Edible leaves of Kerala that are nutritious too. In addition to the cultivated varieties, we can find a lot of them, that grow naturally.
In Kerala, a state in India with a lot of biodiversity, leafy greens grow in abundance. Especially during the monsoon season that begins from mid June.
A lot of plants found in our backyards are really useful to us in many ways. We can use it either for making delicious healthy dishes, or as effective remedy for ailments. Leafy vegetables are unavoidable in the menu of people all over the world.
Benefits of including leaves in our diet.
- It is easily available anywhere at a low price.
- Anybody can grow these short term crops without much effort. Also we can harvest these plants within a period of two or three weeks.
- Adding moderate quantity of leaves in our daily diet, can reduce the risk of cardiac diseases, obesity, etc.
- Leafy greens are packed with lots of essential vitamins and minerals. Also they are low in calories, and the high fiber content can keep the body healthy.
- The antioxidants present in leafy vegetables can make a strong immune system.
- They are natural sources of dietary fiber, that can lower the rate of absorbing sugar.
- A regular intake of leafy greens can protect our skin from tanning, and keep the body hydrated longer.
- They are good sources of folate, that can increase the production of serotonin. For this reason, leafy greens play an important role in improving our mental health.
Edible leaves of Kerala for nutritious dishes
1. Spinach (Amaranthus)
No introduction is needed for spinach, the nutritious leafy vegetable familiar to people worldwide. We can find these plants commonly known as spinach ( Cheera in Malayalam ), in almost all places. But there may be slight variations in the species of plants, according to regions.
In Kerala, there are a lot of cultivated as well as wild varieties, that are nutritious. Also many of them are having medicinal properties. Surely we can use these plants, as effective remedy for common ailments
Red Spinach-edible leaves of Kerala for nutritious dishes
It is the most common variety, popular in Kerala and other South Indian states. Usually we cultivate red spinach on a large scale in paddy fields, after harvesting.
Certainly we can grow it in our kitchen garden, either directly in the soil or in pots.
You can read here the simple tips for growing red spinach from seeds.
Green spinach- one of the edible leaves of Kerala for nutritious dishes
Green spinach is equally nutritious, and we can make a lot of delicious dishes with it. Besides, we can grow many of them along with ornamental plants in our garden.
In sunny locations, these plants make ideal combination with a few bonsai trees.
For example, Amaranthus pink beauty, a variety with bright pink stems and green leaves, is really attractive.
2. Madhura cheera or Chekur manis (Sauropus androgynus)
This plant is also known as veli cheera ( veli means fencing). Because the fast growing shrub is used for making fences in rural areas. However the dishes made with the tender leaves of the plant, are really delicious.
Excess intake of the plant, may cause problems like respiratory discomfort, stomach upset etc.
3. Sambar cheera (Water leaf)
The succulent with fleshy stems and leaves, is commonly known as sambar cheera. Sambar is a delicious South Indian side dish for boiled rice or idli.
We can use the plant as such, or along with other vegetables for making dishes.
Kuppa cheera (Amaranthus viridis), mullan cheera (Amaranthus spinosus) etc. are also edible varieties.
Surprisingly, we can collect these nutritious leafy greens even from our backyards. Because they sprout abundantly during the monsoon season.
Jack fruit seeds, lentil seeds etc. make wonderful combinations for dishes with these plants.
4. Agathi cheera ( Sesbania grandiflora )
Normally, most of the spinach varieties are having soft stems and leaves. Whereas, chekur manis or madhura cheera is a shrub, that grows up to a maximum height of about two meters .
Agathi cheera, a tree that belongs to the spinach family, is very common in tropical places like Kerala.
The leaves as well as the flowers, are having incredible health benefits.
From ripe mature seeds, we can propagate the Agathi cheera plant.
5. Thazhuthama ( Boerhavia diffusa )
In Sanskrit, the name of the plant is punarnava, that means to rebuild. Definitely these plants can repair our damaged cells.
During the rainy season the plant sprouts in abundance, that we can collect afresh. Preferably during the Malayalam month karkidakom, which is the time for rejuvenation.
Also the water strained out after boiling the plant, is a best remedy for urinary tract infection.
Thazhuthama thoran, a delicious dish with the tender shoots of the plant is very popular.
6. Moringa ( Drumstick tree ) leaves
By consuming a handful of moringa leaves regularly, can keep away a lot of lifestyle diseases. Owing to the health benefits, it is popularly known as the miracle tree.
Besides leaves, almost all parts of the plant are used for the preparation of medicines. Mostly for ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, anemia, stomach disorders etc.
The plant can thrive in tropical climates, preferably without much caring. It is easy to propagate the plant from stem cuttings.
7. Cabbage- Edible leaves of Kerala for nutritious dishes
Certainly this leafy vegetable is familiar with people all over the world. The compactly packed foliage, and the unique shape of the plant is really awesome.
This winter crop is cultivated widely in Wayanad and Idukki districts of Kerala.
During the cooler months, we can grow this plant in our gardens. The saplings are available with most of the nurseries.
8. Micro greens-edible leaves of Kerala for nutritious dishes
We can definitely grow micro greens from common ingredients in our kitchens. For example, green gram, mustard seeds, fenugreek, etc. that grow well in tropical climates.
Sunny window sides, balconies etc. are ideal places to keep it.
Given above, are a few examples of leafy greens that are common in Kerala. Surely we can find a lot more, like the tender leaves of pumpkin, fleshy leaf stalk of the yam etc.
Certain types of leaves if taken in excess quantity may, cause minor stomach problems. Hence always try in smaller quantities, if you are new to a particular species.
Keeping the above in mind, try to include leafy greens in your diet whenever possible.