Food

Manathakkali magic

Manathakkali fruits  

It never fails to amaze me how with the arrival of the monsoons, the parched, dry earth gets a coat of green, almost overnight.

The rains help the forgotten seeds to germinate and grow. The labour of the birds and the insects bears fruit. Among the myriad greens that come up, the varities of wild spinach or keerai as we know it in Tamil, abound.

The one I would like to mention is sukkuti keerai. It is also known as manathakkali. It’s many English names are ‘black night shade’, ‘sunberry’ and ‘wonder cherry’. The botanical name is Solanum nigrum. As I write this, the greens are growing lush and happy in a corner of the keerai patch in my garden.

The tiny berries turn from green to an inky black and the shiny coat glistens as if polished. These berries are rather bland. They hit neither the sweet nor the sour note. But what they lack in taste, they make up for in nutrition. Our family physician told me a story when I was a mere girl. A child, violently ill with ulcers, was nursed back to health by his loving grandmother. She fed him these leaves and berries every single day for four weeks and saved his life. I have seen these berries work wonders with people in my own family.

My only regret is that these fruits and leaves are difficult to source all year round. I make sure that we all eat a healthy quantity of it as often as possible, when they are available.

Breakfast this morning began with a cup full of these berries. It’s a taste that you will soon acquire.

We do love the poriyals and kozhambhus but the health benefits of eating them raw is immense.

The leaves are used for to make a yummy keerai poriyal and the green raw fruit is delicious in a gravy, flavoured with tamarind.

Recipe for sukkutti kai puli kozhambhu (from my home to yours)

Green sukkutti fruit - 2 cups

Small onion - a handful

Garlic - 5 cloves

Tamarind - a lemon sized ball soaked in half a cup of warm water

Chilli powder, turmeric powder, cumin powder and coriander powder - to taste.

Green chillies - 3

Curry leaves, mustard seeds for tempering

Water

Tomatoes - 2 chopped

Method

In a little oil in a pan, saute the sukkuti fruit for a few minutes and set aside. In another pan, add oil and temper with mustard seeds, green chillies (slit and deseeded) and curry leaves.

Add the small onions and garlic and cook for a while before adding the tomatoes. When everything turns pulpy, add the spice powders and sauté well, adding a sprinkling of water so that the spices do not burn.

Add the tamarind water and two more cups of water and let it come to a boil.

Reduce until required consistency.

Add salt and the cooked sukkuti fruit at the end.

Taste and adjust seasoning.

This recipe is an amalgamation of all bitter, sweet, sour and spicy flavours. We love to eat it with curd rice.

Sometimes we tend to overlook what is right in front of us. But it is always so rewarding to cook the foods that grow around us.

Read more on Shanthini’s website pink lemontreerecipes.com


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2021 12:43:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/Food/manathakkali-magic/article6360260.ece

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