WHAT IS GOND KATIRA? TRAGACANTH GUM: BENEFITS AND USES OF TRAGACANTH GUM: HOW TO MAKE GOND KATIRA DRINK
TRAGACANTH GUM, GOND KATIRA, ASTRALAGUS GUMMIFER LABILL
Tragacanth gum comes from a thorny shrub which is native to western Asia, Iraq, Iran and the Middle East. It is a tree gum like myrrh, frankincense and balm of Gilead, and can be used, along with the stems of the plant as incense. It comes from a number of Astragalus species, but the one which produces the best quality gum is Astragalus gummifer or gummifera. The gum exudes naturally from the roots of the plant and from incisions made in the stem. This is collected and when dried forms crystals of flakes or may be formed into blocks. The plant is a member of the pea family of plants, Fabaceae, and produces pods like other members of the Leguminoseae family such as carob trees.
The shrub is pollinated by bees and butterflies and is a useful nitrogen-fixing plant. You may think you have never eaten gum Tragacanth, but the odds are that you have as it is a food additive known in the food industry as E 413. It is used as a thickening agent in sauces, ice cream and confectionary, and is also used in the cosmetics industry. It helps bind other ingredients together.
It is also used in the textile industry to thicken dyes for fabric, to make glue, for water colours and to produce the gloss in ink, among other uses including the manufacture of paper.
Externally the gum has been used in traditional medicine for dressing burns, and it is now believed that it might have anti-tumour properties, and could stimulate the immune system.
Here in Pakistan it is sold for use in cooling drinks, in crystal form, so to me it looks like mastica, another tree product. It is also said to help if you are constipated.
You have to soak a very small piece of the gum in a glass of water and it will swell and turn to a jelly-like substance which is transparent, so that the glass looks as though it is full of chunks of ice. Leave it to soak until it is very swollen (a couple of hours seems to do the trick) and then drink it with water, ice and lemon juice. This drink is as good as those which include tukh malanga (basil seeds) or sugar cane juice for cooling the body temperature in the heat of summer.
Gond Katira Drink
1 small piece of gond katira, or Tragacanth gum, soaked in water overnight
1 tbsp juice of fresh lemon, optional
1 glass water
1 tbsp sugar
When the crystals have swollen and turned gelatinous take one or two small fragments and mix in cold water with the sugar and lemon juice if using and add ice.
Drink while cool.
This has Taste and is a Treat.