From our garden

Cashew

Few months ago, my son’s friend and his wife visited us. They are from North Karnataka. When they saw cashew trees and fruits, they were very amused. They said they had never seen it before and didn’t know where cashew grew. So I decided to write this post here. These trees are very common at our place.

Cashew(Anacardium occidentale) is called kaju in Konkani, geru hannu(fruit)/geru beeja(nut)/godambi in Kannada. Cashew grows in the tropical climate.

At our place, we have local variety and hybrid variety of cashews. The local variety trees grow very tall and live for a long time. But the yield is very low. Hybrid trees are very small and live 5-10 years, seeds are larger, yield is more and fetches more revenue. These hybrid varieties need more manure and insecticides. The taste of the fruit is almost same in both varieties.

The plants usually give fruits in summer. We find two colors of cashew fruit – red and yellow. The cashew nut is attached to the bottom of the fruit. As far as I know, this is the only fruit where the seed is outside the fruit. The fruit has a very strong aroma – many people don’t like this because of the strong smell. This can be consumed when it gets ripe. The fruit is usually consumed fresh. When eaten as it is, sometimes it causes itching in the throat. So people usually eat it with a little salt. This fruit is used in some dishes and also juice is made out of it. Because we do not like it’s strong smell, we do not cook it at home.

The ripe fruits are used in gas plants, that is used to make cooking gas. Our neighbors have gobar gas plant where they use these fruits abundantly in summer. In Goa, these fruits are used to make Fenny – an alcoholic drink.

When the fruits get ripe, they are removed from the tree and seeds are separated from them. These seeds are sundried atleast for 3 days and stored. These seeds are taken to factory where they are cut open and inner nut is removed. The outer shell of the seed has a very strong oil and creates blisters on the skin if touched. This is used to give a coating on the boats/house roof as insecticide. The inner nut is the one available readily in the market with or without a reddish skin. The one with the skin remains good for a long time.

In earlier days, we used to burn these seeds in fire, cut open them at home and with inner nuts make laddoos for Gokulashtami and Ganesh Chauti festivals. These laddoos have a very distinct aroma.

Another seasonal delicacy is tender cashew nuts. The tender seeds are cut open and nuts are sold. These tender nuts called bibbe in Konkani are loved by all. These are used in many dishes after removing the outer skin. These can also be consumed as it is after removing skin, they have a very distinct taste.

Palapanas (Ber Halasu) And Neerpanas (Neer Halasu)

These are two types of vegetables from our garden, both from Moraceae family(same family as jackfruit). These are two of the most popular vegetables used in everyday cooking, during season.

PS: Some people call the first one as Neerpanas or Jeev Kadagi. We had a big discussion about this before on this blog, I am using the names that we use at our place with descriptions of why we call them so. Please feel free to call them by the name you want, here the focus is about the culinary usage and not on the names again. Thanks for understanding.

Palapanas(Konkani) or Ber Halasu(Kannada) or Breadfruit – The reason we call it Ber/Beru(Kannada) or Pala(Konkani) – meaning root is, the new saplings of the tree come from roots of this tree. These fruits do not have any seeds in them. The outer skin does not have very sharp spikes. The leaves of this tree are slightly thinner and smaller than the other variety. The tree requires a lot of water to survive.

Discard the outer green layer and white portion in the center(which is clearly visible).

Neerpanas(Konkani) or Neer Halasu (Kannada) – We could not find the English name of this variety. This is not as common as the above variety. I was not aware of this variety before my marriage. Looks like this is prominent below ghats. The tree requires lot of water to survive. Unlike the above variety, these have many seeds. New plants grow from these seeds. The tree almost looks like breadfruit tree, but the leaves are slightly bigger and thicker. Unlike the breadfruit, they have spikes all over them.

When the seeds are tender, they can be used in any preparations, but when they get hard, they have to be discarded. Sometimes the seeds are peeled to remove the outer hard skin and then used in dishes. Neerpanas tastes a lot like tender jackfruit.

Neerpanas cannot be used in cooking when it ripens. We open the fruit and take out the seeds. The seeds are a delicacy liked by many. We normally roast them on open fire, take out the hard skin and eat them.

When you cut into a fresh palapanas or neerpanas, a white colored gum comes out of it. So usually while cutting them, we immerse them in water. Also some oil is applied to palms as well as knife.

Breadfruit/Palapanas can be used in – Breadfruit and peas sidedish (Otane randayi), Vegetable sidedish(dhoddak/huggi), Sprouted moong daal side dish ( Muga moLe randayi), Rava fry/phodi and many other dishes like dry sidedish(Talasani), chips etc, which I am going to post in future.

I will post the recipes with Neerpanas soon.

Peppercorns


Peppercorns are usually called as pepper in India. I mentioned this because people get confused when we refer to it as pepper in recipes. Scientific name of pepper is piper nigrum. They grow to a vine. The leaves look similar to betel leaf but slightly rough and not edible. We have 3-4 pepper plants in our garden which are twined against jackfruit trees.

Pepper is also called as Mareech in Sanskrit, Meeri in Marathi, Kaali mirchi in Hindi, Miriyalu in Telugu, Milagu in Tamil and Karimenasu or Menasinakaalu in Kannada, Miryakan in Konkani. It is popular as ‘black gold’ in international market. It is grown in wet and hot weather with heavy rains.

India is one of the main countries which grow pepper. It is collected from the plants (creepers) from December to March. Malayesia, Brazil, Indonesia, Sri Lanka,Thiland and Vietnam are the other nations which grow pepper. Pepper is liked by many because of its aroma and spicy taste. It contains a chemical called pepparine which gives spicy taste to the fruits. It is used extensively in Indian cuisine. It is also used for medicinal purpose.The fruit (grain ) is 2-4 mm in diameter. It is dark green in colour and becomes yellow and later red after ripening. It grows in bunches of 10 -15 cms length.

After collecting the pepper (green,yellow or red ) they are kept in water for 1 – 2 weeks.The outer skin becomes soft and could be removed easily by rubbing. This way we get white pepper which can be dried in hot sun and stored in containers. We get black pepper when the collected fruits are dried directly without soaking in water.

Medicinal Uses:
– We use pepper kashay to get rid of cold. We add pepper powder, turmeric powder and sugar to boiling milk and drink it to get relief from bad throat in cold before sleeping.
– Pepper powder is used with salt and ghee for getting rid of indigestion.
– Pepper kashay with ghee is used in Rheutism. (joint pain)
– Application of pepper helps to get rid of pimples.
– White pepper is used with hot water for patients suffering with constipation.
– Application of pepper helps in releiving pain from sprain.
– Pepper also helps in heart diseases and piles.

We use white/black pepper extensively in many dishes. I make a special kind of amla(gooseberry) pickle from unripe peppercorns. It is liked by all in our family. The distinct flavor of this pickle comes from the unripe, green peppers.

Nutmeg (Jaiphal)

jaiphal

We grow many things in our backyard – decorative plants, flower plants, vegetables, medicinal plants etc. This year when Shilpa visited us, she took pictures of as many different plants as possible. She asked me to write a little about each one. I thought of starting the series with nutmeg. We have a big nutmeg tree in our front yard.

Nutmeg is called Jaiphal in Konkani and jayikai in Kannada. It belongs to Myristica genus. It is a commercial plant. The fruits have nutritional as well as medicinal value. Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka mainly grow this crop. Greneda islands in America also grow Nutmeg. Read more about nutmeg at wiki.

Nutmeg has male and female trees. It was told in earlier days that one should grow both male and female trees to get the fruits. In our courtyard, there is only one tree – possibly female – which gives good yield. The tree needs a lot of water during summer(March to May). Few years back, we used to have water problem during summer because of which, we hardly used to get any fruits. We had considered removing this tree. But these days the condition has improved, so we get good crop.

Nutmeg looks like an arecanut/beatlenut fruit. The tree looks like the tree of kokum. It bears hundreds of fruits at a time.

When the fruit is tender, the mace(japatri) has white colour. After full ripening – usually in June or July, the fruit breaks open and the nutmeg inside covered with reddish mace(japatri) in the manner of net all around, appears. We pick them at this stage.

jaiphal1

We separate mace from nutmeg and sundry them separately.  The outer light colored shell is discarded (many people eat these, but we never ate them or used them in food). Thus we get two types of condiments in a single tree. The colour of mace remains red after sundrying. It looses its colour if it is over dried. The proper colour vanishes after storing for a long time. It is a cumbersome procedure to dry these nutmeg and mace as they ripen in rainy season and if they are not dried properly, they get spoiled. When the nutmeg is dried completely, we can hear a rattling sound when the fruit is shaken. While using in food, the outer black colored shell is broken to get the actual spice.


jaiphal2

Nutmeg and mace are valuable because of their oily contents which are rich in chemicals like myristic acid compounds. Mace contains more chemicals than nutmeg and hence it is costlier. Indonesian nutmegs contain about 9% chemicals while the rest contain 2 -3% chemicals.

Nutmeg and mace are used in many no vegetarian preparations, bakery products, chewing gums, sweet dishes and soups. It has got some medicinal value. Nutmeg is applied externally to remove pain and swelling.

Though nutmeg is an expensive spice to buy, we feel it is not a profitable tree for us. When it is sold, we get quite a low rate since shop keepers usually buy it in kilos and it is a very light spice. We usually give it away to relatives and friends. Only if we manage to save some and dry them well, we sell them.

Apart from being a very useful tree, we all have emotional attachment to this tree. When my children were kids, they loved to play under this tree. They loved to pick nutmeg and also loved to play with the shells. Everyone who comes to our home, asks about this tree because it is quite unusual for many. In June, July when it bears fruits, we get to see very beautiful (and unusual to our area) birds on this tree. I think they come there to eat the fruit. They take many fruits and sometimes we find the fruits even in our neighbors backyards.

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jaiphal4

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Jackfruit

Ever since I came back from India, I am trying my best to get adjusted back here. My feelings are also something similar to Sia’s. I am missing home terribly and have become very very lazy. So thats the reason I haven’t replied to any queries here or the mails. I am sorry about that.

While in India, I took pictures of seasonal fruits and flowers. So apart from traditional recipes, I am going to post them too. I am going to post them once in a week so that they make me feel good.

Coming to the fruit of the day. It is going to be jackfruit. There are two main varieties of jackfruit that are very popular at our place. Both of them look exactly same. Unless they are cut open, you cannot make out the difference (atleast a person like me can’t make out).

One of them is the kind where you cannot cut them open with knife. Check the picture below. We call it “tiLvo panas”. One should be very careful while eating these as they are very slippery and cause choking if not careful. My dad and I simply love this. Even the 90% of jackfruit lovers can’t stand this.

Second one we call as “kappo panas”. These are cut open with a knife. It looks like this picture. Here the pods are firmer and you don’t have the problem of choking.

Both kind of jackfruits have a kind of glue which oozes out when they are cut. So before handling them, a little oil (preferably coconut oil) is applied to hands and the knife. Cut this fruit on a paper/plastic to avoid mess.

Jackfruit trees bear many fruits during season. Like coconut, every part of the tree is very useful. Raw jackfruit is used in many dishes. When it gets ripe, the fleshy sweet pods are eaten. The seeds are saved and sun dried. These seeds are used to make many dishes. The leaves are used to make hittu/khotte.
The dried tree trunks are used to build houses.

More information about jackfruit from Jai and Bee.

Kokum

Garcinia Indica or Kokum(called ‘bhirnda‘ or ‘bhinda‘ in Konkani, ‘murugala hannu‘ in Kannada) can be called as one of the most used ingredient in Konkani cooking. Almost every household at our native and Goa has a Kokum tree. I was very lucky to go to India during kokum season this year. So I took the opportunity to take pictures of this beautiful fruit. The seeds of the fruit have a white colored fleshy coating on it. When the fruit becomes very ripe, its color changes to a bit transparent. The inside of the kokum fruit looks like following.

An average kokum tree bears hundreds of fruits during summer. When they are tender, they are green in color. As they ripen, they get the beautiful purple color. The fruits are plucked when they are ripe. The outer purple skin and the inner seeds are sun-dried separately. The skin, bhirnda sol, is used in cooking as a souring agent and the seeds are used to make bhirndel tel (kokum oil/butter).

I have got very fond memories of playing under this tree while growing up. My brother, I and few of our friends would go to our neighbor’s rice mill, which had a big backyard full of mango, cashew and kokum trees. We all would climb the tree or throw stones at the tree to pluck the ripe fruits. We would eat most of it there itself and carry few to home. Another memory which is linked with kokum is of spending summer holidays at my grandfather’s home in Sirsi. A person, whom everyone fondly called as ‘Adavi raja‘ (forest king) would come to sell these fruits. My grand parents would buy the fruit from him for us.

Our favorite way of enjoying the ripe fruit was to eat it with salt. Carefully take out the tiny cap of the fruit, which would leave a hole on the surface. Then with the help of a toothpick, push some salt crystals in the hole. Insert the toothpick in the hole and rotate it few times to mix the salt with the seeds of the fruit. Now suck the juices through the hole. Ahhh..its heaven. Only those who have actually tasted this can understand the sheer pleasure it gives. Once all the juices are done, break the skin into two and pop the seeds one by one in the mouth :). Discard the seeds. This was our favorite fruit to eat(only after mango) during summer vacations.

The most popular dish prepared with fresh kokum at our place is kokum kadi. A sweet, spicy and sour drink with a ingale(charcoal) or mustard seasoning. As kokum has cooling effects on the body, this is the perfect drink for hot summers.

Bottled/canned kokum syrup is available in many shops in Goa which acts as replacement for the fresh fruit to make the kadi. Another version that is very popular is sol kadi, prepared with fresh coconut milk.

The skin of the fruit – which is normally sold as ‘kokum’ is sun dried in large quantities to be used when the fresh kokum is not available.

Some salt crystals are added to the dried kokum, which acts as a preservative. As days pass, the dark purple skin turns black. When soaked in water for some time, the skin leaves beautiful purple color. This has many medicinal properties. The skin is soaked in water for sometime and the purple colored water is given to the patients suffering from ‘pitta‘.

Sometimes the fruit is mixed with sugar and sun dried. The juice that comes out of it is preserved to make kokum juice.

The seeds are sun dried to make kokum butter (bhirndel tel). The outer black shells of the seeds are peeled and the inner white colored seeds are chopped and ground into fine paste. Then they are cooked and dried to get the butter. The butter retains its solid shape at room temperature. When needed, it is held near a flame to melt it. This melted oil is applied to cracked heels and dried skin, which acts as a very effective moisturizer. Before we were introduced to different moisturizer brands, we used this as a moisturizer. Even now, we use it frequently for cracked heels.

Mistress of Spices – Teppal or Tirphal

This is my entry to “Mistress of spices” event hosted by Mythili.

Why did I select this least known spice?

When I read about this event, two things immediately came to my mind. The first was ‘Asafoetida’, the most famous spice used in most of the Konkani food. The second was Teppal, the most popular ‘Konkani spice’. Now, why am I calling it a ‘Konkani spice’? Because till today I haven’t seen anybody else using this spice. But after reading this and wiki, I came to know, its used in some other cuisines also. I thought I should write about this so that my Non-Konkani readers will get to know about this spice.
We get to see a lot Teppal trees at our native. The trees have very strong thorns. I still remember, when we were kids, we used to fill the fruits of green, fresh teppal into piston like cylinders called “Petnoli“. The piston is pushed to pop the teppal with a ‘phuut’ sound like a bullet. We used to aim it at each other like pistol, unlike any other fruit used in petnoli, teppal hurts more :D.

Mostly grown in : the states of Maharashtra and Karnataka in India.

Part of the plant : These are the fruits of the plant. The tree bears fruits in Monsoon. During this time, the fresh fruits are used for all the dishes. They are dried and stored for the use in other seasons. When dried, they open up and the black colored seeds can be seen. The seeds are discarded and only the outer layer of the fruit is stored.

Appearance : When they are fresh, the fruits are dark green in color. They dry to a dark brown color and split to reveal a creamy white interior.

Medicinal uses: A decoction of teppal is a good cure for dysentery. The spice is known for its anti flatulent properties. (I have picked this up from a book, but haven’t actually seen teppal being used for any medicinal uses).

Uses in kitchen : This is mostly used in Fish preparations and a few vegetarian dishes, with a coconut masala. This has a strong woody aroma, so it should not be ground with coconut (if it is ground by mistake, the dish gets a very strong and biting taste. The tongue starts tingling 😀 ). While using in gravy, these are slightly crushed in 1 tbl spn of water and added to masala. At the time of eating, teppal is not consumed and discarded.
Well, this is all the information I have about the teppal. If you know anything more than this, please feel free to leave a comment here and I will update this post.

Some recipes that make use of teppal are Pumpkin-peas masala(Dudde randayi)fish curry, fish sidedish, chutney,  ridgegourd gravy(gosale ambat), bhende sukke and many more.

Fresh teppal –

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After drying

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Seeds separated. Discard the seeds.

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Dry some more after removing the seeds.

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Seeds separated. Discard the seeds

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