Tribal Fare

I found that an early morning visit to the local subzi mandi during the beginning days of the monsoon can be revelatory.  For I came across an unknown leafy vegetable which I had never chanced upon in my life today.

The women, an adivasi, with a meagre fare of vegetables in a basket at Thane’s subzi mandi told me: It’s fodshi, we pick it from the Yeeor hills. Very tasty. You can prepare it like methi.

Wifey asked: How much?

We ended a bunch of three for Rs 20.Fodshi

Having never heard of it, I sent an image to my botanist friend, Dr. Ajit Gokhale and was told that the tribals call it kuli. Its botanical name is chlorophytum tuberosum but is generally confused with chlorophytum borivlianum, commonly known as safed musli.

According to edible chlorophytum is a herb found throughout the warmer regions of the world. The plant is about 20 cm tall, seen in gregarious clumps. Leaves are strap-shaped, 6-12, all arising from the base, 15-30 cm long. The plant blooms in June-July with the first showers of monsoon. Flowers are white, 2.5 cm across, with 6 elliptic petals. The centre of the flower has 6 erect stamens with yellow anthers. Edible Chlorophytum is also a famine food, its bulbs and leaves are eaten. Bulbs and leaves dried and pounded into flour for bread.

Writing in Ashwani Kumar, Prof Emeritus, former Head of the Department of Botany, and Director, Life Sciences, University of Rajasthan elaborates: “This is a genus of two hundred species and twelve are native to India. Organic-rich well drained sandy loamy soil and warm humid climate is suitable for its cultivation. Plants are propagated by seeds and by the division of rhizomes. Seeds remain dormant for nearly ten months. Germination of seeds takes two weeks and only about 20% of them germinate. Flowers are star-like white up to 2 cm across, sepals are acute, anthers are longer than filaments are green or yellow in colour, bracts are long. Seeds are black in colour with angular edges. The dry roots possess less than 5% moisture. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, root fibres, saponins and minerals. Dry roots of the plant constitute the drug and are used in powdered form. It is a well-known tonic and aphrodisiac and also used to treat general debility. Leaves of this plant are also eaten as a vegetable. The tubers of about 20 g are boiled with milk and taken twice a day for a month for  impotency and general weakness.”


Til Aa Gaya!

It’s that time of the year or will be in couple of days when we will welcome a seed to our homes: sesame seeds (til) . During Makar Sankranti we will share sweets made of sesame seeds among friends and relatives. For Makar Sankranti marks the arrival of Spring and auspicious harvest time. It is the day the Sun, embodying knowledge, wisdom and divinity, rotates the wheel of time entering into the northern hemisphere and moves into the zodiac Capricorn.
Sesame-ladoosA recent ad by Cadbury splashed all over Mumbai plays on “god god bola”. Originally in Marathi it’s “Til Gud Kha. God God Bola” (Meaning eat sweets made of sesame seeds and jaggery and exchange sweet notes).
I have always wondered why we are biased towards white sesame seeds knowing well that black sesame seeds have more healthy properties than its white cousin. May be because black sesame seeds are unhulled and have a bolder flavour and aroma. May be black sesame seeds are crispier with a more nutty and smoky flavour, while white sesame seeds are soft with a duller but sweet flavour. Black sesame seeds and white sesame seeds are similar in nutrition, although because black sesame seeds retain their hulls they are higher in calcium. Both seeds are a good source of zinc, riboflavin, niacin and thiamine, along with iron.
Dr.Savitha Suri, an ayurvedic Consultant Physician quoted in says sesame seeds have hot potency (ushna).
As a high-protein food source, sesame seeds are rich in several amino acids. They contain at least 10 percent DV of 10 important amino acids. Of these, the seeds are highest in cysteine, an amino acid responsible for breaking down environmental toxins in your body, which helps your system fight off colds and bronchial illness—associated with winter months. .
“Sesame normalizes vata and vitiates pitta and kapha. It has properties of “Yogavahi” . Yogavahi is a substance which has a quality of penetrating the deepest tissues. When sesame is processed with other herbs it normalizes all the three doshas. Hence this is used in diseases arising due to vitiation of vata. And it can also be used in diseases caused due to vitiation of tridoshas,” says Dr Suri.
Sesame seeds are bone builder (2 tablespoons meets 40 percent of the daily value for calcium, or 400 mg), blood builder ( 2 tbsp contains 3.6 mg of iron) and good for your heart ( 2tbsp contains 3 gm of fibre, meeting 18 percent of the daily value for fibre for a 2000-calorie diet).
Til aa gaya! Now you know why we celebrate with sesame seeds.

A Paen to Panicle

It has been nearly four months since I sowed my maiden paddy crop. And as it happens with newborns it has been taking my attention. Once I enter my farm I just rush to the paddy patch before inquiring with Mangal as how they are faring? The same was the story when I first planted the turmeric tubers which my farmer friend from Malegaon, Jitendra Kutmutia, had sent introducing me to the world of Curcuma longa.
pinacleLet me tell you the latest: my paddy has issued flowers. Yes, rice plants have flowers. They are not big or colourful but they are flowers nonetheless. Agreed they are more typically referred to by their scientific name – panicles – and they occur at the end of each tiller. Rice is mostly self-pollinating, which means that each rice plant can fertilise itself with its own pollen. Pollination of rice occurs by wind alone – no insects are involved.
Once the rice has been pollinated, the process of grain production begins and the panicles grow heavy with maturing rice grains (seeds). Another month I hope to see the mature rice grains.

Banana Puris Wow!

It was really a burden. Finishing a 10-dozen banana bunch within a week! How much could you eat? It would have been a royal treat if you were a gorilla! I ended up eating two to three ripe bananas every day post lunch. And still there were more. Gave it to my office peons, our housing society watchman…
Had Banana Shake and all that, and still there was a dozen sitting in our kitchen table and blackening slowly. Unable to see them get wasted and deposited in the dustbin next day, I suggested to wifey : why not make banana puris?
In the morning I was in for a surprise–banana puris (banana pancakes) served with coconut chutney for breakfast. I gorged on six of them. Wow they were really great. Reminds me last time I had them when I was a kid and Ma used to make them for evening snacks.
Do you have any idea what one could do with ripe bananas? Do send me some recipes.

Truth About Flavonoid

Akshay Kumar’s TVC on Brook Bond’s Red Label tea has thrown up a new word on public conscious: flavonoids. It tells that the tea (the Red Label variety) is a healthy drink because it contains flavonids.

That’s true. But not the whole truth.

Virtually all fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices contain flavonoids. Most fruits and berries contain these compounds, though blueberries, cranberries, bananas, oranges, and apples are known for being particularly flavonoid-rich. Vegetables, especially broccoli, onions, spinach, eggplant, and tomatoes, are excellent sources as well. Beer, red wine, various nuts and beans, and dark chocolate also contain flavonoids, as do a wide range of teas. They are also found in other types of food, including dry beans (where they give red beans, black beans, and speckled beans their color) and grains (where the colour provided by flavonoids is usually in the yellow family).

What are flavonoids?

Flavonoids, an amazing array of over 6,000 different substances found in virtually all plants, are responsible for many of the plant colours that dazzle us with their brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. A number of factors may affect the flavonoid content of foods, including agricultural practices, environmental factors, ripening, processing, storing, and cooking. It’s best to consume this nutrient directly from foods as part of a varied diet, rather than via a dietary supplement, as the effectiveness of isolated flavonoids is unclear. Cooking, processing, and high acidity environments all reduce the amount of flavonoids in foods.

Higher intakes of flavonoid-rich foods have been associated with reduced risk of chronic disease in some studies, but it is not known whether isolated flavonoid supplements or extracts will confer the same benefits as flavonoid-rich foods.

Over the past decade, scientists have become increasingly interested in the potential for various dietary flavonoids to explain some of the health benefits associated with fruit- and vegetable-rich diets.

Although higher intakes of flavonoid-rich foods are associated with reductions in cardiovascular disease risk, it is not yet known whether flavonoids themselves are cardioprotective. Despite promising results in animal studies, it is not clear whether high flavonoid intakes can help prevent cancer in humans.

So don’t be fooled by actor Akshay Kumar antics of taking tea while dancing,  pumping iron and bashing villains. You can get your dose of flavonoids from the humble spinach and the unloved baingan.

Sources:  Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University and others.