A veggie that looks like a cross between a tiny brinjal stalk and a gigantic jasmine bud ! ‘How very unusual’ ,was my first thought when my friend Divya of foodshrink blog,sent me this pic ! I carried on with my day and soon forgot about this vegetable ,called Kaambhu kathirikkai. This was the name by which our local ,enterprising vegetable vendor Rajathi ,reffered to it as ! Hence ,that’s the name Divya and I went by ! It was only a few days later when she sent me some did my curiosity actually get piqued further !On trying to locate it on the world wide web , I was completely flummoxed on not find anything to go with this name. It was only after my article in the Hindu ,that so many folk came up with the various names for this tiny vegetable ! I cannot tell you how overwhelming it was to receive mails from people of all ages. An elderly gentleman had apparently eaten it as a young boy while growing up in Madurai and he was happy to have the chance to savour it again after all these years. After looking at the picture ,my friend Laju said they were known as clove beans in English and nithya vazhuthana in Malayalam. Lo and behold ,when I typed those names on Google,a whole new array of recipes and facts were revealed ! An aunt remembered it being sold as mukkuthi avarrai decades ago ! The enthusiasm that this article brought out from folks both known and unknown was very gratifying indeed !
It’s the best feeling to interact with people and gain a wealth of knowledge to pass on to the young ! When I first introduced my kitchen help and others to this ‘stalky’ veg,I pretended not to notice the stunned glances of disbelief and “has she finally lost it ?!?” expressions !!! Yep,this one little veg has led me on to have quite a few interesting experiences and conversations ! I will always be thankful to Divya for that !
The other thing that continues to amaze me is how Rajathi manages to find out about unusual vegetables that we no longer find easily in our markets. She gives credit to her mother who apparently only ate according to the season and dealt only in forgotten country produce. She is a hard worker with a broad beaming smile ,not just for me but for most passer bys. No scales for this street vendor. She prefers her well used ‘paddi’ to measure her wares. Rajathi was quite amused when I told her the English name. She said she preferred to stick to calling it ‘kaambhu kathirrika’ as that’s how it was known in the farms and villages . This cheerful lady has a few farmers who grow her requests on a small portion of their lands,in and around Coimbatore. She is sure that she will never deviate from this practice and has no interest ,at the moment in selling other produce ! She has been an inspiration to me with regard to maintaining self worth by showing pride in her work and belief in her knowledge. With the hope that she will always remain thus,she has found in me ,a faithful customer !
It takes a bit of getting used to ,to deftly remove the bud without damaging the sepals of the stalk. It looks pretty when cooked whole like that ! It keeps quite well for about 5 days in the refrigerator. Clean it when time permits and store. Then you can use it as and when required in various recipes. I also substituted these for brinjal in a brinjal rice and they were just as yummy. By the end of January , I want to explore as many recipes as possible with these clove beans !
At first as Rajathi suggested ,we did try out a puzhi kozhambhu with the stalks. It was absolutely delicious and the whole family loved it. The stalks cook down to an almost buttery consistency ,like a tender baby brinjal. It does not have the slight bitterness that sometimes brinjals have. It was absolutely perfect. Since it was seasonal ,locally grown and very tasty ,we decided to experiment with it a little more.That’s how the recipe for clove beans with potato came about and it has become a favourite on our week day lunch menu !We will definitely miss this veggie when it’s not in season ! I do hope you have enjoyed reading this post as much as I have writing it ! Please leave a comment ,even a smiley to show you’ve stopped by and would like to visit again ! Ta !!!