I love leafy greens. And why not. Leafy greens are the most nutrient dense food per calorie on the planet. They are alkaline and contain minerals (such as calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium etc.) and protein which are bio available to our body. This means all these are very easily absorbed in our body. Be it in juice, chutney, in salad or in sabzi, we have to find a way to get at least a handful of greens in every day.
Consuming leafy greens during the monsoons however, could be a scary idea since we hear the greens get dirty and contaminated, and are prone to having a lot of germs and bacteria on them. Besides, a lot of our staple leafy greens like spinach and methi are too delicate to survive the torrential Indian monsoon. They just rot and die, as did my mammoth basil pot that had till a month ago thriving in my balcony. My organic farmer friend Hemant from hideout farm confirms this.
Beware the palak and methi (which are actually winter greens) that you see at sabzi walas these days. They are probably force grown off season with a heavy doze of fertilisers pumped in to make them survive. I don’t like the sound of this at all!
Over the years I have investigated if there are really any leafy greens worth having during the monsoon or not. For if nature doesn’t provide them during this season, then there’s probably no need for us to have them in our diet either.
I have pleasantly surprised with what I found after speaking to several farmers at the farmers market and ‘gouti’ sabziwalas☺ There are a number of greens with their lovely flavours, packed with immunity building minerals, that we can totally have so much fun experimenting with. The fact that they survive the monsoon fury, means they really are resilient and therefore transfer the same qualities to us too! After all ‘we are what we eat’ right ?
I am listing my 6 top greens (along with ways to use them) this monsoon.
1. Sorrel, also known as pitwa in Hindi and Ambadi in Marathi – sour, tangy and totally versatile. Can be used to flavour salads, ground into a chutney with a bit of garlic thrown in, can be cooked into a sabzi and can even be juiced along with cucumber and long gourd ☺
2. Cow pea Leaf, locally known as Chawli patta, or hari maat is abundantly and easily available. Lovely to use in salads, lightly saute and sprinkle on chillas or dal. Last resort – cook it. Use grated coconut or peanuts for extra crunch.
3. Poi ( Malabar spinach ) is actually a creeper and has these fleshy green leaves and stems. Can be cooked as saag and combined with a variety of gourds (also available during monsoon) or starches, or simply added to dals. Search online and you’ll find quite a few interesting recipes for this.
4. Red Amaranth, also known locally as Lal Maat or lal bhaaji though technically not green, is a reddish leaf, now available through the year, but is originally grown during monsoon. Lovely to juice, to sprinkle on salads or cook as a sabzi !
5. Colocasia, popularly known as Arbi patta springs up bang in the middle of the monsoon. The Gujratis make a delicious steamed snack called patra with it, while the pahadis often use it to make a saag gravy. An absolute must have during the monsoon.
Nal bhaaji ( did not find what it is called in English) – steamed with garlic and a bit of salt, and voila, you have a simple interesting side dish. the picture I have added is of the backside of Nal bhaji bundles. I suspect it is going to be great to add into clear soups as the stems are hollow like a bamboo and will soak in the soup flavors and this is how I am going to try it the next time around.
If you run out of these greens try to add curry leaves or moringa leaves in the form of chutney or in smoothies. These leaves grow way above the ground, and are sure to be a safe bet during the monsoon!
Tip off : – Make a trip to your local farmer’s market and check out what the farmers are bringing in. Chat with them about how to use it, and do share how you found using leafy greens during the monsoon!