The other day, I was preparing Dal Tadka and everything was going on fine until in my cooking rhythm, I opened the refrigerator and found to my utter dismay that the coriander box was empty. I was utterly disappointed. It was beyond my imagination to serve the Dal without the green velvety leaves of coriander sprinkled on it. The yellow dal tadka with its red chillies should and should be complemented with the green of the coriander leaves and then and then only the Dal looks fully cooked and inviting. This is not just a myth with which I have lived but for me it is a basic fact of life. The dal was served (without Coriander) as it was night-time and nobody would have run to the market for my (as they say) coriander. The rest of my family members are not so much in love with it. And certainly not, when they are asked to sacrifice their valuable cosy place before the television and go out and fetch the exhausted coriander storage. Then, in these circumstances whatever little love they have for the aromatic green foliage with vitamin C goes for a toss. (evaporates)
In these days of lockdown, there were many sorrowful occasions, when I had to be separated from the loved soft leaflets of coriander, the indispensable topping of all dishes. Though not very good with paint and brush, I remember to have tried to draw a bunch of coriander. So much I am attached to this –should I say Veggie. It’s not proper veggie, but we never forget to tell the vegetable vendor to add coriander at the end of our vegetable buying. It is observed that it is the women-folk who are more in fascination of the verdant coriander leaves because if a man goes for buying vegetables; most of the times he forgets to perfect his vegetable buying endeavour by forgetting to buy the most important part of vegetable buying-the coriander leaves. Then, back home, when his efforts in the vegetable market are assessed and accredited, he is shocked to hear that all the lovely fresh vegetables and fruits he has brought with so much care are put aside and not considered for the accreditation process and only a search for the forgotten coriander is done and the judgement is pronounced with the statement, ‘OH! You have been going to the market for so many years, but why do you always forget the coriander leaves? ‘And the husband is so dismayed that all his journey into the mayhem called the ‘The Indian Vegetable market’ and spending valuable two hours negotiating and avoiding the dirt and squalor has resulted in this. He had wanted to share with his better-half — how he had triumphantly haggled with the vegetable vendors to save some money but all this enthusiasm is only met with cold stares as he has done the biggest crime of forgetting the crowning glory of vegetables called the ‘Coriander leaves.’
In winter, the vegetable vendors are very magnanimous and if you are a regular customer then they also give you complementary provision of Coriander leaves. But in summer, the price and value of these green leaves rocket high like silver and gold and then the vegetable vendors give you miserly one or two sprigs at the same price. In winter, therefore we are blessed to use it not only as dish topping but also can prepare mouth –watering Sambhar wadi with sambhar its Hindi name or Kothimbir wadi with its Marathi nomenclature. Of course the Puneri Kothimbir wadi and the Warhadi Sambhar wadi are two different recipes. I came to know when my sister shifted to Pune for her job. At that time one of her Puneri friends introduced the kothimbir wadi to her. But I swear, I love both the variants.
Sometimes it so happens on an unfortunate day, the vegetable vendor tells you that his day’s stock of coriander has exhausted and he cannot provide you the coriander leaves. It is very sad to hear this from him and his apologetic face is true testimony to it. Sometimes on a fortunate day, he greets you and says that he has a very good stock of real, fresh coriander and you are ready to bless him with all your heart.
The coriander leaves have to be taken care of, if you want that they should remain fresh. You have to separate the stalk from the leaves and store them in a dry air-tight container to increase its shelf-life. The tender green stalks can be used to make green chutneys to add spice to your meals. No recipe video is complete without the chef telling you to garnish it with fresh coriander leaves and serve it with green coriander chutney. Personally, I feel no kitchen is complete unless it’s refrigerator is stocked with a box of coriander leaves. In these days of Corona Pandemic, where we have to wash all the vegetables with salt water and dry them and then store them in the refrigerator, the risk of damaging this prized possession is manifold.
Then my mother who is an innovative kitchen farmer in her small field of the kitchen balcony suggested that I can grow some coriander leaves by crushing coriander seeds and sowing them. I followed her advice and I was delighted to see an emergent shoot of aromatic coriander grow into a bouquet. This was my emergency back-up facility for the lockdown. As I put the home –grown leaves in my hand and then smelt its fragrance, I was overjoyed. The aroma of these leaves was even sweeter and the fragrance did not leave my hand even after I had decorated my dhokla with the leaves in my hand.
I conclude with a pithy statement, ‘Coriander is to a dish, what humour is to life’
Are you also a lover of coriander leaves like me? Then share your love here in the discussion box below.