If there’s one plant that most people would willingly keep at arm’s length, it’s the ubiquitous, itchy, ‘choriyanam’. Now imagine digging into ‘choriyanam thoran’ - like ‘beans thoran’ or ‘cabbage thoran’ - for lunch.
Before writing off the whole thing as a prickly proposition, lend an ear to Sajeevan Kavumkara from Kannur who lead a workshop on leafy vegetables at Vizhinjam at Thiruvananthapuram, the other day. “We treat ‘choriyanam’, or ‘kodithoova’, as a nuisance and destroy it. But it is quite edible and nutritious, as are many of the plants that grow wild,” said Sajeevan, who is a recipient of the Plant Genome Saviour Award instituted by the Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Authority under the Union Agriculture Ministry.
“It has been part of the traditional diet in many parts of Kerala and has medicinal properties too,” he said. Hailing from Kathiroor - made famous by the Kathiroor Gurukkal who took on Thacholi Othenan - Sajeevan led the ‘Ilayarivu’ workshop on leafy vegetables organised by the NGO Santhigram as part of the Arogya Swaraj Campaign.
According to Sajeevan, cooking ‘choriyanam’ or stinging nettle (botanical name Tragia involucrata) is similar to any other leafy vegetable.
“You don’t take the stem, only the leaves. Just make sure that you have coconut oil on your hands or wear gloves when plucking the leaves. You don’t have to do anything extra to take off the sting. Once cooked, it’s like any other leafy vegetable that you eat,” Sajeevan said.
Sajeevan’s audience also experimented with ‘choriyanam’ dishes at the workshop. “We cut the leaves using scissors and then chopped it like we do ‘cheera’ (amaranthus). The method of preparing the ‘thoran’ also is more or less the same,” says Suja, co-ordinator of the Natural Resources Management wing of Santhigram who tried out Sajeevan’s recipe.
In fact, ‘choriyanam’ was just one of the over 70 wild leafy species that Sajeevan introduced at the workshop. Sajeevan, who grows leafy vegetables on a one-acre plot back home, points out that growing leafy greens at home will save a lot on the budget.