As modern cuisines evolve, ancient food gathering traditions make for a quick comeback. Foraging being one of these. The act of venturing into the wilderness in an attempt to gather food at no cost is termed as ‘foraging’. Something which our ancestors did to survive. Something which birds and animals do everyday. In our efforts to shake off unhealthy diets and sugar and sodium-soaked fast foods, foraging is gathering ample attention from fitness and wellness-conscious millennials. But how to forage? A billion dollar question that confronts city folks.
We recently undertook a journey into the coffee plantations of Sakleshpur, a pristine place 200 kms from IT city Bengaluru. Our key intent was to enjoy a weekend of tranquility and countryside bliss. But as we went trekking around the luxuriant coffee plantations and fruit orchards, we couldn’t help but notice the verdant green cassia tora plants which grow in abundance in the soil during the monsoons in Southern India.
Now the tora leaves are hailed for their antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties; and are believed to cure blood disorders, abdominal disorders and skin problems. Somewhat bitter in taste, only the tender leaves from the top branches are plucked and used in making fritters, chutneys, traditional dumplings and gravies. We bent down, squatted and exerted as little pressure as possible to pluck the tender light green tora leaves, gathered them in our woven baskets and brought them all the way home to be washed, chopped, mixed with spices, rice flour and chickpea flour, balled and fried into fritters!
Tips To Forage
Foraging happens with an open mind. The idea is to be in the lap of nature, widen horizons, learn about the multiple plants and fruits that grow outside.
Pluck only the leaves, berries or fruits. Avoid uprooting the entire plant. Exert as little pressure as possible to prevent the plant/shrub from wilting. Moreover, avoid emptying the entire orchard or bush of its produce. Leave on for other foragers and for the cattle that roam around.
It’s always better to forage with friends or under the guidance of someone who is well-acquainted with plants that grow in the region. Guidance from people ingrained in native foods helps to forage for the best and to avoid bitter or poisonous plants and weeds.
Wear comfortable clothing and footwear keeping in mind nature’s fauna that roam with wild abandon.
Give the foraged leaves, herbs or fruits and vegetables a thorough wash before eating.