A farm walk attempts to revive forgotten, seasonal greens

A weekend farm walk with Shruti Tharayil gets the conversation started on forgotten, seasonal and local greens

August 25, 2023 05:19 pm | Updated 05:19 pm IST

Karkidaka kanji and path-ila-thoran

Karkidaka kanji and path-ila-thoran | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Path-ila-thoran, a delicious dish cooked during Karkidakam, a month of limited sun and relentless rains in the Malayalam calendar during July-August in Kerala, and Oushada kanji or merunnu kanji, a rice porridge packed with health benefits awaits participants at the end of a wild food walk over the weekend. Shruti Tharayil, who organises wild food walks and workshops to familiarise people with forgotten greens, leads a nature walk at an organic farm in the city’s outskirts to explore wild edibles, their medicinal values, and also learn how to add them to our daily diet. “The path-ila-thoran combines cooked foraged greens (collected from the walk) and a generous amount of coconut and sometimes cooked lentils,” says Shruti adding that she started Forgotten Greens, an initiative that works on reviving the fast disappearing traditions of consuming uncultivated greens, on Facebook five years ago.

Shruti Tharayil

Shruti Tharayil | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Shruti used to think wild plants were inedible until she saw female farmers picking some to eat. “Weeds are considered poisonous but traditional agriculture accepts uncultivated plants as a significant part of the ecosystem,” she says. Intrigued by the nutritional properties of these plants, she started documenting them. “I learnt about local greens and their recipes from women in rural communities. I also started working with indigenous Adivasi communities, and cooking with them to understand the recipes. A large part of my work with forgotten greens is inspired by their way of life.”

People should get to know wild edibles that grow in their backyards, says Shruti adding that one doesn’t have to venture into a forest to forage wild greens. The most common wild edible found near most homes, especially in Tamil Nadu needs little introduction: Kuppaimeni, the Indian nettle herb that grows everywhere like a weed.

“This herb has peculiar medicinal benefits for the skin. You can make a paste out of it and apply on the skin to get relief from rashes and allergies. You can add it in dry powder form along with organic bath powder. It is also used to treat cold and cough.” Another lesser-known green is common purslane, also known as little hogweed that grows wild across the world on footpaths, and intertwined between tiles

Common Purslane

Common Purslane | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

While our ancestors foraged as hunters and food gatherers, their food knowledge and folklore was passed on to generations orally, and remained undocumented. “Along with greens, traditional knowledge and wisdom is forgotten now. The wild food walks attempts to revive this. Foraging is way for us to reconnect, reclaim, and experiment with uncultivated greens,” she says.

The farm walk is organised by Coimbatore-based Bio Basics, an organic store passionate about bringing diverse grains to families. Says Sreedevi Lakshmi Kutty, co-founder, “We are excited to host and collaborate with Shruti on this Coimbatore edition of wild food walk. Promoting agro diversity is close to our core purpose along with eating chemical free, organic, seasonal food.”

Sruthi, who has done foraging walks in Bengaluru, Chennai, Surat and Udaipur, says she recently spotted a stinging nettle herb that thrives in humid and moist conditions, especially in Kerala, during a walk in Bengaluru. She adds, “The world of plants keeps surprising you every single day.”

Visit @biobasicsin and @forgotten greens on Instagram to know more.

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