The wonderful varieties of spinach available in T.N had always surprised me. Most of them are available through out the year and the best greens restricted to the summer. A few of them are Arai keerai, Mulai keerai, Siru keerai, Pulicha keerai, Venthaya keerai, Manathakkali keerai and Vallara keerai.
The widely available varities of cheera (spinach) in Kerala are always mainly, Chuvanna cheera, Pacha cheera in those road side vegetable shops other than the home grown greens.
Surprisingly I had not seen this Chuvanna cheera or Red spinach anywhere in TN all these years and had wondered whether it cannot be grown here. I had come across the Pacha cheera /Green spinach named Thandu keerai now and then, but never the Red ones!
During my short visit to ktm, last Christmas, I came to know about the Malayala Manorama delivering seeds to the readers on a weekly basis. Lucky Me! it was Red spinach and pea seeds for the week. When I carried the black tiny seeds home to T.N I still had doubts whether they would survive in the red soil.
I prepared 2 pots; layered with sand mixed with organic manure and red soil. The seeds were sown and Yeah! I screamed with delight to see the young healthy red plants popping up in less than a week!!
The first harvest was done in a month and a half and the second and third harvests in the following months. As soon as I got back from my holidays I could see the bed ready for the fourth harvest. When I cleaned and chopped the leaves I realised the yield had been better than the previous ones.
And hence I decided to make Mezhukkupuratti, cooking the leaves bringing down the quantity to the dining dish, in a nutritious, guilt free and flavourful way.
Here's how I prepared it,
Red spinach / Chuvanna cheera / Sigappu thandu keerai- a big bunch
Small onions - 7-8 nos, chopped
Green Chillies- 1-2 slit lengthwise
Oil- 2 tsps
Mustard seeds- 1/4 tsp
The Red spinach is cut across the stem, a few inches above the root.The bunch is washed well in running water to remove sand and then chopped fine, the stem as well as the leaves.Keep this aside.
Heat oil in a large wide kadai ( I use iron wok), splutter mustard seeds, sauté onions and green chillies for not more than 10 seconds and transfer the chopped spinach to the kadai. Sprinkle water and close the kadai with an appropriate lid. Lower the flame between sim-medium.
Open now and then to check the spinach cooking and sprinkle water if needed. Remove from fire once cooked (when the stems turn soft).
Serve hot with rice and curry.