Saturday, January 22, 2011

January in shades of GREEN!

I have had greens on my mind since Dushera, when the first baby Methi and Undhiyu vegetables made their appearance at Mumbai’s markets. And a suggestion that my friend Vikram Doctor had made while we were at Terra Madre in Italy came to mind; a calendar based on seasonal produce. I was not able to do that, in time for 2011 but I have every intention of havimg one ready for 2012.

And January will be shades of green! January is still winter in India and it is the season of plenty; fields of ripening produce stretch endlessly before one’s eyes in the rural areas of India and with Sankrant, the time comes for the harvest to begin. And everywhere even in the city’s markets there is an abundance; cabbages gambol off little hillocks of themselves  verdant leafy vegetables; spinach, fenugreek, mustard, coriander all flirting with your eyes, tempting you to pick up bunches worth and take them home – no matter if you have no idea what to do with them.

What is interesting is that one sees the more mature versions of plants one saw earlier in the season. Where sweet, crunchy baby Methi was abundant in November and December, now there are large bunches of mature methi, where baby mooli (white radish) was available in December, one can now see mooli in different stages, from the little ones with larger crowns of greens to mediums ones with equal amounts of greens and fully grown slightly pungent ones with lesser leaves. And the fact that the moolis are at their height of seasonality is also apparent in the availability of Lila mogri, the pods of a kind of radish called Raphanus caudatus that has small roots but an abundance of these pods.

So I began taking pictures for my calendar, at markets around Mumbai; Matunga, Mahim, Grant Rd. And of course the Farmers Market at Bandra where you will find organic options for all of these seasonal winter greens that are irresistible including DELICIOUS beets with their greens (if you are lucky they might still be around this Sunday). Even the Hari Bhari Tokri, who initiated the Organic basket movement in Mumbai this season (but has had problems starting out due to the unseasonal rains) brought in fabulous mooli and palak week before last.

The final leg of my photo log happened last week when Saadia of the Bombay Times (from Times of India), joined me on a Masala meander of traditional winter foods for a story on the seasonal flavours of Gujarat, (you’ll find a link to it at the bottom of this post). And while I was taking her through the market, I realised I had to share this NOW. Because the last few week, there has been so much discussion about onions and food prices and all of that. But if you stand in a market anywhere in Mumbai, it is hard not to find SOMETHING that will fit your budget and palate. Things were expensive the last coupl of week but we still have a few weeks to savour all these delicious greens, and they are selling at Rs. 5 for a large bunch so go wild. (My husband is obviously telepathic sinch he has just walked in with to humungous bags of greens that he paid just Rs. 70 for. So I decided to do a photo feature here to document all the greens we have at the markets in the winter.

GYAN and links
Vikram Doctor's article on Leela Mogri or Rat Tail Radish. Read Saadia’s article on Seasonal flavours of Gujarat with Masala Meanders conducted in Bombay Times. 

For information on the Sunday Farmers Market go to their Facebook page. Please go, it is a joy to buy vegetables here. Soam’s winter festival of Paunk and Undhiyu ends on Monday so hurry and get your fix of traditional or steamed Undhiyu, and Paunk in a variety of preperations. And if the Drumstick soup is on the menu, don’t miss it, its delicious!(Soam, Sadguru Sadan, Opp Babulnath Temple, Chowpatty Mumbai 400007 . Tel 23698080)

Green Gram (popta, harabara, hara chana), fresh tender green gram is available in bunches and eaten as is out of the delicate green pod. Shelling the little pods to reveal the sweet treasure inside was a laborious, time-consuming and infinitely pleasurable task we looked forward to as kids. A squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of salt takes these tender sweet nuggets to new heights. You could roast the pods prior to shelling for a variation or dampen and microwave for 1 minute. Sometimes the pod might be roasted and peeled and eaten amidst a gossip session. Hold onto these tender morsels to enjoy later by freezing them. Shell, clean and seal into ziplock bags to freeze. They will keep for 2-3 months. Thaw as required and do not refreeze.
Januarys greens - Row 1 – Cauliflowers blooming, Snake Gourd (padwal, chachinda), Coriander (kothimbir, dhaniya, dhana bhaji, kothmir), Fenugreek (methi). Row 2 – Green Aubergines or Brinjals (hirvi vangi, baigun, leela ringna), Round White Gourd (doodhi, lauki), Long Beans (chawli), normal White gourd, Small White Radish (mooli). Row 3 – Smooth Gourd??? (turiya, tori), Cluster Beans (guvar, gvar phalli), Knol Khol (Naval kol, kandh mool, gaanth gobi, alkul), Spring onions (hirve/wale kande, hare pyaaz, leela kanda), Spinach (pala bhaji, palak), Amaranths (lal math, lal chaulai).   
Cluster Beans (guvar, gvar phalli) are slightly bitter, supposed to be good for diabetics, temper with ajwain and stir fry or cook with crushed peanuts. I love them in Sindhi Kadhi, Knol Khol (Naval kol, kandh mool, gaanth gobi, alkul) slice raw and toss with salt and lemon juice, add to salads or cook into stews and curries.
Round White Gourd softer, more velvety and only available in this season (doodhi, lauki). And Pods of Chawli that are cooked into vegetables with onions and tomatoes.
I was charmed to find tender green chawli, younger greener versions of the above. I used them to make a delicious spicy Thai long bean salad with thai chillies, crushed peanuts and fish sauce.
The Undhiyu Man! You know Undhiyu is in peak season when this gentleman sets up his stall sells EVERY single thing you could ask for in terms of the makings of Undhiyu including the surti kakdi that is often overlooked because it is not available. You can simply tell him you need the makings for 1 kg of Undhiyu and he will put it together!
Green garlic (hirvi lasun, hari lahsun, leeli lasan) and Surti kakdi for the Undhiyu.
Oodles of Green garlic is the predominant flavour in a classic Undhiyu, crushed or finely chopped with coriander and green chillies and mixed with grated fresh coconut it is used to stuff the vegetables as well as in the cooking. Its also freat stir fried in a little oil as an instant pickle. Finely chopped by itself or with other greens it is great to add to eggs, or make parathas with. Ground it makes an aromatic Pesto especially over pumpkin or potato Gnochchi. Tender green garlic pounded with salt and Gode (Mandua or Nachni) ki Roti topped with Danedar desi ghee and Theenche pyaaj ki subzi is a favourite winter time meal in Garhwal. To make the green garlic chutney break off the green portion of 1 bunch of garlic shoots and pound to a paste. Add 1 tbsp of salt, pound a little more and serve.
Indian Gooseberry, (Avle, Avla, Amla)
Rat Tail radish (Lal Mogri)
A spot of fiery red in a sea of cool greens Red Chillies (lal mirchi, lal mirch, lal marcha) usually stuffed and pickled.
Green Rat Tail radish(leeli mogri)
Go deeper into any market and you will find the less generic more local greens ...
Gongura (ambadi, ambat bhajji, ambat chuka)
This is a local green called Mayalu.

baby methi...
Big Methi
Orange English carrots and the redder, jucier, sweeter indiginous Indian carrots. (gajar)
Biggest Pumpkin I have ever seen (Bhopla, Kaddu, Kolu)
Paunk - Come the winter and, Paunk parties become Haute. Paunk is Vani Nu Jowar or jowar that is not allowed to grow fully into jowar, and as a result, remains soft and delicatesome like it roasted under smouldering ashes, husked and eaten raw and fresh. This is a speciality of Surat and is generally eaten during winter accompanied by pepper sev and sugar balls. Fresh Paunkh is fresh; it should exuce a milky secretion on being squeezed. These small jade colored lentil-like beans have a slightly sweet flavour and unassuming as they look, they are fairly heaty and should be consumed with a lot of thin chaas. There are many Paunkh buffs in Mumbai too and Paunkh parties are a favourite way to enjoy this seasonal delicacy. The current market rate for Paunk is Rs. 300/kg.
Ponk Bhel at Soam
One of the smiling farmers at the Bandra Farmers Market. Please note the basket he is holding contains the only picture of Beet greens I have. I have just missed clicking more somehow!
Shades of green at the Farmers Market!
My haul from the farmers market last week!
Fresh Dill (Shepu, Suva) chop and add to salads, especially yogurt and cucumber salad, or add to Mung dal.
Green Figs from Maharashtra.
Fresh Mint
And I forget what this one is called, I found it at Matunga market when I visited with Vikram.. I will find out and update.


Chetna said...

WENT TO THE FARMER'S MARKET after reading your blogpost. With a fussy 10 month old in my arms, could barely buy anything but the lil one enjoyed looking and touching the fresh veggies. Got some undhiyo which was being sold,to have for lunch (again ,inspired by your article in BT y'day)

Sunshinemom said...

I have been thinking of doing this for the whole of last year and take pics of vegetables in Thane. I am very hesitant when it comes to clicking pictures on the street, but I am really inspired seeing yours. A wonderful record of the vegetables that we get at this time.

Julian Khursigara said...

Thanks for the informativ post Rushina. Wondering if you know of any reliable "organic" fruit/veg merchants who deliver to the south? (Kemps Corner or Tardeo)

Looking forward to your updates dates for your next Masala Meanders. Particularly keen if you decide to conduct one revolving around Parsi food.

Thanks again ... Julian

Indian Home Maker said...

Starting in January is great because I am sure this is the best month of the year so far as green vegetables are concerned. Loved the pictures!

Anonymous said...

i miss bombay

luckyfatima said...

Gosh, gorgeous pics! We do get greens all year round where I live in Texas, but they don't have the richness in taste of Indian winter greens!

I love your blog!

Nandita said...

The last one is called chukkakura in Andhra (khatta palak)
Flooded with greens, the markets at these times of the year and we are loving it

i2cook said...

Informative post. I like the description and how to cook the veggies too....

Anonymous said...

The leaves maybe Brahmi leaves /ekpani . Brahmi leaves are the ones used to make hair oil.
Many people make chutney from the leaves

Chowder Singh said...

Super post. Informative!

Mira said...

wow! what a refreshing post! Thoroughly enjoyed the short subzi safari. The last one (fan like leaves) is called Brahmi. In matunga they call it 'vallarai' - tamizh name.