The Eastern Himalayas is home to a variety of flora that is not found elsewhere. Sikkim, a part of this belt, is a treasure trove of biodiversity and is also home to some unique flowers. One of them is the much sought after Nakima.
Nakima is a seasonal flowering plant that has a short blooming period and belongs to the family of lilies. The plant itself is of 1-2 meters in height, and its leaves mimic the aspidistra or large cardamom leaves. The plant blooms between September and mid-November. The rhizomes that grow at the base give way to this incredible inflorescence which has a fleshy stem and bulbous stout flowers attached to each other in a conical form. The buds start off as light green and slowly develop a pinkish-purplish hue.
The flower is plucked before the buds open along with its long stem and are completely edible. Nakima is known to possess medicinal qualities like being a rich source of Vitamin C and helping in controlling diabetes among others. It is quite a delicacy among the locals in Sikkim, Bhutan, and Tibet who vouch for the fact that you will not like it the first time but later you will fall in love with it, though its bitter flavour is often an acquired taste. When I saw Nakima flowers for the first time, I mistook them for decorative blooms from the orchid family. I was in for a shock when my in-laws turned it into a stir-fry dish cooked with chicken offal. At first, the taste was very bitter, but towards the end, it had a pleasantly sweet aftertaste. And true to what the locals say, after two seasons of having Nakima, I have grown quite fond of it and look for it in the markets during the autumn months, just as the rainy season wanes here.
Nakima is known to possess medicinal qualities
It is not very well known and quite difficult to cultivate as it grows wild and requires a specific climate and temperature range. However, nowadays, due to an increase in demand, Nakima is being cultivated in many places. A nutrient-rich food, it is enjoyed by simply blanching the flowers and stir-frying it with onions and tomatoes and is a great accompaniment to meats such as chicken and pork.
This asparagus-like flower is definitely worth the try at least once on your trip to Sikkim. If you are here between September and October then do ask locals for a taste; you will not regret it.