Monisha Ramakrishna

The scars on the face of Sahyadri

Nevertheless, these visitors take memories of the luscious greens along with them when they return and also leave behind scars on the face of Sahyadri. These scars sometimes run deep enough to expose the red fleshy laterite bed rock underneath, adorned by small specks of plastic bits left behind, stuck amongst her facial hair like grasses. And again, these naive tourists aren’t quite to blame because the forest department in the name of collecting revenue, has made a common road for them to trek on from years together, leading to profuse soil compaction and destructive soil erosion.

The construction of home stays on places with the best views also are the most susceptible to land slides. Building of roads to reach the destination cuts triple the number of trees than the avenue plantings done. The wildlife is getting ‘disturbed and domesticated’ in the name of empathetic visitors feeding parle-g biscuits to ‘hungry’ monkeys, who have forgotten to climb trees.

The upgraded Kalpavruksha oil | Homemade hair oil

The plain old coconut oil does not have much nutritive benefits. Thus, the coconut oil is upgraded by adding many Ayurvedic ingredients to improve the hair health and reduce all sorts of hair problems. All the ingredients used like Bringraj, manjistha, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, hibiscus flowers are known as Rasayana, meaning rejuvenating ingredients which help to nourish your hair.

The secret of a healthy mane | Homemade organic shampoo

But something not everyone knows is that shampoo was in fact originated in India, and is derived from the word, ‘ champo’ in Hindi, meaning to massage. Traditionally, a shampoo is made by boiling saponin-rich soapberries or soapnuts with various herbs and fruits to get a lathery liquid that is used to rinse the hair along with various health benefits. This has been exploited by the industries and alternated with harmful chemicals to counter the high cost of using natural ingredients. Therefore, rinsing your already brittle hair with a fragrant mixture of Diethanolamine (DEA), Sodium Lauryl Sulfate(SLS), DMDM hydantoin, Diazolidinyl urea and whatnot, can be less appealing indeed. Not to forget the number of dolphins and whales they are killing in the name of lustrous hair.

Now, the cosmetic industry cannot be closed overnight. But something we can do is to substitute the chemical-based Shampoo with the traditional plant-based ones, with actual health benefits and of course, happy dolphins. So, here are a set of homemade shampoos my grandmother had been using during her prime days.

The benefits of stained teeth | Ele adike

Not just in interms of cuisine, but the Ele adike has a cultural significance of its own. Right from its rightful place on the brass plate ( Hariwana) during marriages to being stuffed inside the deseased’s mouth, the betle leaf climber is found in everyone’s garden. The arrival of guests has some unspoken rules. And one of them is to get the freshest betle leaves plucked and neatly placed on the brass plate, alongside pieces of the gifted arecanut from the coastal relatives and an old yet faithful dibba, full of slaked lime. This is placed on the table for the guests to devour and gossip, after a hefty meal.

Maddhu or aati payasam | A medicinal desert made once every year

Maddhu or aati payasam is made from the leaves of maddhu soppu or Justicia wynaadensis leaves, a medicinal plant, endemic to the Western Ghats. This plant grows in the shades of the Kodagu belt and has many medicinal properties. Traditionally, it is believed that this plant, if cooked on the 18th day after the onset of Aati thinga, has 18 types of medicines. It can be cooked any other time though. Let’s get on to the recipe, shall we?

Homemade plant-based kajal for healthy eyes and thicker eyelashes

Having a history of more than 5,000 years, kajal is an adornment worn by babies and old women alike. It is a black dye obtained from the soot of the lamp-lit by ghee, which is mixed with butter or oil and applied to the eyes. It gives a sharp and mysterious look to one’s eyes and has numerous health benefits, if organic. Kajal of course is commercialized and the lead used in the chemical ones can be pretty harmful to the eyes. Which completely contradicts its purpose.

Nevertheless, an organic kajal has many health benefits and equally different methods of preparation. Let us learn about one such method, which involves a key ingredient, i.e., Honagane or sessile joyweed ( Alternanthera sessilis ).

A crabby tale

The art of hunting crabs involves only two things- guts and more guts. The department I lacked in especially in this case. My guts was limited to flipping rocks and catching defenseless crab babies and letting them go. Repeating the process in a corner while the professionals handled the food classified, big crabs with sharp sphincters.

Let me introduce you to the art of hunting crabs. The crab hunting can be done all throughout the year but sometimes depends on the species. But the probability of catching one is more in the rainy season since these sassy crustaceans crawl out of the rivers and lives in the water channels and paddy fields. The crabs lay the eggs during December or January i.e., during the harvest season. The crabs store the eggs on the underside towards the back of their shells with fat pigments. These appear as red or scarlet coloured beads. The freshwater crabs unlike the salt water crabs do not undergo larval stages. The freshwater crabs hatch as young crabs and undergo larval stages when they are still in the eggs. The eggs hatch in April or May i.e., after 2 months of incubation. The mother crabs during this time are seen having hundreds of baby crabs under their belly.

Pathrode | Coorg style traditional recipe

Pathrode is a unique coastal dish with its name and style differing from region to region. Belonging originally to the Konkani household, it is a dish that is seen on an everyday basis. But in Kodagu, this dish is limited to the cold downpours and like any other Coorg cuisine has its own unique way of preparation, which differs from the original recipe. Pathrode or Pathra vada is a dish made from Arbi pathha or mara kesu ( Remusatia vivipara ) and rice. I’d admit that it is a complex recipe with a unique flavor profile but is a traditional recipe that the moms take pride in preparing, not to forget the hard work in doing the same.

The key feature is to select the Pathrode leaves. The Pathrode leaf or Remusatia vivipara is an epiphyte and in the wild, you’ll find it dangling from a tree. It looks similar to a Colocasia leaf. Too old leaves can cause itchiness to the throat. Look for mature leaves with vibrant green color. If you are rolling the leaves like in the traditional recipe, make sure that the leaves aren’t torn at the corners. But this is not necessary for this recipe. Let’s get on to the recipe, shall we?

Colocasia curry | ಕೆಸುವಿನ ಗೊಜ್ಜು | Coorg style

Colocasia. This miracle vegetable is a zero-waste, edible from head to toe prodigy. It has various delicacies revolving around it by utilizing its leaves, stems, roots, and also its tuber. It is of many types, black colocasia ( black stem elephant ears), pathrode leaves, white colocasia ( Taro ) etc,.

This recipe specifically calls for the black colocasia. This is a purple stemmed Colocasia found near marshy areas and is a perennial plant. As a cuisine, the young leaves and the stems of this taro is used. The vegetable alone can be very itchy during preparation. If the itchiness is intolerable, some tamarind juice or black vinegar ( something mildly acidic) can be applied. It’s an excellent source of fibre and has many health benefits. Let’s get onto the recipe, shall we?