In Kerala, everything grows. It’s like a giant plant party where humans have only just made it onto the guest list.
I had the good fortune to meet a lady called Kumari in Varkala, a little town in the South of Kerala. She is a local legend there on account of her magical Keralan cooking (recipes to follow). She has been known to whip up feasts for many, with little notice and using predominantly ingredients from her garden. She took us for a tour around her garden to show us what was on the menu. The first of the mangoes popped out to say hello (this was taken around a month ago at the start of the season) so this tree will be in full throttle now. Then there were some jackfruit. They always look faintly obscene and ridiculous and I often find myself wondering how many people have been injured in tragic jackfruit-fall accidents. A sneaky little cashew. So called because you can’t just pick them off and nibble away. They can be toxic if you eat them straight up, their seeds need to be burned away and the nuts, steamed. Some tamarind. Yes, it does look like poo. Tasty though and often used as a souring agent, like in this coconut and tamarind chicken curry. A bunch of fresh bananas. They grow upside down like that, it’s their prerogative. The tulip like bud at the end is a banana flower and tastes beautiful when fried. Some fresh peppercorns. They turn black and wrinkly once you pluck off the berries and pop them in your pockets for a few days. And finally, everyone’s favourite punchy little guys, the chillies.