Eating is an agricultural act - Wendell Berry

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

preserving vegetables

those who think work in pR is all about farming, trees and similar work, should certainly continue reading :-)

in days prior to hybrid seeds, fruits and vegetables used to be seasonal.
other than a few obvious fruits like mangoes, jackfruit, most knowledge of seasonaility has been eradicated from the memories of the populace.

but those like us who use mostly native seeds, seasonality is a real and an important factor in growing and eating.

till our parents' generation, one important skill that the women of the house had to master was the preservation of vegetables.
this is locally referred to as vathal making, i.e., sun-dried vegetables.

here is our experience with pavakkai/karela/bitter gourd.
as you would have guessed, we learnt this process from karpagam's mother.

fresh from the nearby farm - less than 24 hours since plucking from the field.

it is halved and then hollowed out (seeds removed).

sliced into thin discs and soaked in curd + manjal podi/haldi/turmeric + salt.

this soaking is done overnight and next morning, it is squeezed dry and laid out to dry in the sun.

it shrivels up in the heat for around 6-7 hours.

after the sun goes down, it is again soaked in the same curd mixture and kept overnight.
and laid out to dry the next morning.
this drying/soaking process is repeated for another two days/nights (with the same curd mixture) - this means a total of three days of drying.
you will notice how the discs swell up after the overnight soaking and shrivels up at the end of drying.

at the end, it will look like this.

this will store very simply for over a year.
they can be used after giving them a light sautee in all sambars/gravies or just deep fry and have it like crisps and have it with curd rice.

we did another vathal with kothavarai/cluster beans.
this is simpler.
boil the beans, lightly coat with the same curd mixture and dry.
if lucky, one drying day could suffice, else 2 days should be enough.
as a rule, the more the drying the surer you are about the shelf life.

for the hawkeyed, the final vathal shots are from batch 1 and the work-in-progress shots are from batch 2.


Anonymous said...

I like the version with seeds.

You can also make a vattal with a shorter shelf life by deep frying the slices after dipping it in a batter of rice powder and chickpea powder, with a little kayam, salt and chilly powder for flavour. Comes out very crisp, and stays good for a few weeks. Kinda like a crispy bajji, very tasty!

Anonymous said...



nisha said...

Yummy! The nice thing about this method is that it is tolerant of vegetables that are discarded usually for being too mature for normal use. We tried the same recipe on Vendai/ladies finger.

csm said...

anon - thats a good one.
nisha - yummy indeed. we are going to try this with multiple other vegs and at sometime in the process use the solar oven too. we got some tips on this yesterday :-)

Unknown said...

There is another way we do it at my mum's place. It is par-steamed in salt water and then sun dried for a few days. These are then deep fried and used to add crunch to the 'meals'. Only thing, the bitterness is retained!!!!

Anonymous said...


I wonder what happens to such dried and preserved veggies from their nutritional viewpoint? Do they still retain vitamins and such or just become dead food?


csm said...

carol - the bitterness is the raison d'etre of these vegetables.
am told that these help in keeping the stomach clean of worms.

anon - surely there will be a loss of nutrition as compared to their fresh avtar. but will not be 'dead'. this is an educated guess.