Homegrown Zinnia Bouquet
On summer break. Will be back in August.
On summer break. Will be back in August.
We planted a small fig plant (Celeste) last March. It survived the unseasonably snowy winter last year and has grown into a healthy looking bush with plenty of branches. Thanks to the pleasant spring season we had this year.
The branches are filled with fruit now and I see at least 40 to 50 figs in various stages of development. They started to ripen since June last week. Everyday I would see 6 to 7 ripe figs for the past one week. I leave one or two ripe fruits for the birds, and pluck the remaining for us.
We are eating them raw right away, because these luscious ripe figs are tasty, delicate and juicy. They have soft skin that splits with ripeness emitting a fruity aroma and sweet honey like nectar. I had the pleasure of eating fresh figs at my grandparents home in Nandikotkur when I was little. But never thought it would be possible here. This happy occasion reminds me of our Yogi Vemana Padyalu recitals of childhood.
Vemana Padyalu by Precious Babygirl Naina.
I found these dried seema chintakaayalu at Canino Farmers Market, Houston. Here they are sold under the name Camachile fruits, shelled from the pods and partially dried.
In Nandyala, India, they were my childhood delicacy and we used to eat them fresh. They are readily available from trees lining the village fields and roads and on sale at the roadside stalls and public markets. The fresh, green pods ripen to pinkish red pods and that signals snack time not only for humans, but also for monkeys, parrots, and other creatures. The mature pods have whitish-pink flesh around shiny brown seeds and the soft flesh taste sweet and tart. We love this nutritious, nature’s snack and it’s a delight to find them here in Houston again after over a decade.
June started with warm weather and thunderstorms here in Houston.
Yellow squash and zucchini plants are in their final stage, so had to remove them. They were such characters with those big, prolific leaves, flowers and fruit. With them gone, the veggie patch seemed little empty this evening.
Planted few more seeds of turai, chikkudu and karela.
On green leafy front, sowed green and red amaranth (thotakura) seeds and another patch of gongura seeds last week. They thrive in hot weather and the seedlings are coming up nicely.
Kept few cucumbers on the vine until they are very big and mature for seeds.
Weighed the tomato harvest today. Yield was 10 pounds. Another 5 pounds from the last two weeks for a total of 15 pounds from 12 plants. There are still at least another two pounds of tomatoes on the plants. Not bad.
Tomato plants are growing tall, but there are no new flowers/fruit. Would it be helpful to prune the tomato plants to encourage new growth and fruit? Appreciate response from experienced tomato growers.
Here are some vegetable harvest photos for this week:
Home Garden Harvest for this Week:
28 tomatoes (Brandywine, Celebrity, Cherokee Purple)
16 okra (bendi)
8 brinjals (purple variety)
7 cucumbers (pickle variety)
4 yellow squash
1 turai (beerakaaya)
Bunch of ripe, red chillies
Last March, I planted some seeds expecting edible amaranth plants. But then came in abundance, pleasant looking plants with plump leaves and tiny yellow flowers. The leaves in size and shape resembled methi but they are much thicker. I couldn’t identify them for sure, so I called my amma(mom) and described the plant in detail. Amma said, “Indira, you have payala kura. It’s an old-time leafy vegetable, tasty and good for skin and eye health. Remember, payala kura pappu (dal), kura(curry) and chutney I make. You used to like it.”
Last time I had payala kura was at Nandyala, at my mom’s home, almost 15 years ago. So finding it here is definitely a delightful surprise. There is some very good information about this native to India plant, and could be found on Google search. Just type payala kura (Telugu) or Purslane (English). I also realized I had these greens growing all along in between the flower bushes. Here it was, a tiny plant, promising a wealth of health, but treated like a no-value weed. I wonder why sometimes we tend to overlook the best that is readily available and right in front of us.
Following my mom’s suggestion, I made traditional, Telugu vaari payala kura pappu today. Thanks to the sweet-sour taste of payala leaves, the dal came out wonderful, and it tasted better than spinach dal, almost as good as gongura dal.
Payala Pappu (Purslane Dal)
(for 2 or 4, for 2 to 1 meal)
¾ cup, Toor dal
2 cups, tightly packed – Fresh Payala (purslane) leaves and tender stems
1 onion or shallot – coarsely chopped, about a half cup
6 to 8, green chilli, Indian or Thai variety, chopped,
1 tablespoon, tamarind
¼ teaspoon, turmeric
Take toor dal in a pressure-cooker. Rinse well. Add the payala leaves, onion, chilli, tamarind and turmeric. Add about 2 cups of water. Mix. Pressure cook the ingredients to soft. Once all the valve pressure is released, remove the lid. Add half teaspoon of salt. With a wood masher or whisk, gently mix and mash the dal to smooth. You have made the purslane dal. Now the only thing left is, the final touch, the hing (asafetida, inguva) tadka.
For hing tadka: Heat a tablespoon of peanut oil in a vessel. When oil is hot, add a sprig of fresh curry leave, a pinch each- cumin, mustard seeds and hing. Constantly mixing, toast the ingredients to fragrance. Add the dal to this hing tadka. Mix well.
Serve the purslane dal with rice or roti with some curry or papad on the side for a traditional Telugu meal.
Payala Pappu with Kerala Matta Rice ~ for Meal Today
As the summer approaches, I see brinjals getting bigger and tomatoes slowly changing color from green to red shades. Tiny pequin peppers are also coming up a lot. They would make great tadka mirchi. My plan is to soak them in dahi(Indian yogurt) and sun-dry to prepare dahi mirchi.
Here is the vegetable count for this week.
7 yellow zucchini
1 green zucchini (I thought I planted only yellow)
9 cucumbers (pickle variety)
6 brinjals (purple variety)
15 okra (bendi)
8 cherry tomatoes and 1 big, ripe tomato (Cherokee Purple)
28 green chillies (bajji variety)
4 anaheim peppers
Bunch of chilli pequins (tiny tadka/talimpu mirchi)
Bunch of green beans
Do you know cucumber pickle recipes without vinegar? Any new ideas and recipes for the above vegetables? I would love to hear from you.
Lakshmi chinnamma, who lives in Hyderabad, India loves gardening as much as I do. She is an avid plant collector. I remember her growing sandalwood, parijaatham to name a few. She just started browsing my website and I know she would enjoy seeing beautiful gardenias from my garden. If I could only share their potent jasmine like fragrance as well…
Chinnaamma (Telugu) = Mother’s Younger Sister
It’s always a pleasurable surprise when vegetables start arriving in quantity – One minute I have single cucumber and four pea pods, next week a surplus. This is what I harvested yesterday. 7 Cucumbers, 4 Yellow Zucchinis, 1 Brinjal, 1 Green Bell Pepper, a bunch of green chillies, green beans and green peas. First major harvest of this season and what a joy!