Saturday, May 11, 2013

Vegetable Fern & A Simple Salad


We have vegetable vendors coming to our doorstep with the freshest veggies that they source from the outskirts of the city...from forests and the banks of streams. The beautiful green fern that's occupying most of the space in the basket is the Vegetable fern/Diplazium esculentum. In my mother tongue we call it Dauma-lai. Throughout summer this delicacy is a major part of our diet. The other vegetables in the picture are the stems of the colocasia and the ones wrapped in banana leaves are of the water spinach.

Vegetable fern is high in antioxidants and is found in India, south-east Asia, and Oceania. According to Wiki, it's probably the most commonly consumed fern in the world.

On another occasion, it's the water spinach that occupies more space in the basket. Banana flowers and stems from a variety of ginger (Alpinia nigra) are a part of the goodies. You must have noticed that leafy greens are wrapped in banana leaves or in another variety that resembles turmeric leaves, but they are much broader. I also keep my leafy greens in banana leaves so that they have a longer shelf life.
This fern goes into a lot of our dishes. It's fried on its own with a few cloves of crushed garlic, chopped chillies, and salt. The garnishing is done with thin slivers of fresh ginger. Potatoes can also be added to this vegetable. We also tear the fern into little pieces and add it to fish curry along with the regular spices that are used in fish curry. Traditionally, we Dimasas do not cut the fern, the leaves are torn till where it breaks off easily.

The taste of fried pork is enhanced by the addition of the vegetable fern. You can add it to both the fresh and the smoked varieties of meat. With salads there can be several variations. I'm including a recipe of the way I like it.


Vegetable Fern Salad

Ingredients:-

A generous bunch of vegetable fern
4 chillies, a mix of green and red
1 small onion, sliced fine
1 tablespoon of toasted and roughly crushed peanuts
1 teaspoon of lemon juice
Salt to taste
Freshly grated pepper
A bit of sugar

Method:-

  • Wash the ferns and break off the fronds till you come to the bottom part where it's hard and cannot be easily broken. Discard these parts.
  • Boil water and blanch the ferns for about two minutes. Take out with a slotted spoon and plunge them into chilled water. Remove and drain in a colander.
  • Roast the chillies on the gas flame till they are charred (just the skin) on all sides. Cool, remove the skin and chop into chunks. (We like to tear them rather than cut them. Goes with the look of the fern too.:)
  • Put all the ingredients in a bowl, including the veggies. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. You can add a bit more of the crushed peanuts as a garnish too.
This salad is a lovely accompaniment to rice, dal, and other accompaniments. When mangoes are in season, I like to add cubed mangoes (ripe, but slightly tart variety) to the salad. In that case you can leave out the lemon juice and simply add the juices that drip from the mango.

(I have used these pictures on one of my old blogs. Since I don't want long gaps between my posts, and since it's the season of these goodies,I'm using them here again).
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