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Mint chutney is passé. Have you tried the Red Ant Chutney from Chhattisgarh?

The right chutney can make or break an Indian meal. Or any other meal for that matter (seriously, try a cheese sandwich with chili chutney and tell us we’re wrong).

While most Indian households restrict themselves to regular (and possibly safer) ingredients such as mint, tamarind and coconut preparations, a local tribe (Gond tribe) from Chhattisgarh are employing something a tad more unexpected as the base of their zingy chutney – red ants.

Also known as chapda ( literally meaning a leaf basket and refers to the nests the ants make out of the leaves of the Sargi or sal tree) chutney, this local condiment, along with chili and salt, also includes the eggs of these ants, that are found in abundance in the jungles of Bastar. And even though broccoli sounds a lot more appealing now, this relish packs a powerful health punch: red ants are rich sources of Vitamin B-12, protein, iron and calcium.

In fact, the sting of a red ant is often used to cure water-borne diseases such as malaria, and jaundice. This chutney is popularly consumed at the peak of summer when eye diseases are common as it is known to cure them as well.

 Photo Credits- Google

Photo Credits- Google

Interestingly, the Gond tribes are the only ones to consume this sharp, dry condiment. Some tribes in the Western Ghats of Malnad in Karnataka also use red fire ants and their larvae to make chili chutney. The ooze, especially of the swollen white larvae is sour, which lends the tangy flavor and bite to the relish.

The nests of these ants (built in mango, jamun and jackfruit trees) are harvested before sunrise, so many ants are collected together. They are then dry roasted along with their larvae and salt. This mix is then pounded, and blended with garlic and tiny bird’s eye chilies. It is eaten with hot akki ottis (rice rotis), a popular Malnad delicacy.