microbial, analgesic and anti-pyretic properties (s0urce)
Agastya flowers are excellent for the reproductive well being of women.
Legend behind the name Agastya
Agase Hoovu (Agastya flowers) are considered sacred and offered in Pooja for lord Shiva. It is also believed that the tree is named after the great sage Agastya, one of the Saptarishis (the seven greatest sages as mentioned in the vedas and upanishads). Sage Agastyar (as called in Tamil) is believed to be the founding father of Siddha Vaidyam (medicine), the ancient traditional system of healing that originated in South India.
They are believed to be named so also because the flowers begin to blossom on the day of Agastya star during Sharad rithu (autumn)
- About 5 big Bili Agase Hoovu / White Sesbania Grandiflora blossoms (Handful of petals after removing stigma)
- 1 cup homemade yogurt
- 1/4 cup coconut pieces chopped
- 1 small green chilli or half a big chilli
- 1/2 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
- Salt to taste
- little water for grinding
- few drops of ghee
- 1/4 tsp jeera
- 1 tsp peanut oil
- 1 stalk curry leaves
Firstly, remove the pistil and stamens from all the flowers and discard. Seperate the petals.
To clean, Gently swirl the petals in a bowl of water and strain. rinse once again and spread on a kitchen towel and pat dry gently
In a kadai on low flame, Sauté the petals in a few drops of ghee till petals are wilted. transfer to a plate.
Next, toss in a green chilli broken in half into the same kadai and Sauté till white spots appear
Grind, sauteed green chilli, jeera and coconut pieces with a little water to a smooth paste. Add wilted blossoms into this and pulse the grinder few times to blend well. Try not to over blend or it will turn bitter.
Add this paste to yogurt in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle salt to taste and give it a good stir
Serve immediately to be eaten as first morsel with hot steaming rice.