All I had to do was harvest leaves and buds from my neighbour’s red shoe flower plant to cook a curry for lunch. No shopping or bargaining!
Thanks to E. Sajeev Kumar’s workshop, I was able to turn over a new leaf and cook locally-grown organic food for my family. And that is not all. If leaves of hibiscus have become a thoran, there is mezhukkupuratti made of the buds and pachadi and a dessert made of the flowers. I can also prepare pachadi and erusseri using the leaves of bitter gourd plant, while tender jackfruit leaves or tender banana leaves can be turned into a thoran. How about an omelette garnished with leaves of mukkutti?
All dishes are courtesy a cook book ( it is available only in Malayalam) compiled by Sajeev, which has recipes for cooking with different kinds of leaves. He turns leaves, many of which are considered inedible, into salads, curries and desserts.
A typical workshop that he conducts has him cooking lunch for participants. The participants pitch in to chop, cook and serve and then enjoy the feast.
At the end of a workshop organised by Sajeev at Santhigramam, Chappath, near Vizhinjam, there is rice, 11 sides and a payasam.
A leafy thoran has been made with leaves of shoe flower; pulinkari and potato curry have leaves of colocasia (chembu); kadala curry has generous portions of valli cheera or vashala cheera (Malabar spinach); a varutha erisseri and chammanthipodi have nilamuringa or vela; the payasam has been made with mukkutti.
Sajeev, a scientist with the K.R. Narayanan Centre for Biotechnology, Kottayam, believes that one must be in tune with nature to be healthy. Hailing from a family of Ayurveda physicians in Ponnani, Sajeev has been researching on medicinal properties of plants that are considered as weeds or discarded as inedible. “It is all about making food your medicine. I call it herbal dietetics. By incorporating these plants in our menu we can develop immunity against many ailments and lead a healthy life,” says Sajeev.