We often overlook the invaluable herbs hiding in our backyard (if we really have a backyard!). There were times, when our land thrived on medicinal herbs endowed with rejuvenating powers. Our forefathers, who were wise enough, knew the magical powers of these herbs growing in the courtyards or homesteads unnoticed.
These leafy vegetables, which they named ‘pathila’, have an amazing effect on our health, especially if consumed during ‘Karkidakam’ season. They are priceless alternatives to the toxic vegetables we are forced to buy from the market these days. ‘Pathila’ (ten leafy vegetables) are highly affordable, and are very good for health and longevity.
During monsoon season, spanning from June to August, our body turns frail and delicate. It is also ideal time for mental and physical purgation and rejuvenation. You can strengthen your immune system and revitalize yourself by quantitative and qualitative improvement of minerals in the body.
In ancient times, our ancestors branded 'Karkidakam,' with its bleak days abounding in torrential showers, a lean season. Most often, the hoarded food items got used up before the season ended. Consequently, for sustenance, they had to recourse to the herbs that grew luxuriant in their homesteads. These leafy vegetables, abounding in anti-oxidants, mineral salts, vitamins, proteins and fiber, helped them revive their immune system. They improved their intestinal mobility for a flawless digestion, ensuring the expulsion of toxins accumulated in minerals in the body.
1. Thalu (wild coloccasia)
2. Tharakara (oval-shaped cassia)
3. Thazhuthama (spreading hogweed)
4. Chemb ila (small coloccasia leaves)
5. Payar ila (cowpea leaves)
6. Chena ila (elephant yam leaves)
7. Kumbalam ila (ash gourd leaves)
8. Mathan ila (pumpkin leaves)
9. Choriyanam ila (Indian stinging nettle leaves)
10. Mullan cheera (spiny amaranth)
11. Neyyunni (diplocyclos palmatus)
12. Koovalam ila (Ivy gourd leaves)
13. Vatta thakara (Senna Tora leaves)
Ideal for children
Nowadays, children often shy away from leafy vegetables, because they look at them as mere leaves. In fact, leafy vegetables are delicious to eat. Mothers can implement their tactics to lure the kids to eat the leaves, by preparing delicious dishes with them.
Poopalika, as mentioned in the ancient medical text Charaka Samhita, is such a thing. It is a pan cake prepared from the blend of fried chennellari flour, fluid extract of elicheviyan and powdered vizhalari, which is an effective remedy to fight hook worm. Fluid extracts of Karinochi (vitex negundo) and Karimkoovalam (Monochoria vaginalis) are also used in the preparation. If mothers can prepare yummy pan cakes with these leaves, kids would definitely try it out.
Fluid extracts of these leaves can be added with porridge for children. Blend the extracted essence of curry leaves, mutthil and spinach with muthari and wheat, and consume it with jaggery. Pour this porridge on a platter with ghee spread, and wait to see it cooling down into Halwa form. Add cashew nuts and dry grapes for better taste and elaichi for aroma.
Adding spinach in pakkavada is a delicious idea. Likewise, combined with onion, spinach can make omelette tastier and healthier. Add basil leaves in rasam and experience the difference. Here are a few more innovative blend options for healthy dining:
Cheerayila (spinach leaf) dosa
Thumbayila (Leucas aspera) thoran
Thulasi ila (basil leaf) chammanthi
Thulasi kurumulaku (basil leaf and pepper) rasam
Cheru naranga ila (lemon leaf) chammanthi
Adalodakathil mutta chikkiyathu (scrambled egg and Malabar nut blend)
Veli cheera pachadi, mulberry ila thoran
Mulberry ila pakkavada
Vazhuthana ila (brinjal leaf) thoran
Valan puli ila (tamarind leaf) chammanthi
Read: Learn how to make curry leaves chutney
Chena ila (yam leaf) porichathu
Plavila ilayathu (tender jack fruit leaf) thoran
Ulliyila (onion leaf) cutlet
Pava ila (bitter gourd leaf) pachadi
Thotaladi ila (touch me not leaf) chammanthi.
Healing powers of leafy vegetables
Leafy vegetables are not just delicious, but curative as well. Thalu (wild coloccasia), which we often discard as a junk, is a fine ingredient to prepare a range of foodstuffs. A great digestant, wild coloccasia abounds in calcium and phosphorous.
The reputation of Thakara (oval-shaped cassia) is not confined to ayurveda alone. It is a prominent component in Chinese therapy as well. Thakara is an effective remedy for ophthalmic diseases and skin disorders.
Thazhuthama (spreading hogweed) leaves are commonly used for culinary purposes during Karkidaka season. Replete with potassium nitrate, Thazhuthama is an excellent medication for urinary dysfunctions. It is also projected as an ideal remedy for biliary disorders, heart diseases and cough.
Endowed with blood purifying properties, Kumbalam ila (ash gourd leaves) is used to control hemorrhage. Regular intake of ash gourd leaves can enhance physical charm and brain power.
Mathan ila (Pumpkin stem), flower and pulp are edible. Leafy vegetables are rich in minerals and abounding in vitamin A and C.
Spinach, the foremost among them, has high iron content which makes it the best tonic for anemia.
Stem of Chena (elephant yam), along with its leaves, is used for curry. Elephant yam leaves, rich in fiber, calcium and phosphorus, can be cooked separately too.
Choriyanam (nettle leaves), even though itchy, are edible if well prepared. Tender leaves are ideal. Containing acids of various kinds, these leaves have curative powers; but use them prudently.
Neyyunni leaf resembles human palm with five fingers. Apart from leaves, its stem and fruit are edible, and have curative properties. Nevertheless, for some reason, Neyyunni is not included as a part of ‘Pathila’ in some regions.
Kizharnelli leaves (Phyllanthus Nururi) resemble Nelli leaves (gooseberry). In ayrurvedic system, Kizharnelli is used for therapeutic purposes, especially to treat jaundice.
Payar ila (Cow pea leaves) enhance digestion and stamina. It regulates body heat. Cow pea leaves, rich in protein, minerals, vitamin A and C, is also used to treat eye diseases, indigestion and liver inflammation.
Ponnankanni (a sort of spinach) leaves and stem are used in curries. An excellent remedy for urinary tract disorders, skin diseases, Ponnankanni leaves also oust hook worms.
Mullan cheera (spiny amaranth) is loaded with a bunch of therapeutic properties. Its leaves and stem can be cooked and eaten. Juice extracted from mullan cheera leaves is an ideal health tonic when taken empty stomach.
Thazhuthama leaves are remedial for jaundice, asthisravam and asthma. They are also effective against obesity.
Come, let’s prepare ‘Pathila’ curry!
Choose ten of these leaves to prepare ‘pathila’ curry. The leaves can vary from place to place in accordance with their availability. Don’t worry even if you can’t gather all the ten leaves. Doesn’t matter if you get only one. Clean the leaves thoroughly, and chop them finely. Blend the chopped leaves with crushed kanthari chilli (bird’s eye chilli) and water, and cook the mixture for sometime in a closed container. Add turmeric. Now, remove the lid and wait for it to cool down and coagulate. Sprinkle grated coconut and coconut oil over the blend, and serve.
(The author works at the District Ayurveda Hospital, Kalpetta)