Cooking with lesser-known vegetables in monsoon
Ditch the regular vegetables that you usually get in the market this monsoon. Try these lesser-known varieties, which are making their presence felt in Indian kitchens.
The monsoon brings a bounty of the choicest vegetables and every region has its staples that are eaten in curries and fries. The rainy months are not just about easily available varieties like gourds, tubers, cucumbers and squashes. In several parts of the country, the local markets overflow with lesser-known monsoon specials such as leafy greens and jackfruit seeds. Here’s looking at how these unusual vegetables add flavour to regional Indian cuisine.
Bengalis take the succulent green stems of the colocasia leaves very seriously. Not your usual restaurant fare, kochu shak is used to cook an array of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes. Cooking the leaves is an elaborate process and one has to be very careful in cleaning and chopping it since they cause irritation. The best way to clean the leaves is to boil or simply squeeze lime juice over it. Despite the mandate against leafy vegetables during this season, in Bengal, kochu shaker ghonto (a semi-thick vegetable preparation) is a signature dish cooked without onion or garlic and seasoned with grated coconut. Another much loved monsoon speciality dish is kochu shak cooked with Hilsa (a staple fish in monsoon) head or medium-sized prawns.
This wild leafy vegetable is abundantly grown in coastal Karnataka. And unlike regular spinach, neither the leaves nor the stalk is tender. Tender leaves of taikulo or taikilo are plucked and used to make fritters, spicy chutneys and curries. In Mangalore, people prepare it as a stir fry dish (thoran/sukka bhaji).
Spiny on the outside and seedy on the inside, kantola or teasel gourd is a small, oval-shaped vegetable very similar to bitter gourd -- but milder in taste. A much-loved vegetable in Gujarat, it is used to make kantola nu shaak, a stir-fry dish made with sliced kantola, onion, garlic and spices. Serve it with roti or thepla.
Kothal guti or jackfruit seeds are a rainy season staple, especially in Assam, and star in traditional recipes. A must-try side dish is kothal guti pitika (mashed jackfruit seeds). In this dish, jackfruit seeds are first boiled and mashed to a coarse paste and then mixed with chopped onions, green chillies, salt and mustard oil to make a delicious dish. Another traditional alkaline-based preparation is khar, which uses water that is filtered through the ashes of burnt banana skin and then cooked with jackfruit seeds and tender pumpkin leaves.
Have you ever come across any regional vegetable this monsoon? What do you cook with it? Share in the comments section below.