Kharkol pata bata

10:00 PM

Isn’t it confusing that in monsoon when the plants start to sprout almost everywhere making the Earth look lush and green, is also the time when we are told to refrain from eating any sort of leafy greens? India's Monsoon eating philosophy is ingrained in the age-old practice of Ayurveda and backed up by many practices, folklores, and rituals. Which probably were developed to collectively fight deadly disease outbreaks that once were very common during the rainy seasons.

Ritucharya in Ayurveda is a practice of altering one's diet and lifestyle in each season.  It is supposed to balance all the three doshas (energetic principles) in the body and keeps one’s body and mind in perfect harmony. In Varsha ritu, pitta gets accumulated in the body, resulting in a dip in metabolism and digestion. At the same time, Vaata or the dosha responsible for the movement and nervous system in our body gets aggravated. Since leafy greens or anything that takes longer to get digested, provocate Vaata further, it is suggested to avoid such food at this time. What is prescribed rather are light, soupy, salty, and sour, easily digestible meals to keep the digestive fire going.

Many of us do not follow such practices but what we cannot negate is the logic behind it. Think of the monsoon in India and the heavy rainfall that most part experiences. Roads, grounds, and almost all open space get submerged in water, forcing all insects including the ones living in the grounds to come upon the surface and take shelter in the vines and shrubs growing along the ground. This also is the season when they breed. All these infect the greens making them harmful to the human body. It does not take the whole system long to attack the weakened immune system of the body and make it seriously ill.

Further to strengthen this practice there are stories in mythology. It is said that on the day after Ulto Rath (which is known as Ashad Ekadashi or Harishayani Ekadashi, 11th day of the Bengali month Ashad) after taking care of the universe for the whole year, tired Lord Vishnu falls asleep. He sleeps for four months (known as chaturmas/ four holy months ). To sleep the God chooses a bed of Kolmi lata or Waters pinach vine and as his pillows, he uses pointed gourd or Patol. It thus is believed that picking kolmi during these four months will disturb his sleep. No need to say that kolmi here represents most greens that grow along the ground during this time.

Whether we believe any of it or not what would not harm us is to be careful. Ayurveda always prescribes eating greens in a specific way. It needs to be lightly steamed first and then after discarding the water, it is to be sauteed in ghee or sesame oil. This sure makes the cellulose-rich leafy greens easy to digest.

Kharkol/ Ghetkul or Bengal Arum leaves

I personally love the monsoon greens especially the ones that grow uncultivated. With little care and proper cleaning they sure are a seasonal treat. Like this Kharkol/ ghatkol/ ghantkochu leaves  (Typhonian trilobatum) is a type of arum that grows wildly in the rainy season. 'The rhizome of this plant is traditionally prescribed for the treatment of skin eruption, gastric ulcer, asthma, headache, swelling, excessive expectoration, traumatic injury, lymph tuberculosis, chronic bronchitis, vomiting, cough, pyogenic sore throat, rheumatism, abscess, and snake-bite, diarrhea and dysentery, stimulant and menstrual troubles. Leaves and tubers are cooked as vegetables and given to the patient suffering from piles and rheumatism. (Read more HERE) 

Like any other arum variety, this also contains calcium oxalate crystals which causes a lot of itchiness. But that never had deterred the Bengalis to cook and consume it. They will steam the greens with something sour and will cook it in a spicy mash to start a monsoon meal with garom bhat (steamed rice).

Cooking it is very easy. Here is how maa taught me to cook it. She and I both are a little allergic to any sort of taro and yam products. So we prefer to discard the boiling water before proceeding further.

Kharkol Pata Bata

(serves 2)


Ingredients:

Kharkol pata: 10-12 pieces

Garlic: 4-5 cloves

Onion: ½ of a medium one

Nigella seeds: 1/3 tsp

Green chilly: 1

Dry red chilly: 1

Salt

Turmeric

Mustard oil: 1 tbsp

Method:

Separate the leaves from the stalk. The stalk generally is itchier. Have seen many people cook it in a charchari but have never tried it myself.

Wash the leaves very well to remove all the dirt especially from the back of the leaves. Boil it with little tamarind (1/2 tsp) for 4-5 minutes. Discard the water and let it cool down a bit.

In a heavy bottom kadhai dry roast the chilly and take out. Dry roast the garlic for 2-3 minutes until they are blistered and soft. Take out.

Then make a coarse paste of the leaves with half of that garlic, green chilly and a little salt.

 Heat the oil and temper it with the nigella seeds. Add the onion and after sauteing for a minute add in the leaf paste. Cook on low with salt and turmeric till the mash looks dry and start to release oil.

Mash the rest of the garlic and the dry roasted red chilly and mix it in just before taking it off the heat.

Serve with hot steamed rice.


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