Chonga, a vegetable known for its rarity, is predominantly found in the hilly areas of the region.
It is characterised by its profoundly bitter taste, often consumed alongside minced meat to balance its flavour.
Locals consider it a natural treasure for diabetic patients thanks to its unique properties.
A retired agriculture official, Mian Zaheerul Hassan, described it as a pulpy, succulent, self-rooting mountain plant with a taste akin to bitter gourd.
Chonga typically grows in mountainous regions, favouring shady spots under thorny bushes, rock crevices and thickets.
Unlike other plants, Chonga lacks leaves but features finger-like extensions with a rough, thorn-like surface.
Mature plants develop pods containing seeds surrounded by fine, cottony hairs that aid in seed growth.
Chonga, though bitter, plays a role in moderating blood sugar levels, making it a valuable resource for patients.
Additionally, its appetite-suppressing properties contribute to weight loss, making it a recommended dietary inclusion for those battling obesity.
The expert said that in old times, hunters often relied on chonga in mountainous regions to curb their appetite. The vegetable primarily consists of tubers, with branched structures and thorn-shaped leaves.
The stem, less than an inch thick, is the edible part.
The preparation for consumption involves peeling the stem, removing thorny leaves and boiling it before draining the water. The vegetable’s ingredients activate enzymes that help melt fat in the body, aiding rapid weight loss. Chonga is especially beneficial for diabetic patients by not only regulating blood sugar but also enhancing pancreatic function and mitigating related complications.
Chewing Chonga stems during hot weather reduces thirst. It also acts as a remedy for itch and pimples during the rainy season, purifying the blood and enhancing skin radiance.
Additionally, a decoction of chonga flowers offers notable benefits.
The self-seeding plant found in various hilly areas is now also being cultivated to ensure its continued production.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 26th2023.