As a chef and belonging to a farming family, I always stress on eating seasonal. Growing up around farms, winters for us were basically two things – Hara chana or what we know as choliya and Sarson (and its saag).
One cannot talk about “Punjabi” food and not bring Sarson da saag into the conversation! The aroma of the saag slow-cooking in mustard oil, with other fresh produce on the side and makke di roti drizzled with a generous dollop of home made makhan… Divine!
It’s interesting how this dish became a part of the farmer’s diet.
The tips of the sarson plants were broken off and those tips or gandals were typically used in the dish.
Originally the saag isn’t made with the leaves of the plant.
The technical reason behind this trimming of the terminal buds was to stop the plant from growing vertically and grow broader instead.
Lateral growth would mean more flowers and hence more mustard pods. And since nothing goes waste in a farm, these plucked tender tips were then used in a saag that turned out to be super tasty.
The tips would be coarsely mashed using a ‘Ghotna’ that would leave a bite to it. (If you need my recipe for Sarson da Saag, how I learnt it, click here )
Even now, it’s best to not grind the mustard leaves to a paste but keep them chunky.
In the winters, along side the canals that used to ferry water to the farms, Shalgam and mooli (radish) were sown. The fresh produce would then be brought home, the leaves would be cooked separately as saag and we would eat the radishes.
So the typical (and ultimate) combo was – sarson da saag with fresh mooli and added to that, choliya slow roasted on fire.
The greens of radishes and carrots are super healthy too. While the radish greens can be used in a saag or dry cooked with lentils, carrot tops can make for great salad toppings or in stir fried vegetables.
So let’s dig into those greens for all they are worth and celebrate good health this season.