The ubiquitous neem tree, Azhadirachta Indica (probably one of the few Latin names I remember from my Botany days) is oft ignored. The medicinal values of the leaves, twigs, oil and flowers are far too many to enumerate here. Suffice it to say that this is something we all need to incorporate into our daily lives. I vividly recall seeing many folks using the neem twig as a tooth brush when we, as kids, would go to the Kaveri for our morning swim and bath in Srirangam), as the neem oil from the twigs would promote oral health. My father (who will hit 100 in a few months) would eat the tender leaves of the neem, every morning when he went on his walk. I use neem oil as a mosquito repellent in my home and also as a pesticide on my plants. The use of neem leaves, known for its anti bacterial properties, especially for certain diseases, is well known in India.
The neem flowers are equally versatile in our cooking. Fortunately, I have a neem tree at home and I collect the neem flowers that bloom every March/April (just in time for Tamil New Year), dry them and use them in my cooking. The curd soaked, salted and sundried flowers are a favourite in our house. When deep fried in ghee and eaten with hot rice, it is indeed a taste and aroma that takes me back in time. Another personal favourite is of course the fried, salted neem flowers with curd rice. And the unsalted dried flowers when fried in ghee and garnished on rasam is nothing short of ambrosia…..