Odisha’s red ant chutney gets GI tag, all you need to know about this superfood | Travel

Insects have been consumed as a food source for centuries in communities worldwide. In Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, red weaver ants are used to make a chutney or a watery semi-solid paste known as “Kai Chutney.” This chutney is renowned in the region for its medicinal and nutritional properties. On January 2, 2024, this distinctive savoury chutney was awarded the geographical indication (GI) tag.

Red Ant Chutney or Kai Chutney of Odisha gets GI tag.(HT Photo/Raajessh Kashyap)

Red weaver ants, scientifically known as Oecophylla smaragdina, are notable for their extremely painful sting, capable of causing blisters on the skin. These ants are commonly found in the forests of Mayurbhanj, including the Similipal forests, which constitute Asia’s second-largest biosphere.

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Hundreds of tribal families in the district make a living by collecting and selling these insects and chutneys. The ants and their eggs are gathered from their nests and cleaned before being used. The chutney is made by grinding a mixture of salt, ginger, garlic, and chilies. Similar red ant chutneys can also be found in other eastern states such as Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.

In Odisha's Mayurbhanj district, red weaver ants are used to make a chutney or a watery semi-solid paste known as "Kai Chutney."(File Photo (Shutterstock))
In Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district, red weaver ants are used to make a chutney or a watery semi-solid paste known as “Kai Chutney.”(File Photo (Shutterstock))

In addition to its culinary appeal, red ant chutney is renowned for its potential health benefits. The chutney is believed to be a good source of nutrients like protein, calcium, zinc, vitamin B-12, iron, magnesium, potassium, etc. This unique chutney is also treasured for its role in the development of a healthy brain and nervous system, potentially aiding in the management of conditions like depression, fatigue, and memory loss.

Based on various research and studies, the integration of insects into our diets as a protein source has been proposed as a potential solution to environmental challenges. Insects could substitute traditional animal protein sources like cows, which are known for their significant emissions of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane. This approach has the capacity to mitigate environmental impact and foster a more sustainable food system.

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