Come winters, it’s stuffed parathas with mooli (radish) and cauliflower for breakfast, sarson ka saag with makke ki roti, palak paneer for lunch and rich gajar ka halwa for dessert….yummy fare, isn’t it? And when summer comes, can the melons and mangoes be far behind?
Why, all these are available through the year in the shops, you say? Perhaps granny has finally gone senile — is what you think, I am sure.
Well, not exactly. Till not too long ago vegetables and fruits were seasonal. We waited for them to come to the market in the designated season. And some vegetables and fruits were region specific. When we lived in Tamil Nadu for a few years during my teens, I used to crave for palak, but couldn’t find it because it was not grown there. Instead I ate the local greens which were not available in the northern states.
After all, nature knows what is best for the human body at any particular time of the year and in any particular region, and so she packs the nutrients needed in her produce. A simple example: winter vegetables are replete with vitamin C which is most needed to fight colds and other infections and summer produce have a lot of water content, much needed to counter the heat.
Imagine eating watermelon in winter! Or for that matter, eating the heat-producing sarson ka saag in summer. In fact, even during winters, the latter is supposed to be eaten with a lot of ghee to temper its heat. I remember my Punjabi neighbour telling me that the melted ghee was supposed to stand an inch over the saag in the bowl! Imagine eating such a heavy dish during summer!
Today there are means to genetically modify and create hybrid varieties of fruits and vegetables so that we can grow them anywhere and eat them all year round, but how much artifice can our body tolerate? No wonder we suffer from deficiencies. Malnutrition is not just for the very poor who can’t afford good food, but also those who can afford to buy anything at any time of the year in any part of the country/world.
Fortunately, some vegetables and fruits like lychees during summer and shingara (water chestnut) during winter refuse to grow all year round and disappear within a few weeks of appearance!
So then, how do we find out which vegetable belongs to a particular season? The easiest method is to ask some elder in the family, preferably grandmothers or women relatives. The other way is to go the weekly market and see which vegetable is flooding the place.
I will give a small list for you to go by. Add others specific to your regions:
Winter Season: Cauliflower, cabbage, capsicum, mustard leaves (sarson ka saag), spinach, fenugreek (methi), carrots, peas, beetroot, apple, orange, grapes, guavas, Indian gooseberry (ber), cherries.
Summer Season: Lady finger (bhindi), cucumber, tomato, onion, brinjal, all gourds like bitter gourd (karela), sponge and ridge gourd (turayi/tori), bottle gourd (lauki), water melon, mangoes, musk melon, lychees, oranges and grapes. Though onion and tomatoes are eaten all year round, their cooling effects are best during summer.
Monsoon Season: One can get both the vegetables and fruits of summer and winter, as it falls between the two, but pears, snake gourd and other gourds are specially monsoon crops.
In earlier days, we preserved vegetables and fruits for later consumption – not by freezing them but by turning them into preserves, pickles and dehydrating them by sun-drying. Freezing destroys most nutrients and when eaten off-season, have absolutely no nutritional value. Needless to say, these were used in very small quantities and dehydrated vegetables were either fried or soaked in hot water before being cooked.
The author is your regular neighborhood granny. Loves cooking, feeding her friends and family, telling tales and reading children’s books among others — on her Kindle. She is comfortable with people her age, older than her and of course all youngsters right down to infants. And oh, she is in tune with the times too. She has seen the telegram transform into Twitter and telephone into WhatsApp. You could call her Gadget Granny Seeta, if you like. She loves saying that the tip of her tongue is in the fingers on her keyboard!