Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ah, well, you live and learn (or you're dead and none the wiser)

I’d read somewhere that only 1% of all the plants in the world are toxic. So if you are famished, you theoretically can pick up any ol’ weed or plant off the road side and eat it with a lesser chance of dying than being killed in a traffic accident.

Hands up: Who knew raw Elephant Ear (Colocasia) leaves are inedible and in fact, toxic?! What  we commonly called Patra in India. Still lost? This plant:
No wonder my throat and mouth were severely burning and itching (like there's a bunch of ants doing a tango in my mouth) last night and had an upset stomach after I had one raw. More precisely, I was trying to have one leaf raw, and just couldn’t take it anymore and threw it all away.

I was looking for a raw alternative to rotis for my wraps - and came across these little beauties at the market, and they're a real bargain, too, for just Rs. 1 per leaf. Plus, my mom got a tub of Undhiya, which is a popular winter time Gujarati vegetable stew. I thought that would make the perfect base for my Elephant Ear raw wraps.
My mom did warn me to remove the stalks off the leaf as they will result in a burning sensation, which I did. So, then I thought maybe its an allergic reaction and was praying I don’t wake up with yet another swelling to my mouth (thankfully didn’t!).

So, today while I have some free time, I looked up Elephant Ear and did find that the plant is mildly toxic and should not be attempted raw. All parts of the plant contain the compound calcium oxalate, which is destroyed by cooking. Soak the leaves overnight in water to reduce some of the toxicity and then cook them with a pinch of baking soda. And Its supposedly best combined with milk (yuck!) to further reduce its side effects. My verdict is, to just say no to the plant from now on!

I was more than happy to donate what was remaining of my Elephant Ear leaves to my mom who can make some delicious Parsi-style Patra.
 Anyway, here's my disaster of a recipe. Probably a good idea, but badly executed.

Warning: Do not have these leaves raw unless you have the immunity/impugnity of a, well, elephant.

Raw Patra Wrap with Undhiya and Veggies

  • 1 Elephant Ear leaf
  • 2 tablespoons of Undhiya
  • About a cup of chopped assorted veggies - I used cabbage, carrot, and spring onions
  • 2 jalepeno peppers, chopped
To make:
Wash the Elephant Ear leaf.

Spread the Undhiya mixture all over the leaf.
Lay the chopped veggies and peppers on top.
Roll up the sides of the leaf first and then make a tidy little roll/parcel.
EDIT: Boil/steam the roll in water for 10 minutes to remove any toxicity or replace the leaf with a large spinach or cabbage leaf.

As they say, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. Ah, well.


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