Grow veggie substitutes at home

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Grow veggie substitutes at home

Don’t soaring prices make you feel like growing your own vegetables or finding alternatives that are rich in nutrients and are easy to maintain? There are plenty of options, finds Rashmi Shrinivas

Many herbs that are found aplenty and generally neglected in cities as weeds, are, in fact, a rich source of vitamins and are used extensively in rural cuisine since generations. Numerous such herbs can easily be grown in whatever little gardening space available in cities.

One such plant, the Tagache soppu, is a small herb which is about 1 to 2 ft tall with compound leaves having three-four pairs of leaflets on each leaf. It bears a yellow flower and when not flowering, it can easily be identified by its leaflets that are narrow at the base and, broad and blunt at the tip. The herb with the botanical name Cassia tora, is known as Taykilo in Konkani, its tender leaves are part and parcel of the Malnad cuisine. It is eaten in the form of Tambuli and at times mixed with other Malnad vegetables like tender bamboo (Kalale in Kannada) to make tasty dishes. It also finds place in the preparation of the Masala vada where it is used as a substitute for Sabbasige soppu. Tagache soppu bears thin and long pods that remain on the plant even when they dry. Its seeds are used as a home remedy for loose motion. It commonly grows in vacant sites in the rainy season and propagation is either by seeds or young plants collected from its natural habitat.

A similar plant is the Yelvarige which is slightly larger, attaining a height of about 2-3 feet, and branches out laterally. This is a close cousin of Tagache soppu and is  of the same genus belonging to the same subfamily. This also bears similar yellow flowers, slightly larger in size, but its leaflets are pointed at the tip. Known as Harpuli in Konkani, this is also used in Malnad cuisine in the preparation of Tambuli as well as other dishes like vegetable fry (Upkari). This dish is as tasty as any other dish made of beans like Alsandi kayi. The plant is often seen growing in vacant sites and can easily be grown in pots either by seeds or tender plants collected from its natural habitat.

Ondelga (known as Mandooka parni or Brahmi in Sanskrit) is a known memory enhancer that grows in all vacant sites in the Western Ghats. Closer home, it also grows in the Nandi Hills. The plant that is consumed as chutney or Tambuli in the Malnad region can easily be identified by its single, reniform leaf emerging from a long stalk. In Konkani, it is known as Ekpanno and its botanical name is Centella asiatica. You can get this plant from your regular vegetable vendor and grow it as a ground cover, like a lawn.

Make sure you collect this plant with its roots intact when you visit Sringeri or the Nandi Hills next time and reap its full benefit by growing it in your own garden.

Have you tasted rat’s ear yet? Don’t be shocked, it is the name of another common herb found in Malnad. The Ilikivi (Mooshika karni in Sanskrit and Indra kan in Konkani) is used in the Malnad cuisine in the form of Tambuli. Hairy under the surface, its small triangular leaves are violet in colour and resemble the ear of a mouse and hence the name. Its botanical name is Ipomoea renifomis.

Another herb with medicinal properties is Manpatri, a small herb that resembles Chrysanthemum (Sevanthige in Kannada) leaves and is used in the form of Tambuli. Its juice along with that of a number of other medicinal herbs is administered to infants twice a week in rural areas to enhance their immunity against cold and cough. This also grows well in a container and can easily be grown in Bangalore.

Ganike soppu/Kake soppu, known as Chirputa pallo in Konkani can also be easily grown. It is called Mantakali keere in Tamil and its tender leaves are commonly used in the preparation of a side dish in Tamil Nadu. Its small green fruits attain a bluish colour when ripe and are a favourite among children. Its botanical name is Solanum nigrum. It can easily be grown in pots and when mixed with onion and tomato while cooking, its slightly bitter taste totally vanishes. This can easily be grown either from its ripe fruits or by young plants.

Savir sambar (Sambar balli or Doddapatre soppu) is generally known to most of us since its juice is used as a remedy against cold and cough. Its botanical name is Plectranthus amboinicus. Of late it is also being used in the preparation of pakodas. This can be propagated by mature cuttings and can be grown even in pots.

All these herbs are easy to grow and do not need much maintenance except regular watering. They grow in any kind of well-drained soil.Though most of them are pest resistant, of late even they are getting infected by white flies. But this can easily be controlled by spraying a mild soap solution mixed with a drop of neem oil.

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