Saturday, July 16, 2016

Solanum gilo

Solanum gilo

As children we have wondered how grown-ups could possibly eat bitter food. Despite pushing it away from our plates we were told that it was good for us. Decades ago, a small bowl of neem leaves fried in home made ghee and dal that accompanied rice made me think about bitter food in a different light. I don't remember the other accompaniments but this taste was what made me think that bitter was also good! I have recreated it many times. It is occasional, but if Mother Nature has her fair share of bitter foods, we might as well get the benefits of the medicinal properties present in such foods.
 
Another variety of solanum that is extremely bitter
According to an article titled Bitter Is Better by Dr. Andrew Weil that I read in The Huffington Post, this is what it says:- 


Bitter foods challenge the liver. They make it work and help it to remain healthy just as muscles challenged by exercise function better than the ones that atrophy from under-use. A liver frequently challenged by bitters can efficiently process the occasional sweet treat but inverting the bitter-sweet intake ratio leads to fatty liver disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes.

In most cultures bitter foods are part of the occasional diet.  Among all the bitter foods, this is one that I really like. Known as phanthao khimkhathai in my mother tongue, it has a milder taste and a little bit of sweetness that you usually get in fresh vegetables.The common bitter foods  that we consume are: bitter gourd (both fruit and leaves), neem leaves, leaves of the passion fruit vine, papaya flowers, the flowers of Phlogacanthus curviflorus (known as alusho bubar in my mother tongue).
Solanum gilo

This variety of solanum is one such vegetable.  Summer is when they flood our markets. My mother had kept this ripe fruit for me so that I could dry the seeds and sow them. Because of its colour, the ripe fruit looks deceptively delicious. Like a juicy red tomatillo. The two pictures below are from my mother's garden.
Solanum gilo
The right time to be picked
Solanum gilo
The ripening: golden before turning red
They taste best when they are still tender and the seeds are not mature. We usually have them added to dal or steam the tender ones. We also make khari on its own or added to other vegetables. The other day, for a change, I made a simple sabji that went very well with rice. It had the usual curry ingredients and was garnished with serrated coriander.
Solanum gilo

On other occasions this vegetable is usually cooked with fermented fish and thickening agents like rice flour or dal are used. The picture below shows one such dish that is thickened with rice flour.
Solanum gilo
Khari  is not photogenic!:)
I wonder what kind of bitter vegetables you like to cook with. It would be interesting to know the popularity and the availability in the regions you live in.:)
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