Reintroducing uncultivated edible plants into our kitchens

Many of the indigenous plants we dismiss and destroy have deep roots within the nutrient-rich conventional diets of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Meet the individuals reviving them

Usha Soolapani found that in lots of locations in Kerala, the ponnanganni weed is relentlessly destroyed. Director of Agroecology and Food Security on the NGO, Thanal, she additionally knew that in Wayanad district in addition to many locations in Tamil Nadu, ponnanganni keerai (water amaranth) is a much-valued, leafy, kitchen inexperienced, utilized in salads, chutneys and curries.

With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing us to introspect on our selections as customers, it is a good time to look at what’s on our plate. Going to the grocery store has grow to be a hectic affair, so customers have been alternate options to acquire greens. Instead of shopping for what the market supplies, there was a spike in individuals turning to gardening and foraging for meals just like the water amaranth.

As the South-West monsoon paints Kerala with darkish skies, rain-lit days and verdant greenery, the banks of rivers, ponds and canals, muddy paths, nation roads and soggy partitions burst into life with a mess of plants. “That is when a variety of wild colocasia grows in abundance on banks. Its stem and leaves are used to make a variety of delicious curries all over Kerala,” explains Amalraj Rajsekharan, a resident of Alappuzha.

Amaranthus viridis’ colloquial identify in some locations in Kerala is ‘kuppa keera’  
| Photo Credit:
Kamal Pazhavoor

It is also the meals of the gods throughout this time of the yr. At the Marathoorvattam Sri Dhawantarimoorthy temple in Alappuzha, the prasadam given to devotees on the day of the brand new moon within the month of Karkitakam consists of rice and thalau chembu curry (product of the stalks and leaves of untamed colocasia). It can also be served on the brand new moon days within the months of Thulam (October-November) and Kumbham (January-February) within the Malayalam calendar.

However, Amalraj factors out that lots of the humble edibles that sprout wild through the monsoon have vanished from trendy kitchens on account of ignorance and urbanisation. “City folks may not been aware that the weeds they relentlessly destroy may also comprise nutrient-rich leafy greens. As cities grow bigger, the ecosystems that nourish such flora may slowly be getting destroyed,” he rues.

Read about it

To doc such seasonal uncultivated edibles, Thanal had completed a examine of them in Wayanad district and revealed a e-book Bhakshya Elachedikalum Nattuaruvukalum (Edible Leafy Plants and Native Knowledge) in 2010, which went into a reprint in 2015. About 40 to 50 uncultivated edible plants and leaves had been discovered rising on the slender ridges between paddy fields. “The Paniya tribe in Wayanad uses several such plants, some of which are dismissed as weeds in towns,” says Usha.

Know your greens

  • Leaves take up a number of heavy metals from the soil they’re grown in. Perhaps, through the monsoon, the metals within the soil are leached by the heavy rains. That might be a cause for consuming leaves through the monsoon.
  • For the identical causes, whereas making leaves a part of your eating regimen, it’s all the time greatest to seek out out the place they arrive from. Leafy greens grown in polluted soil or pesticide-filled soil can take up lots of the chemical compounds or metals current within the soil.

In the previous, an agrarian calendar determined what can be planted by which season. So seeds sown through the fag finish of summer time would sprout new leaves through the monsoon. “Moreover, there can be a shortage of greens through the season. So it made sense to have this custom of consuming leafy greens within the month of Karkitakam. In truth, until a couple of a long time in the past, custom demanded that no less than 10 sorts of leaves be consumed within the month. Tender leaves of pumpkin, legumes, yams and so forth can be turned into pachadi, erisherry, thoran and pulinkari,” says Usha.

Amalraj not solely cooks what’s in season for his household, but additionally data it for posterity on his YouTube channel ‘Nalan’s World’. “Each plant or its parts should be cooked in a particular way. I used to help my grandmother in the kitchen and that is how I learnt to cook. I want to ensure that these greens don’t vanish from our diets. So I began recording and uploading methods to cook these humble greens,” says the engineer-academic.

Omanchi is a personality in SK Pottecaud’s much-loved novel Oru Theruvinte Katha, who would forage for greens and return with a handful of leaves and plants day-after-day with which he would cook dinner his day by day meal. Kamal Pazhavoor, a resident of Thiruvananthapuram, is making an attempt to do the identical as of late.

Foraging custom

Talinum triangulare is known as sambar cheera or Ceylon cheera in parts of Kerala

Talinum triangulare is called sambar cheera or Ceylon cheera in elements of Kerala
| Photo Credit:
Kamal Pazhavoor

Kamal recollects that in his childhood, whereas rice was staple, the shock component was within the greens that used to rely upon the climate and the time of the yr. “My mother could never decide the menu for the next day because she would not know what was available until she went for a stroll in our backyard or neighbourhood. All that she had to do was collect the plants or its parts and know how to cook them. I hardly remember buying vegetables from the market,” says Kamal, who works within the social media cell of Kerala Police.

Kamal insists on introducing his kids to such foraged greens and greens of their neighborhood.

“Tender leaves and flowers of pumpkin, kuppa keera, leaves of candy potato… The number of edible leaves and tubers obtainable in Kerala is astonishing,” says Kamal.

Usha laments that filling up of paddy fields and altering ecosystems may result in the destruction of the biodiversity that sustains such uncultivated edibles. But she provides that in current days, many casual teams and people try to reintroduce these leaves into our kitchens.

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