Growing up in a sleepy village in North Goa, my memories of June are studded with teary goodbyes to cousins at the end of summer vacations, and walking into fresh classrooms as school reopened for the new session. The monsoon would arrive around this time. At first, welcoming showers, and soon a downpour that had us drenched in minutes, no matter what newfangled variety of Duckback raincoat our parents bought us. Even the special Sandak footwear meant for rainy days would squish on the grass, splashing muck all over the back of our skirts.
We’d watch the monsoon clouds gather, watch the rain pour ceaselessly and take over our playtime, and flood the playground forcing us to make up new games that required less agility but promised more fun. Then there was the forced indoor time. On days when the downpour got particularly heavy, we spent time counting the seconds between the time lightning struck and thunder rolled in, to arrive at a primitive calculation of how far the sound was likely to travel.
In the brief interlude when an overcast sky cleared and the sun shone brightly on what had seemed like endless dull afternoons, we would bolt out like pellets out of a slingshot, to inspect the damage the showers had caused our playground or the nest in the bush with three tiny eggs. Everything around was covered in a carpet of green. Green, slimy algae gathered on slopes where the rainwater ran down, new weeds and plants grew in open spaces and were plucked to make cutlets and curries, so were ferns, mushrooms, and shoots of plants.
As children, it was often our task to scout for these monsoon greens. Identifying where the best place to start plucking the greens from, know the edible from the inedible, befriend the tendrils and shoots so we knew when they were ready to be plucked. One of the greens that I remember plucking for several evening rounds of pakoras was Taikilo. Quite a favourite with Konkanis who live along the coast, Taikilo, cassia tora in English, grows abundantly along the coast in the monsoons, sprouting along hill slopes and plains. It is considered a wild weed, and also known to have several health benefits, according to octogenarian Aparna Sirur, who has documented the plant life along the coast of Karnataka and Goa.
Much like the other monsoon favourite, onion pakoras, the ovate leaves and flowers of the Taikilo plant are plucked, washed, chopped and mixed with a few spices and gram flour and fried. You can have these bhajiyas as it is, or as an accompaniment with other delicious Goan dishes. You can grind them to make a chutney or a curry like the cooling Tambli. The seed powder decoction is used in a healthy brew or Kashaya that improves immunity in the monsoon season.
We didn’t know back then that this hardy wasteland weed which has become a part of Goan and other cuisines is such a nutritional powerhouse too. For us, it was one of those signs of changing seasons, like the red beetles that arrive before the rains, or the algae that dry up with the clouds. Actually, we didn’t care. The real excitement was sitting down with a piping hot plate of pakoras that crumbled to reveal the green leaves we had just plucked.
Taikilo Pakoda Recipe
- 2 cups Taikilo chopped finely
- A pinch asafoetida
- 1 cup besan (gram flour)
- ½ cup Bengal gram, soaked and ground coarsely
- Salt and chilli powder to taste
- Oil for frying
- Mix the besan, coarsely ground Bengal gram, asafoetida, chilli powder and salt.
- Add the chopped taikilo leaves, the batter should hold together.
- Heat oil for deep frying. Roll the batter into balls and deep fry.
Image used for representational purposes only.