While growing up in a city the only greens I knew of were spinach and amranthus and sometimes if we get lucky then mooring leaves. I often enjoyed the green that my mother cooked along with dal and coconut milk. Not until I moved to Narsapur, a small town in Medak district of Telengana, for my work with grassroots organization, the world of uncultivated edible greens opened up for me. My first teacher was a middle aged Satyamma, who one day while taking a random stroll in a field looked at a “weed” growing and exclaimed “oh! The gangabai kura has started growing”. She then patiently picked a handful of leaves and cooked it for lunch the same day. As a city bred, modern educated cynic, I was initially scared to eat it. However, it was one of the tastiest green leafy vegetable that I had eaten till then. According to Satyamma, gangabai kura should be consumed in the summers as it keeps the body temperature cool. Another plant that she introduced me to was wood sorrel. She often told that the leaves can be added to dal or just make chutney. This was my initiation into the journey of discovering the wild edible plants.
Since the past one and a half years I have been living in another small town of Andhra Pradesh. My exploration of the various edible plants continues with the help of local women elders and the internet. Here is a small glimpse of the greens our ancestors identified and made sure that we can savour it.
Indian neetle, also called as Kuppameni in Tamil, is a no maintenance plant that grows wild. It is a medicinal plant which is used as herbal hair removal and also the paste of these leaves and turmeric is used to cure skin allergies. Kuppameni can also be cooked and consumed. I just add a handful of leaves in random curries that I cook. Its taste can dominate the curry, hence I often use less but cook it more often.
These leaves grow wild and have beautiful little purple flowers. The leaves of this plant are traditionally used to make pakodas. The leaf covered in the batter when put in hot boiling oil puffs up, making it look like a gol gappa. The bhajis can be great alternative to your chai and pakoda evenings during monsoon.
Common Leucas/ Thumba poo
Thumba poo has small beautiful white flowers and a highly medicinal plant. I usually pick a handful of the leaves and put it in different dishes like noodles, pasta that I prepare. It gives a different flavor to the dish.
False amranthus called as Chenchalli kura in Telugu is one of my favorite greens till date. This grows wild and has pretty purple flowers. You can make a nice sabji with this and have it with roti. It’s highly nutritional and tasty at the same time.
You can use every part of this plant. The leaves are used as pot herb, can be cooked into a sabji, stems are used as toothbrush, roots are used in making toothpowder. I have also made small tablets using the leaves, garlic and pepper for cold fever. An amazing plant that grows wild… you will see it growing on the roadsides.
Balloon vine or mudakathan keerai is this small leaved creeper that grows wild. You might have seen this as the balloon fruit it bears is not easy to miss. You can make a paste of the leaves with some garlic, chilies, coriander and mint leaves and add to your dosa batter. This gives a delicious taste to the dosa and it an amazing medicine for joint pains.
The list is endless. However I am writing about only a few as it will take me days to even compile all the knowledge into one blog entry.
Since the discovery of these edible weeds in my life, I have not looked back at buying spinach or amranthus from the market anymore. I make sure that at least one of the wild greens is part of my food on a daily basis and my list just keeps growing. Unfortunately these greens have become an exotic weed in our cities and there hardly remains any knowledge about them in the present and upcoming generations. I am myself constantly breaking my conditionings of looking at these plants and considering them “waste” or “poisonous”. There is so much beauty, minerals, nutrients and taste in these wild greens.
 Purslane leaves