The Greens that we eat – part 1


Update for week ended 17 January 2014

 

Greens are good for you would be the standard one liner that all mothers would extol to their children. And children from all ages would toss the greens around on the plate – in the olden days on banana leaves with their fingers, and later on brass plates and now with spoons or forks on their “china” plates. And there are so many greens that an Indian is offered. The most popular of the greens is the easy growing and much cultivated spinach or paalak. It is most often cooked anc crushed to form a base in foods – like a sauce – perhaps to make it presentable and palatable to the young child who tossed the food around the plate. So it is served with chunks of melt in your mouth cottage cheese in winters, or with golden corn kernels, or plain potato dices in summers. The fact that the form of the leaves is not “seen” on the plate perhaps makes it easier for children to eat the paneer drenched in the spinach sauce. And in the state of the five rivers, the arrival of winter is also heralded by the ubiquitous mustard greens or “sarson da saag”, which is dished out with a corn bread and loads of homemade white butter. The strong taste of mustard and the not so mashed consistency is sometimes a put off, even in traditional Punjabi homes. The locals in Himachal and the Uttaranchal serve a similarly bitter green called bathua, which has
unusual nicknames in English, like pigweed, goosefeet or lamb quarters. The English names of this green or weed are enough to put me off it for a while! The slightly bitter fenugreek greens, methi, is another favourite across the country but mostly to flavour the food, so it is usually never presented on the table on its own. It is paired with a blander vegetable or meat or even flour to give its dish of the day- aloo methi, methi mutton or methi thepla. The amaranth is the second most popular greens that are consumed by Indians, perhaps because of its milder taste and soft texture. It is used to pepper the larger veggies like potatoes or onions or used in ‘dals’ to add that green effect. My favourite using this green leaf is the Keerai Molagootal, a dal preparation with coconut, cumin and red chillis. I once made this at my bachelor pad for a comfort food session on a Sunday and a flat-mate went nostalgic about how it tasted much like his mom’s cooking! Now Now, I had to control his emotions!
And if you go to the south of India or even to a market that sells south Indian traditional vegetables and you would get various variants to this green – the stem amaranth (thandu keerai), the only leaf version (aria keerai), the red leaf amaranth (sigappu keerai). And the red leaf amaranth is normally served as a yoghurt based sour kadhi in the south – as a Keerai Morukootan or Morukozhambu. The reddish colour is tempered with the white buttermilk and coconut, but slightly highlighted by the red chilli, mustard and fenugreek seed tempering.

 

The D Boyz had a week eating the Indian greens. So if on Monday and Tuesday, they just tossed it around on their plates, they enjoyed the spinach, amaranth and fenugreek based food during the rest of the week to take their SENSEX to an iron led growth close to an all time high, but a tad short at 21315, before retracing its steps as it saw the reddish toned dish served on Friday – which pushed the SENSEX down into its red zone for the week – to end at 21063. But overall, this was a week of gaining iron and good from the greens as the D Boyz brought up their SENSEX 305 points from last week’s end of 20758.

 

There are other greens that Indians eat, which are not of the weed variety. Like the pumpkin leaves during the rainy season, or the Malabar greens (a squishy thick waxy leaf of a climber), or the Moringa tree leaves used in Maharashtra and the Southern states during the rains, again. Are there other leaves that are eaten in India as also overseas like the cabbage and lettuce, which I resrve for another week’s posting. Till then, enjoy your greens and share your secret recipes with me. Who knows, I may also go nostalgic while eating them, just like my flatmate!

 

Have a good week ahead… Cheers……. And Happy Republic Day

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