After reading up on many native greens, the term ‘green leafy vegetables’ has taken on a whole new meaning. Living in a tropical country blessed with an abundance of plants, we are spoilt for choice.
However while we are okay with eating items like palak, cabbage, and Brussel’s sprouts because we’re familiar with them, other greens outside our comfort zones are met with disinterest and disdain.
“Are you trying to poison me?” is a common question, not to talk of the suspicious looks when I try to introduce local plants into the family meals.
My first thought on encountering a pomegranate leaf recipe was “How do I serve it in a manner that will interest my family?”
I had actually stumbled across this recipe a few years ago while leafing through Prema Srinivasan’s cookbook, Pure Vegetarian . The book offers a wealth of information on cooking techniques, utensils, what vegetarianism is all about and much more. For an enthusiastic home cook like me, it is indeed therapeutic reading.
Interestingly, the pomegranate is a plant that thrives with little care. It looks quite untamed with its spindly branches hanging in all directions with blobs of colour from its bright orange blossoms.
I had rarely paid attention to the leaves because I love the fruit. Since our pomegranate plants were of a decent size, it was time to try out the recipe that I had put on hold.
The leaves are a very dark green and don’t have any particular aroma or taste. So while it may not be a popular ingredient to cook with, the leaf extract is used often in Ayurvedic and natural medicines.
It is said to be beneficial in treating insomnia, jaundice, dysentery, thrush, rectal abnormalities and eczema.
It is commonly used as a tea and as a poultice to apply on specific areas. (Pomegranate leaf tea is available online)
The recipe was quite simple. After boiling the leaves in water, grind them to paste with shredded coconut, roasted dried red chillies, some aged tamarind and salt. Add a little water to get a smooth consistency.
The water used to cook the leaves is laden with anti-bacterial properties and can be used for the gravy. Adding it to the ground masala over low heat. After a quick boil and a slow simmer for a few minutes, temper with a spoonful of hot ghee.
I first made this for a vegan friend who loves to experiment with different foods while in India. While the flavours in this dish blended well and were quite tasty, the dull colour of the cooked kulambu is not very appetising.
But what it lacks in colour is more than made up in taste.
The next time I made this dish, I added some extra nutrients by including roasted cashew nuts in the ground paste. I followed this up with a ghee-roasted whole cashew nut tadka. This is one delicious gravy when served piping hot, even in summer !
Served on the side with a fresh coconut-tossed seeraga samba rice, it makes for a delicious summer meal. All you need is half a cup of pomegranate leaves. It’s definitely worth a try!