Pink yam is one of the few seasonal produce available here merely for a couple of weeks during Pongal festival every year. Generally we include a whole array of locally grown seasonal tubers & vegetables into the preparation of our traditional repast to celebrate this harvest festival. So I use a few pieces of pink yam for the festive meal, and save the remaining for preparing delicious kootu, kofta & fries later.
Moringa trees are the most common trees grown in almost every house here in South India. Despite the facts that moringa trees attract pests and they are so fragile that they can not withstand strong winds, we grow this tree mainly to enjoy the benefits of nutritious leaves, flowers & pods. Normally, we don’t allow the children to go near this tree as woolly caterpillars found on it may cause itchy skin hives when contact with their strands. Also it is a common phenomenon that branches of drumstick trees break apart and falling down during windy or rainy season.
Appalam making is a leading cottage industry prevalent in my maternal grandfather’s village. As a kid I was completely awestruck watching women & girls in our neighbourhood kneading mountainous dough, rolling appalam at lightning speed, and stacking dried appalam like a tower. Whenever I felt bored I used to run to one of those houses. I spent endless hours there watching them making appalam and enjoying their warmth & their food. During my mother’s recent visit there, they fondly remembered my childhood favorite appala-poo and prepared them along with appalam specially for me, even though they are not into this business currently.
Ridge gourd (Luffa acutangula/ peerkangai) is a native vegetable that grows plentifully around us in South India. Both the mildly-sweet flesh and the fibrous peel of ridge gourds are edible, so we prepare ridge gourd kichadi as a side for idli & dosa and ridge gourd kootu for rice using the flesh, and also prepare a chutney (dip) using the peel.
Black nightshadow (manathakali keerai) is one of the common plants grown in the kitchen gardens in Tamilnadu. Children like to take tiny red/ black berries and chew their leaves as they are useful to treat mouth ulcers. Manathakkali leaves are also useful for adults to treat stomach ulcers and to protect the liver. Still, people in rural TamilnaduIt use these greens to treat Hepatitis. We prepare keerai kootu in different ways: sometimes we prepare kootu with/ without coconut, or we prepare with/ without lentils. Here I have added spicy coconut paste and cooked green gram lentils (moong dal) for making manathakkali keerai kootu.