July brings mixed emotions—the mango is on its way out (well, the Alphonso certainly is!) and the rains are descending upon us with a vengeance in most parts of the country by the end of the month. One the one hand is the definite depression of missing our favorite fruit for the rest of the year and the discomfort of monsoon-inflicted sluggish metabolisms and respiratory illnesses. One can’t depend entirely on Chai and Pakoras for the four months of rain to perk us up, can we?
Here are our top seasonal food picks for this month along with suggestions:
- Seasonal greens: Stop scouring the markets in search of Spinach and Fenugreek (methi)—this is not the right season for these greens! Instead, look for seasonal greens such as Phodshi and Red Amaranth. These make a great side, cooked as a quick stir-fry with garlic and topped with toasted nuts or seeds. Red and green Amaranth can also be used raw instead of fancy lettuces when tender and well-washed.
- Gourds: Bottle gourd (lauki), pointed gourd (parwar/potol), ivy gourd (tendli), pumpkin, ash gourd, snake gourd, sponge gourd, ridge gourd—the entire family of gourds are great for the monsoon; they are easily digestible, full of flavor and fibre content, and easily available in the markets. Use them in curries, stir-fries, soups, or simply roast them in an oven and serve with a simple dressing.
- Fruit: The Alphonso may have said its final goodbye for the year but there still are other regional mangoes for us to feast on. The Kesar, Rajapuri, Langda and Dussehri are great to eat by themselves or to add to smoothies, desserts, or simply freeze the pulp of. Stone fruit arrives in abundance in this season, so gorge on the juiciest of lychees, cherries, peaches, apricots, and plums. Make compotes to top your breakfast oat porridge or pancakes, use in bakes, or add to leafy salads with a drizzle of honey and lemon.
- Horse gram: This regional super food, known as Kulith in Maharashtra and Gehaat in Uttarakhand, is a warming legume that provides protein and aids digestion in the rainy month of June. Pressure cook the legume and mash it with roasted spice powders to make a filling for parathas or boil the legume in plenty of water, strain it and use the stock as a base for soup—a rasam-style soup with a light garlic and ghee tadka is perfect!
- Herbal teas: Monsoons are a great time to start your own little herb garden—simply stick stalks of mint (pudina) and basil or bulbs of lemongrass and ginger in a pot of mud and watch your garden flourish. Holy basil (tulsi) seeds are readily available, and make for an easy way to start growing your own Tulsi. Snip off fresh leaves when you feel like a cup of tea and enjoy a fragrant cup whenever you want. Add a spot of Conscious Food Harde Honey to keep the infections away!
- Garlic: Ayurveda prescribes garlic as a warming ingredient and as a digestive. This is the perfect time to treat yourself to that burnt garlic fried rice or pasta or add garlic chives to your soups.