locavore Food

Grin at those greens

Did you know that there is an Indian herb that can reportedly boost haemoglobin levels? I certainly didn’t. As a child, I was made to understand that this task was reserved for vegetables, fruits and leaves with a red hue; think beetroots and prunes. But on one of those unusual days when I was feeling particularly upbeat about including some greens in my diet, I stopped by at the local vegetable vendor to pick up laal saag (red leafy vegetable). As luck would have it, he was out of laal saag and said, “Saturday niye ashbo. Kulekhara o niye ashbo, (I will get it this Saturday along with kulekhara).” Wait a minute. What is kulekhara? As I alighted from the car to ask him more about this kulekhara, he told me, “It is a very common herb used to increase the blood in our body.” He meant haemoglobin, of course.

Intrigued, I hurried home, to google the same with various spellings before finally finding that kulekhara, kokilaaksha, taalmakhaanaa, neermulli, vayalculli, kolavanke or nerugobbi, as it is known in various languages, tastes like rocket leaves. While I was yet to lay my hands on my stash, I was already looking up ways to consume it. Although, my vendor had suggested a raw kulekhara shake, I wasn’t too keen. But it turns out the leaves are often used as a replacement for fresh methi and are also used to make fish curry. Now we’re talking.

The benefits of kulekhara are so popular that a company called Branolia Chemical Works from West Bengal has even come up with a product called Kulerron which is enriched with kulekhara.

Kulekhara’s botanical name is Hygrophila and it is also commonly known as swampweeds. This plant is common with those who love to create ayurvedic preparations for a meal.

Also known as bitter greens by some, these leaves are very popular with the tribes of Eastern and Northeastern India, where it is usually used either as a garnish or a vegetable by itself. Kulekhara is available until September, but one needs to know to identify it.

When I finally laid my hands on the herb, I saw that the plant has a nice leafy texture and is green throughout. The stalk, though, is slightly tough to be broken with hand.

To begin with, I tried brewing the leaves and drank the liquid as tea, as was suggested by an elderly acquaintance in Kolkata. On brewing, the leaves turned slightly pale, bleeding into the water. The water was tasteless but had a raw fragrance.

Hopefully, my haemoglobin levels are on their way up.

Oh, and according to old wives’ tales, when one consumes this herb, it should be done so continuously for 10 days.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 6:02:59 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/grin-at-those-greens/article19369901.ece

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