12 Jan 2024

Red Ant Chutney Odisha: Red ants are notable for their painful stings but do you know how tribals collect them and what are health benefits of chutney?

Red weaver ants, known for their painful sting, take center stage in Odisha's Mayurbhanj district, where they are transformed into a unique chutney, locally called "Kai Chutney." Beyond the fiery flavor, this chutney boasts medicinal and nutritional properties, earning it the prestigious geographical indication (GI) tag on January 2, 2024.

Exploring Red Weaver Ants

Scientifically identified as Oecophylla smaragdina, these ants are notorious for their painful stings that can cause blisters. Despite their venomous nature, local tribes have been consuming these ants for centuries, even in their raw form. The method of collecting these ants and preparing the chutney has been passed down through generations.

Collection Process

Harvesting red weaver ants involves overcoming the challenge of male ants guarding the hives. The collector endures painful stings while extracting female ants and eggs from the nests. This arduous task is a way of life for hundreds of tribal families in Mayurbhanj, supplementing their income by selling these prized insects and their chutneys.

Chutney Preparation

The preparation of the chutney involves cleaning the collected ants, eggs, and larvae before grinding them with salt, ginger, garlic, and chilies. The resulting mixture is transformed into a paste, with some variations involving cooking for enhanced flavor. Typically served with ragi bread, this fiery chutney is not only a culinary delight but also a regional specialty.

Health Benefits

Beyond its unique taste, red ant chutney is celebrated for potential health benefits. Rich in protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, and potassium, it is believed to contribute to a healthy brain and nervous system. Locals consider it a remedy for various ailments, including cough, flu, breathing difficulties, colds, fatigue, and more.

Formic acid found in the ants and their eggs is known to combat bacteria in the digestive system. The chutney is also a source of optimal zinc, calcium, and protein, promoting overall immune system health. 

In light of environmental concerns, integrating insects into diets, including red ant chutney, is proposed as a sustainable alternative to traditional animal protein sources, offering potential solutions to environmental challenges.

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