Going to our land is always relaxing, makes us wonder why we are still living in the city. Meeting the neighbouring farmers, switching off from our artificially busy digital lives to connecting with their intensely hardworking lives, having black tea in the middle of the day while discussing tomato and chilli prices in the chemical market is a different experience. It is tough to hear about their travails, but inspiring to see their perseverance.
In the midst of it all is our neighbour’s mother, who starts offering everything from lunch to vegetables to carry back. It was while we were chatting on their veranda that I spotted the lone Agathi tree (Sesbania grandiflora or hummingbird tree) in their backyard resplendent with burgundy coloured flowers. A beautiful sight to behold. the hummingbird tree flowers thoran (cooked vegetable) is one of my favourite dishes and I had the opportunity to cook the cream coloured flowers, the more common variety. I had been looking for the burgundy coloured ones, as I had heard that the burgundy flowers turn purple when cooked.
Sheepishly, I asked if I could pluck a few flowers, immediately she chimed in saying, “take the whole bunch, when cooked it will only be a handful.” Humbled by her generosity, I plucked some, just enough for a small poriyal, which I made this morning. Yes, it turned a beautiful shade of purple and as usual tasted divine …I have in the past cooked it without removing any parts, but the mother told me that it would taste much better if the pistil and stamen are removed. So I did that, not that I could discern any significant difference.
The bonus is that the plant is rich in nutrition, has curative properties including for liver and spleen disorders and the tree is wonderful for the soil. The hummingbird tree flower qualifies as an astringent food.
The recipe is very simple :
About 20 flowers will make a small handful ( it looks quite a bit when raw but really goes down when cooked )
Rinse in water, remove stamen. and pistil (optional I would think), cut each flower into two pieces, use the buds as they are.
Saute in a frying pan where mustard seasoning has been done. You can use any cooking oil. Add pepper and salt to taste and garnish with grated coconut nut or coarsely ground roasted peanuts. My preference is the former. It requires a very small amount of cooking and as predicted the flowers turned a nice purple. I love these flowers when lightly cooked.
And you are ready to eat the poriyal or stir-fried flower.
Enjoy the beauteous, nutritious, delicious Agathi poo or the hummingbird tree flower.
It is full of nutrients including calcium and has many curative properties as well. The difficulty lies in the fact that so few farmers grow it. Let us begin eating the leaves and flowers of these native trees and thereby encourage farmers to grow it. This is one tree we could grow at home as well.SHARE it! ... and spread the good word!