Some time back, I bought my year’s supply of shikakai. This is such a useful fruit: I use it to wash clothes (handwash only!), dishes, sanitary fittings, and my hair. I don’t know if it can be soaked and used whole, like reetha. I meant to try, but forgot and got the whole lot ground. Note to self, remember next time! I have a shikakai plant flourishing in a wild part of our farm (it’s very thorny and sprawls, so you don’t put it in a frequented place), and hopefully I will be able to harvest it next year.
Shikakai powder is terribly pungent; just a whiff can make your eyes water and precipitate a fit of coughing and sneezing. (When you meet some, it’s best to disarm it immediately by mixing it with water. It won’t dissolve, but will make a suspension.) For this reason, most mills won’t grind it for you. In our area, the nearest mill that has a dedicated shikakai grinder is in Denkanikottai, about 20 km away. So that’s where I went. Denkanikottai is the taluk headquarters, with a bustling market and bus terminus, several famous temples, and the registrar’s office where all kinds of things from weddings to land sales are registered. A fascinating place. And this mill, which is just off the main market place, is even more exciting because people come from far and wide to get their harvest of ragi and their masalas ground. All noses lead to Sri Krishna Flour Mill! It is also an oil mill, where you can take your coconuts, sesame, castor or whatever and return with the fresh-pressed oil. While I waited for my shikakai, I sneezed and took pictures. And here are the pictures; I will spare you the sneezes.