The Malayalam month of Karkidakam has always been quite special for Keralites as it is the time when we nourish our bodies with unique medicinal preparations. The heavy downpour during this season makes the trees and the herbs in the forest bloom. It is also the time when the woods get infested with many insects, germs and other living organisms. The human body requires incredible immunity power to overcome these.
Marunnu kanji (herbal porridge) and pathila curry or dish prepared with ten different types of medicinal herbs is commonly consumed during Karkidakam. In the forest too, the tribal people, rely on leaves and herbs to sustain themselves during this month.
The vettakurumar are known for their special dishes prepared using unique leaves and herbs. The spinach varieties known as 'bettakurumbar theveikari' in the tribal language are their favourite. Finger millets are cultivated separately while the wild spinach is mostly grown in the woods naturally.
Many unique varieties of spinach are grown by the vettakurumar and delicious dishes, which have great health benefits, are prepared using it. Chatheikary (senna tora), thyereikary (calabash), chilkireikary, kumbeleikri (pumpkin leaf), kadkeikary (mustard leaf), bumthaleikary (ahs gourd), kyampeikary (taro leaf), kankeikary (baby tomato), ibendeikary (sessilis), mulleikary (prickly amaranthus), kasinekary, thaveikary (vegetable fern), keereikary, dagleikary (spinach grown near cow dung pits), kelgondeikary (spinach which spreads on the surface of soil), yamnileikary (grown in fields) are some of the main dishes that are cooked using varieties of spinach leaves or herbs.
The vettakurumar has, in their cuisine, some unique dishes, that are not familiar to us. Kachaneikary, keertheikary, kattabandeikary, keranjatteikary, aleikary, kolaneikary, kuthir kombileikary and bain reikary are some of them.
The leaves are usually boiled with some salt and are consumed fresh. These cooked leaves aren't necessarily accompanied with rice or porridge. If the leaves are bitter, then they are soaked in salt water and squeeze out the bitter juices before cooking it.