In South India, there is a tradition of consuming black nightshade – both the greens as well as the berries. The berries are often sun-dried and used to temper a wonderful lentil based dish called Vathal Kuzhambu. Or deep-fried and consumed as a snack or an accompaniment in a meal. I, of course, air-fry them with equally successful results.
In the Northern parts of India, however, black nightshade is considered a wild weed and discarded.
This is a hardy plant and my garden is overrun with them. Tired of the normal dishes made with these greens, I decided to experiment with a thogayal (dip). For the first time in almost 25 years that Hari has been with me, he told me that the dish was over when I asked him for it at dinner. Need I say anything more about how tasty it was!
1/4 cup grated coconut
2 cups (packed) nightshade greens
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (sarson, kadugu)
2 tbsp split black lentils (urad dal, ulutham parupu)
2 dried red chillies
1 tsp tamarind paste
Salt to taste
Remove the nightshade leaves from the stems
Wash well and chop roughly
On medium flame, roast the greens for 2-3 minutes
Heat a wok and add mustard seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the black lentils and red chillies
Transfer to a blender
Add tamarind paste, coconut and the nightshade greens
Grind to a coarse paste, using very little water
Transfer to a serving bowl
Serve at room temperature with red/brown rice, dal (lentil curry) or even Indian breads