This monsoon, clean your veggies right

This monsoon, clean your veggies right
Is it raining where you stay? It hasn’t as yet rained in Pune, which is where I live. It’s hot and humid in the day and difficult to venture out. And the prices of vegetables are soaring through the roof because of the so-called ‘monsoon’. Thank god, the government has decided to bring onions and potatoes under the Essential Commodities Act. Maybe now we will not have to see a repeat of last year when onions were at Rs 100 a kg!

An important aspect of eating healthy in the monsoon is cleaning of vegetables. Because of the rain, there is slush and mud everywhere. This gets on to the vegetables being transported, or even if the vendors are sitting on the ground selling their wares. Many vendors in my area sell fresh vegetables in this manner. Often, one can see mud flying from tire wheels on to the piles of produce. Of course, when it is items like carrots, potatoes and beetroot, we can peel off the outer layers. But what about others like cauliflower, cabbage, spinach and other such like vegetables? This mud gets inside the layers of the spinach, cabbage and even in the florets of the cauliflower, and if it is not cleaned well, you can be prey to a host of diseases.

Like what, you say? Well, waterborne diseases are transmitted easily this way. Amoebiasis or a stomach infection leading to diarrhea is a common complaint during the monsoons and one of the main ways to get this is through contaminated water. Consuming raw, muddy water, or water from a ditch or puddles on the road is a sure fire route to sickness. You can get roundworms or tapeworms as their larvae can be found in dirty water. Also, if there are residual bits of mud, say on carrots, or in the cauliflower florets, you leave yourself open to coming down with E. coli infections which could lead to death if not careful.

The best way to clean vegetables like cauliflowers are to break off the florets and place them in boiling hot water with turmeric. Greens like lettuce leaves, spinach, beet leaves, and cabbage among others should be individually washed under running water and then dipped in a solution of potassium permanganate. Lastly, lettuce leaves can be washed with another round of drinking water before consuming if the water used to clean them is not potable.

Here is a recipe from my book, contributed by actor Om Puri. Read how he too insists that you should clean your greens well.

Palak Raita (Spinach Yoghurt - 3 to 4 servings)

Ingredients: 300 gms palak (spinach), potassium permanganate solution to wash the spinach, ½ litre non-dairy yoghurt, salt to taste, ½ tsp sugar, ¼-1/3 cup non-dairy milk, 1 tsp roasted cumin powder, ½ tsp red chilli powder or to taste

Method: Pluck the spinach leaves and tender stems. Discard the tough stems. Wash the leaves and stems in potassium permanganate solution. Rinse them in several changes of water. Drain and chop the leaves finely. Transfer the spinach to a pan with 1 tbsp of water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil on high heat and continue to boil for about five minutes. Remove and drain. Wash with drinking quality water. Set aside to cool. Whisk the yogurt with the salt and sugar, till smooth. Add just enough milk to achieve the desired consistency and whisk, till well blended. Chop the spinach and add to the yogurt. Separate the leaves with a fork, so that they are well distributed in the yogurt. Stir in the cumin powder and chilli powder. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Serve with plain pulao or khichdi.

(The writer is a vegan chef and author of The Vegan Kitchen: Bollywood Style!)

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