Hara chana, literally means green gram. A winter staple if you have grown up in Bihar like me. We would wait all year to snack on these crunchy, fresh chana. Nature makes them available in tiny little pods, which are a pain to open! But once you have cracked the puzzle, its a world of green goodness inside. My favourite to make with hara chana is a quick freestyle salad. I am also partial to hara chana being sautéed with green chillies and chopped red onions and eaten with chire bhaja. My Bihari friends however vowed about bharbhara, homemade hara chana fritters.
Peyaaj koli are those beautiful green onion flowers/buds you see all through winter in India. Chop them up and make a nice tarkari with it. Throw in some potatoes, maybe a handful of tiny shrimps too and you have cooked a winter storm, in a nice way. Or add them to your small fish curry. I however, am not a big fan of peyaaj koli. The flavour is quite intense if you like onions.
That guava was the solitary fruit in my Mum’s two-year-old guava tree back home. My Mum did not wait much longer to pluck the pyara from the tree. There was too much hullabaloo under the guava tree by squirrels, sparrows, crows and a certain crazy photographer from Canada. We shared one guava among five of us and ate it with beet noon, that potty-smelling salt! Guava is very good for digestion, in case you did not know.
Paan. Juicy betel leaves are stuffed with rich and luxurious spices and betel nuts to stain the lips and teeth of bonedi ladies and roadside Romeos alike. But my memories of paan always conjures up the image of my Mother’s Grandmother. She sat propped up on her bed, like a queen on her throne. Her silver betel-leaf box by her side. She would rest one arm on a paash balish, hold a paan leaf and dextrously dole out paan after paan with the other. Each paan treat was customized, depending on who she made it for. She never went to a dentist and lived till the ripe age of 95. Toothless by then, but still loved her paan.
Money plant. Every Indian home has it. Popular belief has it that the lusher your money plant is, the richer you will become. No one buys money plant in India. You always steal a stem when that soon-to-be-rich neighbour is not watching. You bring it home and grow it anywhere – vases, light bulbs, snaked on moss sticks, in a small pot by the washroom window. Or your workstation, just to get even with the boss.
Holy basil or tulsi. Just like the money plant, most Indian homes will have a little tulsi plant to worship or snip off to make that kaadhaa for cold. But unlike the money plant, no one steals a tulsi plant. You just walk up to your neighbour and ask for a sapling. Quite rightfully.