THE CHARMS OF TENDER MOOLI BHAJI!

GOA’S LEAFY GREENS AND TUBERS ARE IN A CLASS OF THEIR OWN! Here at Panaji’s early morning market from 7am to 8.30am I can’t take my eyes off the gavti mooli bhaji which comes with baby radish or more mature ivory white daikon, buy, buy! Also, lots of dill, fenugreek, spinach, quintessentially Goan greens like maskachi bhaji (drumstick leaves), vaalchi bhaji, koddukeachi bhaji/koddu bhaji…don’t see so much talkulelchi bhaji now that the monsoon months re over, but a friend of mine buys loves to buy the pinkish green stalks of tender mildly salty ankur greens for soup making. Also this is the time to buy Goan tubes ranging from the magenta sweet potatoes to a more intriguing variety of little ones to hairy ones to those called air potatoes because they dangle above ground on plant vines.

By Tara Narayan

NOVEMBER, December, January, February are winter months in Goa, tropical winter months of course. They can be balmily divine for watching films and socializing but this year although the akash neems are blooming over gloriously down the Campal promenade and elsewhere in Panaji I’m feeling a vacancy in my heart – no IFFI films to watch! I wait for IFFI films for some inspirational sunshine and will miss them sorely this year during my birthday month, damn these coronavirus pandemic.
But to stay with this November it is proving to be pretty hot and sultry this year. Although I’ve been taking a renewed interest and looking at the whole host of tender greens coming into the market. Thanks to local cultivation one sees quite a few interesting tender greens with the local farming Taleigao footpath vendors early morning and evening and these days I’ve been feasting my eyes on bundles of tender radish greens. These are the daikon radish greens which come attached to slim white or fatso ivory white radishes which the Japanese so love in their cuisine. There’s spinach, fenugreek but for some reason I can’t take my eyes of the exquisite charms of radish greens with these cute teeny weeny baby radishes attached at the root end. I also have a soft corner for the fern like delicate greens of dill (cubed boiled or steamed baby potato and chopped dill olive oil dressing with lemon juice laced curd).
Radish greens don’t come so silky smooth like say spinach or palak but the tender leaves are fine to do a whole host of things with. Call them mooli greens. I’ve been buying them at Rs15 and Rs20 a bunch and then fine chop them and use them in my morning breakfast omlet or masala oats porridge in lieu of say green coriander leaves or arugula lettuce or micro greens. Fine-chopped radish leaves lend a wee biting peppery flavor worth going fida over or to live for!
Make mooli greens paratha or pulao or yes, mooli greens pesto to use as a spread or to toss something in (steam cooked baby potatoes or sweet potato chunks – all kinds of Goan potatoes in the market these days with names like kannga, kate kannga, the usual magenta ones in fat wiry shape, zad kanga (airy potatoes!), karane, chirko/chirigem (very small nugget potatoes) and more, must do a study of tubers of Goa one of these days!
But forget tubers for mooli greens or do a combo sabzi with both. Mooli greens stay well in the fridge wrapped in a clean white cloth and I’ve taken such a shine to them. One may also see these bundles of mooli greens with the gauti vendors at the early morning Panaji pavement market if you go early enough between 7am and 9am. After a long time I’ve started dropping by at this market again when I go get my milk early morning from Amitabai, who sits under the grand mango tree next to the Caculo Mall. For some time now the area around her is so full of muck and fallen discarded lamp post hardware – the place needs a thorough clean-up.

I ASK Amitabai who sits here with her milk crates for two or three hours to complain but she says you do it for me! The CCP and PWD people are hopeless housekeepers for this presumably smart city of Panaji – anyone seen any smart city with a St Inez creek which is such a sordid gutter anywhere else in the developed, digitalized, smart world? Until local MLA Babush Monserrate restores and upgrades the historic St Inez Creek which is a foul gutter (mirror image of the CCP’s Panaji housekeeping priorities) Panaji will never be a smart city at least not in my eyes. I still hope to see a restored St Inez Creek before I close my eyes forever!

AND to return anew to tender mooli bhaji or radish greens, do look for them, the more mature leafy greens also come along with proper radishes attached and good for making mooli sabzi which goes with plain paratha spiked only with wee sea salt and ajwain or thymol seeds, if you want softer paratha add in tablespoon rice flour/gram flour and bind dough with buttermilk or curd! If only I weren’t so allergic to wheat and wheat products.
I keep looking for someone to do jowari or ragi roti for me but these are retailed in the local market and disappear as quickly…problem is only I love them and it doesn’t make sense to make them at home just for myself although I must learn to that. I’ve also taken to buying fresh tulsi leaves at the morning market, some vendors do keep them especially for the festive season rolling in regardless of whether you want to celebrate it or not. I can’t even keep track of celebrations these days although it’s back to business more and more out in the marketplace…still getting used to the need to hang on to precious money in case I don’t have any tomorrow.

(Sigh) If the sarkar is on a collection roll constantly you can be sure its people will have to keep tightening their belts all the time till they drop dead. How long are the misfortunes of kalayug going to hang around our necks like a millstone? With Covid-19 still lurking around and threatening us God alone knows it’s a good idea to tulsi leaves around and also tulsi pot – I add tulsi leaves when doing my first tea pot of the day, add it in buttermilk, salad, whatever. At one time I looked around for arugula or micro greens to liven up fixing a salad but now I’ve taken to chopped sweet basil or our very desi green leafed tulsi or the purplish one heavy with seed. Arugula, Italian sweet basil, migrogreens have become too expensive, tulsi is more economical as a herb with the most qualities and properties and abundantly available locally. Wish Panaji gardens would grow tulsi instead of these horribly huge dangerous plants which look like arrows, swords, knives!

BEFORE I wind up I think I should tell you something about the goodness of mooli greens and mooli. The long white radish is daikon (Rapahanus sativus) is a winter month favorite – can just grate mooli or mulo, squeeze out liquid and spice up to stuff in paratha. Serve with sumptuous raita with diced cucumber and pomegranate seeds in it, seasoned with roasted cumin powder and rock salt! Oh yes, radishes are chok-a-blok with vitamin A, C, E, B6, potassium and other mineral values. They offer a great immunity boost these coronavirus times.
To repeat, it is worth falling for green foods. Most green foods are health-enhancing because they come with a high concentration of chlorophyll, the green pigments that which support growth of plants. Did you know that the molecular structure of chlorophyll is remarkable similar to that of hemoglobin, the protein pigments that make our blood red? The difference being that hemoglobin has an iron atom at its center while chlorophyll has a magnesium atom. So eating your greens shouldn’t be just a passing fad. Eat greens daily. They come very high with antioxidants and anthocyanins which means good for the heart. Same as in artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, cucumbers, green peppers, onions, radishes, celery, carrots…there’s a catch, don’t overeat on them for they can be gaseous as all Brassicaceae family veggies can be.
Up in the morning turn into Baba Ramdev’s droll commentary from his ashram at Haridwar with a crowd of participants; baba, I can’t do all asana but some I can and some of the postures like pawanmuktasana, paschimottanasana, supta matsyendrasane and more, there’re six or seven asana which are very good for body flexibility and better digestion. The asana where you lie down and bring your legs up and fold knees close to your stomach – hugging your knees — I couldn’t do this one in the beginning but am now able to do it every morning. Works like magic to release morning trapped gas in a sluggish stomach! In fact, I cannot do better than advice you to catch the sessions of Baba Ramdev, he’s a great comfort more often than not in his endless fluid and hilarious commentary.

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