The first few months after moving to Vikramasingapuram were one of the most difficult times in our life. We were new to the town, had no company and also quit our jobs. We didn’t know what to do or where to begin. The farm is located next to a forest so wild animals damaged almost all the young trees that were planted by the previous owner. Thankfully, there was an enclosed quarter acre cowshed, where we decided to start a small vegetable patch for our family needs. We fenced the farm after a few months.
I’m writing all this because two years may not seem like a lot of time but we have learnt so much during this period. We have made good progress and also made several mistakes along the way. One such was planting 100 odd Nendram banana saplings. Although we grew a mix of legumes, chopped and dropped all of it before planting bananas, the soil nutrition was still very low. And bananas are heavy feeders; they require extremely rich soil with high nitrogen content. While around 15 odd bananas grew very well, the rest couldn’t take off.
Now the bananas have flowered and we even harvested a few banana bunches! There’s a saying in Tamil “Veetuku selvam maadu, thottathuku selvam vaazhai” – everything from a banana plant is useful. The flower, stem and fruits are edible; the fibre is used in several ways and after harvest there is mulch which adds a great amount of organic matter back into the soil.
We made paruppu usili with the banana flowers. Cleaning and chopping the flowers might seem like a laborious task but if you do it with your partner or family, it gets done in a jiffy! Paruppu usili is a vegetable stir fry and has equal amount of steamed lentils along with vegetables. This is usually made with banana flower, cluster beans, capsicum, cabbage, and even banana stem! Serve this with any spicy gravy, rasam or curd based curry like mor kuzhambu or kadhi.
- Chopped and cleaned banana flower / vazhaipoo – 1 cup
- Tuvar dal / Thuvaram paruppu – 3/4 cup
- Chana dal / Kadalai paruppu – 1/4 cup
- Green chilli / Pacha milagai- 1
- Dry red chillies / Kaanja milagai – 3
- Asafoetida / Podi perungayam a pinch
- Mustard / Kadugu – 1tsp
- Urad dal / Ulutham paruppu – 1tsp
- Curry leaves / Karuveppilai – a few
- Coconut oil – 1tbsp
- Steam the chopped banana flower with salt for 15 minutes. It should be well cooked. You can also cook it in a kadai with a few spoons of water.
- Soak tuvar and chana dal in enough waterfor a couple of hours. You should be able to break the dal with your finger
- Drain and grind the dal mix with green ans red chillies into a coarse paste. Try to not add any water while grinding. Add splashes of water if needed
- Transfer to dal to a greased bowl and cook it in a pressure cooker for three whistles. You can also steam this but I prefer cooking to ensure the dal is fully cooked.
- Cool down the dal mix. Crumble it with your hands. You can also pulse it in a mixie if you do not have time. Crumbling with hands leave some big dal pieces here and there and it tastes great.
- Now heat a kadai with a tbsp oil. Add mustard, urad dal, one red chilli, curry leaves and hing. Add the crumbled dal mix and saute it well for 5 mins
- Now add the steamed banana flower and mix very well. The steamed vegetable and the dal should combine very well.
- Switch off the stove after 10 mins. You can also top this with few spoons of coconut oil.
- We have also made a quick video on the recipe. Watch below!