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March 31, 2012

When I hear the word Green - Part II


Green leafy vegetables are good source of minerals & vitamins. There are so many varities available and each has unique taste & flavour. 

Tamizh Nadu (southern state of India) is famous for the variety of leafy vegetables / spinach. The vendor used to bring nearly 15 varieties of them daily in her basket.  She calls their names so clearly without missing them...I wonder how they do that so efficiently !  I love leafy vegetable very much. 

Let me see how good I am remembering their name though I lost touch with the land of keerais for many years. For those who don't know tamizh, any leafy vegetable comes with a surname 'keerai' meaning 'greens'.
  1. Arai keerai
  2. Molai Keerai
  3. Siru Keerai
  4. Paruppu Keerai
  5. Vendhiya keerai  (Methi)
  6. Murungai Keerai
  7. Agathi Keerai
  8. Ponnanganni keerai
  9. Podi ponnanganni keerai
  10. Manathakkali keerai
  11. Pulippu keerai
  12. Aaraa keerai
  13. vallarai keerai
  14. Thoodhuvalai keerai
  15. Modaikathaan keerai
  16. pasalai keerai
  17. Paalak keerai
  18. Karisalangkannii keerai
  19. ceylon keerai (muyal kaadhelai)
  20. sevappu keerai (amranth)
  21. Thandu keerai
I loved the manithakkali, siru keerai and mola keerai very much.

When we went to an exibhition during my early school days, in a big screen they were showing some commercials and documentaries. One such documentary was about the spinach. To make people understand the importance of the greens the created a drama featuring a family ...I don't remember the story now exactly but only recollect a small girl who got her vision back saying "pachai keeraiyaal palichidum paarvai"/ பச்சைக் கீரையால் பளிச்சிடும் பார்வை (meaning : the greens improves the vision)

Apart from the above, there are certain leaves which grows in the kitchen that are used as a keerai like raddish leaves, carrot leaves, Beetroot leaves, the tender leaves of Ashgroud creeper, Pomegranate plant etc

During my childhood days, my mother used to tell lot of stories during dinner or at bed time. One such nayanar story impressed me a lot and I loved the way they treated their guests though they themselves were poor to earn even their single meal in a day.Yes, He is "Ilayankudi Mara Nayanar".

 Image courtesy : google search

"Ilayankudi mara nayanar was a wealthy man who donated his wealth by feeding the shiva devotess and the poor. He never said no to anyone. The god wanted Mara Nayanar's glory to shine in the world hence he slowly god shrunked his wealth. But Mara Nayanar borrowed & continued his service.

One night Lord Shiva in the disguise of a shiva devotee knocked at his door. It was raining very heavily with lightening & thunder. It was pitch dark outside. Nayanar opened the door, was felt so happy that he was given a chance to serve a shiva devotee. He called the devotee inside, gave him his only spare cloth to him to change his wet ones. Then the devotee said he was very hungry. So nayanar told his wife to prepare food for him. Unfortunately there was not a single rice grain or vegetable available at home that time because he had sowed the seeds in his filed only in the morning. For a farmer the grain seeds are so important that they will never use it for any other purpose other than sowing it for the next crop season. But our Mara Nayanar in that heavy thunderstorm rain & dark night started towards his field with a basket to rbing the rice grain home to feed the shiva devotee.

As it was raining heavily and dark outside, the field was filled with water upto knee deep. There were wells situated on the way to irrigate the fields. Those wells never had any covering or walls to prevent anyone falling into it. But with shiva's grace he was guided through the right path by the flash of lightening. Nayanar managed to collect the grains with the help of his towel and put them in the basket & set towards home.

In the meantime, Mara Nayanar's wife went to her kitchen garden & plucked the spinach leaves the plant of which were just emerged from the ground , washed, cleaned & started cooking it.

Nayanar gave the wet grains to his wife who removed the skin & cooked it. Both of them served a simple yet very very delicious food to the shiva devotee who came to their house in the odd hours of the night. Lord shiva was so pleased that he came out of his disguise, belssed nayanar and his wife with a wealth that equalled kubera."

The story had left such an impact on me that I love  enjoy a simple life and simple food. My mother too grew pomegranate plant, papaya, lemon tree, manithakkali keerai, ceylon keerai, bittergourd creeper and other plants in the little soil that was available near the kitchen. 

Those freshly plucked bittergourds tasted yummy than the store brought one. I am the one who jumped like a monkey to the sunshade and to the nearby areas where my foot hold, to harvest the produce for my mother whether it was a bitter gourd or the papaya on the tree. 

The leaves she plucked from the spinach plants were just a handful, which she cooked a simple dry dish for me and I enjoyed it so much because the fresh ones cooked with my mother's love tasted yummiest than any other dish in the world. I enjoyed it by mixing with white rice and enjoyed my food. that time, we both remembered only the mara nayanar life history and I pester my mother to narrate the story again and again.............

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