According to traditional Indian dietetics, we eat what is in season. The cereal-pulse aspect of the Indian diet stays fairly uniform around the country. Year-round, we eat a diet in which lentils and cereals provide the bulk of meals, their repetitive monotony is made exciting by with vegetables that provide taste, texture and flavour variants to daily meals, varying according to season. With the advent of the Monsoons our diet changes.
Circumvent the carrot, cauliflower, beans offerings of the supermarket and forage through your local subzi markets. You will discover an amazing variety of seasonal vegetables. Methi is one green that is available year-round. Gourds, cucumbers, squashes also abound. As do (thanks to their hardiness) tubers like yam or suran, tapioca and bulbs like onions and garlic. And then there are the greens that come into season during the monsoons. Some for just a few days, others for the entire season. These are eaten to keep digestion sound and health optimal. As I write, the last of the Phodsi, Takla, Shevlya, are being consumed and the first of the Moras Bhaji, spiky Teasel Gourd and Colocassia are coming in.
But for some of us who can go beyond the city, there is an even larger monsoon bounty waiting to be discovered. Right here in Maharashtra, just a little over 2 hours from Mumbai, lie the Sahyadris, where the local tribals subsist on a diet rich in foraged wild foods that come into season in the monsoons. Some of these such as the Takla, Phodshi and Shevlya even make it to Mumbai Markets from Arey and surrounding forest areas. In fact if you follow some of our local food experts like Saee and Soumitra, and chefs like Zach you might have seen a lot of conversations around these lately.
Foraging is a hot trend these days, thanks to Chefs like Rene Redzepi at Noma. Closer home, Chef Prateek Sadhu is doing some very interesting work in this space at Masque. But foraged foods have always been an integral part of global traditional food systems. I first clued into the huge repertoire of foraged foods in Maharashtra when Dr. Kurush Dalal wrote about Raanachya Bhajya (Forrest Greens or vegetables) them on his blog. And then I explored some more, realising that in India many regional cuisines supplement their diets with foraged foods. I know Garhwali cuisine uses many foraged foods such as wild figs, a fruit called Kaphal, stinging nettle, and fiddle head ferns. Similarly I know that the Assamese food Gitika Saikia cooks uses a lot of foraged foods like fiddlehead ferns, wild cardamom, ant eggs and silkworm larvae. Things not seen in the mainstream. And then, thanks to the passionate folks at Triple OOO I got a chance to actually learn about the wild foods of the Sahyadris.
|Wild versions of familiar veggies, |
Green Pumkin, Drumsticks, White gourd (Doodhi),
Cucumber, Onion, Sweet Potato, Eggplants, Okra, Bitter Gourd
|Pranav Khandelwal, Shailesh Awate and Abhay Bhatia|
of Triple OOO farms
Phodshi and Takla (Dont have a picture) – are available in Mumbai markets June - end September. Both are powerhouses of minerals, vitamins and natural anti-oxidants. They are valued for their medicinal qualities and the ability to keep monsoon-related illnesses at bay. In fact according to Shailesh of Triple OOO, “The Adivasis believe that these greens must be consumed when they appear after the first rains. They are considered cleansers, that acclimatize the body to the coming monsoon diet, and must be eaten as a precursor to all the other monsoon produce that will come as the season intensifies. Phodshi (safed musli, mulshi, or Karli), in particular has moist vegetal undertones, and a slight bitterness that lightens on cooking. I first discovered it when Saee used it to make Pakodas for #ChaiPakodaDay a couple of years ago. To prep the white bottom and central vein needs to be removed prior to cooking. The Aadivasis sauté it with wild garlic and onions into a subzi. It can also be eaten raw in salads or fried into pakodas. It’s also cooked with Karandi, (tiny fresh shrimp) and Sukhat (dried shrimp) or chana dal.
|Shevlya and Kakad, grow together|
and are cooked together.
(Pic courtesy the Velkars)
|Mahua Flowers - Fresh and dried|
|Unripe Mahua Fruit|
My story on Monsoons Bounty for Mumbai Mirror (featuring Jackfruit Seeds And Papaya Curry By Gitika Saikia, CKP Style Shevlya Kheema Bhaaji By Manju Velkar
|PP Prawn Curry made with Shevlya from Mumbai Curry|