Nowhere in the world will you find such a huge variety of greens being used as in India. In fact, most of the greens are found all over the world but are used by a lesser number of people due to lack of awareness.
We South Indians, esp Tamilians use greens on a daily basis and to a greater extent compared to the rest of the world. Researching on greens I came to know that the rural population in most of the world is aware of the goodness of the greens and is consuming them too.
The picture above is of the ‘uzhavar sandhai’ or the farmer’s market at my place Coimbatore in Tamilnadu. You can see the greens, banana stems, and banana flowers which are sold here daily apart from the other vegetables that they have grown.
I have so far consumed at least 30 varieties of the commonly available greens. It was surprising for me when I came to know that most of my friends from other parts of India are not even aware of these superfoods.
So the purpose of this post is to create awareness about this wonder food so that you people get to use it just as we have been for centuries. And the best part is nature has provided them to us abundantly, it’s just that we have failed to take notice.
Greens are called keerai in our local parlance and are known as cheera, saag, soppu, bhaji, etc in other Indian languages. These days all greens are generally referred to as spinach, though in reality, spinach refers to a specific variety of greens.
Hence I will stick to the term greens in this post. Though most of them are consumed regularly, a few of them have wonderful medicinal properties and are consumed occasionally.
They are made into stir-fries, cooked with lentils, or simply cooked and mashed up. In whatever way they are prepared, they provide lots of valuable vitamins and minerals to the body apart from the much-needed fiber.
Apart from the regular greens, you have the leaves of plants like turnip, broccoli, radish, beets, etc also used as greens. These are more nutritious than the vegetable. Then you have the microgreens, which is the newest superfood.
Most Indian stores abroad have quite a few of these greens varieties, so if you happen to come across any of them, do not miss them.
Not much information is available online to give you an authenticated report of these greens, though I have provided references as much as possible. Most of what has been posted here is what has been passed on through generations, by grannies and elders in the family.
Nevertheless, you can take my word, that these greens (other than the ones specifically mentioned) are used on a daily basis in South Indian cooking, and I am so used to all of them.
Reduce cook time as much as possible, to preserve all the valuable minerals and vitamins in greens. Adding a pinch of turmeric powder and not cooking for too long will keep the green color intact.
Some people add a pinch of sugar or baking soda to preserve the green color while cooking. But I have never done that.
Generally, we tend to avoid greens at night as they take time to digest. Also storing cooked greens in the refrigerator and reheating them is also not advisable as most nutrients will be lost on reheating.
It’s always a good idea to grow your greens with seeds from the nursery. If that is not possible ensure that you soak the store-bought greens in baking soda for at least 15 minutes and rinse very well.
So in this post, I have compiled a list of the varieties of regular greens, leaves of vegetables used as greens as well as microgreens that I have come across as well as consumed to date.
This will be the most comprehensive post on greens available on the net, and the focus is to cover all the greens that you can find around you or in the markets.
Most greens can be easily grown at home. I have successfully grown around 20 of them here in Qatar, the pictures of which you will find below. I shall keep updating the pictures as and when I get better ones.
Before I proceed further, I thank all the good souls – my relatives, friends, acquaintances, and a whole lot of people who helped me out with the pictures. Though I could not use all your pictures I thank you wholeheartedly for your time 🙂 .
As for the pictures that I used, I have given credit to the person who contributed, below the picture. Thank you all so much guyz 🙂 .
Special words of gratitude for my dear friends and schoolmates Geetha Magesh and Sujatha Ramkumar who went that extra mile to help me out. They never gave up on me even when I kept on pestering them for better pictures.
It has not been easy. I have spent quite a lot of my time and effort on this with the only belief that it will benefit a lot of people 🙂 . Hope it does.
And if at all anybody wants to use the content or pictures, I do not mind as long as you explicitly link back to my site.
I have given the Tamil name as we call it, the common name, the Hindi name, and the scientific name or botanical name for the greens. Will cover the names in other languages later.
Also, I have tried to provide as many pictures as possible so that you can identify them easily. If you learned something new from this post or found it useful do share it with your near and dear 🙂 .
Let’s get started…
For now, there is no search tab though it’s a long post. Please use the ‘Find’ option (cntrl+F) on desktop and the ‘find on page ‘ option on mobile if you want to look specifically for something.
This post is only for creating awareness about the goodness of greens and does not provide any medical advice. If you are looking to treat some health issue with greens, do consult an Ayurvedic or Siddha doctor, rather than going on a greens-consuming spree all by yourself. Too much of anything, that too without proper guidance is never good.
1)Agathi Keerai – Agasthi – Sesbania grandiflora
Layman knowhow – helps in deworming
Also called August Tree leaves or hummingbird tree leaves it belongs to the Fabaceae family. It is grown for food, green manure, fodder, forage, pulp, and paper, especially in South and South East Asia. It is a moderately drought-resistant tree widely planted for land rehabilitation.
Either it comes with white flowers or red flowers. It offers a host of health benefits and is widely used in Siddha medicine. In fact, Siddha medicine believes that this plant contains 63 varieties of nutrients.
The young pods, leaves, and flowers are a good food source and are widely used in rural areas. The flowers which are edible are used in soups, salads, and other dishes. The tender pods are eaten as string beans.
Agathi keerai has antibiotic, anti-helminthic, anti-neoplastic, and contraceptive properties. For systemic disorders, decoctions are taken internally. A preparation made from the flowers and applied to the eyes is said to relieve dimness of vision.
Preparations made from roots are used to treat malaria and as an expectorant, and poultices made from flowers and leaves are used to treat rheumatism, swellings, bruises, and itching.
It contains a good amount of Vitamin A and minerals Iron and calcium apart from proteins and fats. It is good for clearing ulcers of the mouth and stomach and cools the body.
These greens help in increasing lactation for nursing mothers. The leaf extract helps in clearing skin-related issues like pigmentation. It also helps in deworming.
The leaves are slightly bitter and are made into stir-fries or soups. As it has medicinal properties it should not be consumed frequently.
It is a very popular fuelwood in areas where it grows, coz of its availability within a year of planting. It is also used in reforesting eroded and grassy wastelands throughout the tropics. Also used as a fodder crop.
It propagates through seeds. In Qatar, I have seen these in the Indian supermarket and FFC. They are also seen in quite a few houses in Umm Said.
2)Arai keerai – Chauli – Amaranthus dubius
Layman knowhow – purifies blood
Amaranthus dubius is a small shrub-like plant that can grow to a height of 30cm. It is an annual plant and keeps growing as the tender leaves are picked. It is one of the tastiest greens available.
These greens contain a whole lot of vitamins and minerals like vitamin C, Iron, and Calcium apart from proteins and fiber. It contains 87% water and is one of those greens that can be had on a daily basis.
It improves RBC count, purifies the blood, cures gastric problems, improves appetite, cools the eye, and also aids in hair growth. Helps in strengthening the body and improving memory.
It is used as a medicine in a lot of nerve-related issues and is considered good for colds, coughs, and helps in getting rid of the excess water in the body.
The seeds are also edible. It is also used to make amaranth oil. We normally stir-fry it with Onion and coconut or make it into gravies with pigeon peas or yellow split moong.
3)Ceylon pasalai keerai / Kuthu pasalai / Florida spinach / Waterleaf / Talinum fruticosum
Layman knowhow – rich in iron
Talinum fruticosum is a non-conventional plant of the family Portulacaceae. It is an herbaceous perennial plant that grows in tropical regions as a leafy vegetable. Its leaves are smooth and succulent and come up with small pink flowers.
Though it is native to the Americas and Caribbean, it can be found all over the world. It can grow up to 100 cms. It is also called Talinum triangulare, Surinam purslane, cariru, chedi pasalai and more.
Waterleaf is highly nutritious and is an excellent source of iron, zinc, and molybdenum. It is also a very rich source of Calcium and phosphorus both of which help people suffering from osteoporosis.
It contains good amounts of Vitamins A and C apart from B vitamins – thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin. It is a very healthy food low in calories and sugar.
But people with kidney-related issues need to exercise caution while consuming these greens as they contain high amounts of oxalate and antinutritional elements like lectins and tannins.
Cooking can remove considerable amounts of oxalates and lectins. So avoid consuming raw greens.
In South India, it is generally cooked with moong or pigeon peas. In Nigeria, they consume the juice of waterleaf and also make stews and soups with these.
They can be easily propagated with the stems. In Qatar, I have seen them in the NSM supermarket in Barwa village and even successfully grew them in my backyard.
4)Kaatu Keerai / Thoyya keerai / False Amaranth/ Chanchali / Digera muricata
Layman knowhow – relieves stomach ailments
False Amaranth is an annual herb, growing to 20-70 cm tall. It can be seen growing wild in waste areas and is found as a weed in most places in India.
As with the other greens, False amaranth contains good amounts of iron and fiber. It relieves stomach ailments like flatulence, acidity, and constipation.
It possesses antibacterial, antifungal, diuretic, laxative properties. The flowers and seeds are used in the treatment of urinary discharge.
These greens are generally made into keerai kadaisal or greens mash. They can also be made into soups.
5)Karisalanganni keerai / Bringaraj / False daisy / Eclipta prostrata or Eclipta alba
Layman knowhow – very good for hair growth
Eclipta alba is a species of plant belonging to the Asteraceae or sunflower family and native to Asia. It grows in moist places and is widely found in India and South East Asia.
The plant has several phytoconstituents like wedelolactone, saponins, ursolic acid, oleanolic acid, luteolin, and apigenin.
Eclipta alba contains 88% water content with good amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fiber. It also contains ample amounts of Potassium, Calcium, Sodium, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, and Copper.
In traditional medicine, it is considered very valuable and is used commonly for the treatment of gastrointestinal disorders, respiratory tract disorders, fever, hair loss and graying of hair, liver disorders, skin disorders, spleen enlargement, and cuts and wounds.
The plant has reportedly shown hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antimicrobial activities in pharmacological studies. It is also known to be effective in treating snake bites, ulcers, and stomach worms.
As these plants promote hair growth, they are sought after by the cosmetic industry, in hair oil preparation. These are found in wetlands after rain. They come in two types, one with a white flower and the other with a yellow flower.
The leaves of the white-flowered variety are normally rough-textured, and so are mainly used in hair oil preparation. The yellow-flowered variety is smooth and so consumed as greens as it cooks easily.
It is considered very valuable in naturopathy medicine where it is used to treat jaundice and liver diseases. Consuming these greens brightens the skin, fights infections, induces appetite, aids digestion, and is also very good for the eyes.
Even now in many families in South India, make hair oil using these leaves and coconut oil. It aids in hair growth and prevents premature greying.
Like I said before, we normally consume it as stir-fries, cook it up with lentils or make chutneys out of it.
6)Kasini Keerai / Chicory greens / Kasni / Cichorium intybus
Layman knowhow – improves liver function
Kasini keerai or chicory is a perennial herbaceous plant belonging to the Asteraceae family. It has been used as a livestock forage for ages. It comes up with bright bluish lavender flowers which are common though pink and white ones are also seen.
Chicory is also commonly known as the blue daisy, blue dandelion, or coffee weed. All parts of the plant are edible. The leaves which are bitter are used in salads, stews, or made into stirfries. The flowers are also used in salads or made into pickles.
In India, chicory roots are dried and used as an additive with coffee powder in a certain proportion to enhance the flavor. In other parts of the world, the roots are used as a substitute for coffee.
The roots contain inulin which is a compound similar to starch apart from coumarins, flavonoids, vitamins minerals, and volatile oils. It is used as a sweetener in the food industry and also added to yogurt as a prebiotic.
Raw chicory is 92% water and contains an ample amount of nutrients. It contains significant amounts of vitamins A, C, K, B vitamins and moderate amounts of vitamin E. It is also rich in manganese and has moderate amounts of Calcium.
In Ayurveda, it has been used as a liver tonic. It improves the functioning of the liver and protects it from liver disorders. It increases bile production and helps in detoxifying the kidney.
It is well known for its anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, antimutagenic, antifungal, anthelmintic, and antioxidative qualities.
These greens are normally cooked with moong dal or made into soups or chutneys. Stir fry also worked fine for me. It should not be consumed frequently coz of its medicinal properties. Twice or thrice a month would be good.
Chicory is a very versatile plant beneficial to both humans and animals due to its high amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, minerals, and phytobioactive elements. It is an ideal complementary and/or alternative livestock feed supplement.
7)Keezhanelli Keerai / Bhui amla / Phyllanthus niruri
Layman knowhow – treats jaundice
Keezhanelli or Phyllanthus niruri is a weedy plant that you will find just about anywhere. It is commonly called gale of the wind, chanca piedra/stone- breaker or seed- under- leaf.
It has been widely used in Ayurveda and traditional medicine to treat liver diseases like hepatitis or jaundice and gall bladder stones. It has also been traditionally used to treat a lot of pathological conditions like bronchitis, asthma, influenza, tuberculosis, etc.
This plant flowers and fruits on the underside of the leaf where the fruits appear as small-sized balls. Hence the name keezhanelli in Tamil which translates to seed-under-leaf. Grandmas use the roots in hair oil preparation as it is believed to strengthen the hair.
It contains good amounts of Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Phosphorous, Sodium, Iron, Manganese, and zinc. It is believed to cool the body.
Depending on availability, it can be consumed once a week either as a liquid by grinding it with buttermilk or as a kootu by cooking it with dal.
8)Kostam Keerai/ Insulin keerai / Keukand / Costus igneus or Costus pictus
Layman knowhow – used for diabetes
More popularly known as the spiral flag, it belongs to the Costaceae family. It is a perennial, upright, spreading plant reaching about two feet tall, with spirally arranged leaves and attractive flowers. It is grown in many houses as an ornamental plant.
Both names Costus igneus and Costus pictus are used interchangeably for this plant in most reports online. I could not come to a clear conclusion on this. Will clarify when I come across some credible information.
The leaves are rich in protein, iron, and antioxidant components such as ascorbic acid, α-tocopherol, β-carotene, terpenoids, steroids, and flavonoids. It was also found to contain the highest number of phytochemicals such as carbohydrates, triterpenoids, proteins, alkaloids, tannins, and saponins.
It also contains appreciable amounts of the elements Potassium, Calcium, Chromium, Manganese, Copper, and Zinc. It is known to be hyperlipidemic, diuretic, and antimicrobial.
It also exhibits antioxidant activity, which was sufficient to reverse oxidative stress in the liver, pancreas, and kidney of diabetic rats as well as to stimulate glycolytic enzymes and control gluconeogenesis in diabetic animals.
In India, people either chew the leaf or add it to their teas. It has medicinal value and so prolonged usage is not advisable without a doctor’s advice.
9)Kuppai Keerai / Pig weed / Jungli Chaulayi / Amaranthus viridus
Layman knowhow – improves appetite
Kuppai in the Tamil language literally means waste. As it is found mostly in wastelands around us it’s called Kuppai keerai. It mostly crops up like a weed in my garden.
It tolerates drought, responds to high levels of available nutrients, and is adapted to a harsh environment.
These greens are an excellent source of phenolics, flavonoids, and antioxidants apart from possessing analgesic and antipyretic properties. It contains Vitamin C, Calcium, Potassium, Iron, and Fiber.
This green has ample health benefits like increasing appetite & preventing constipation. It also helps in treating anemia and skin diseases and is a diuretic.
Mostly the tender leaves are used in cooking as the leaves become tough on maturing. In rural India, these greens were used as an antidote for snake bites and scorpion stings.
10)Kuppaimeni Keerai/ Indian nettle / /Khokali/Acalypha indica
Layman knowhow – detoxifies blood
This one is more of a medicinal herb rather than greens, but am including it here as it is called keerai in Tamil. Kuppaimeni or Acalypha Indica is a herbal plant belonging to the Euphorbiaceae family that thrives in the wet temperate and tropical regions.
This plant is widely used in the traditional medicines of various countries and reportedly possesses diuretic, purgative, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and antihelmintic properties. It is used to treat bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia, rheumatoid arthritis, scabies, and other skin diseases.
The plant has also been reported to exhibit anti-venom, antioxidant activities and is used in treating cutaneous diseases. It is also believed to have post-coital antifertility effects.
It is used to treat earache, headache and also as an expectorant. The root decoction is used as a laxative. It quickens wound healing and is known to possess antitumor effect.
Kuppaimeni contains steroids, triterpenoids, glycosides, carbohydrates, alkaloids, flavonoids, and tannins. Acalypha indica has a high iron content, followed by zinc, copper, nickel, and chromium.
The entire plant is used in Siddha coz of its medicinal value. It is believed to detoxify the blood and rejuvenate the body.
Used in hair care for dandruff, baldness, and hair fall. Also used as a mouthwash to keep away mouth sores, plaque, and gingivitis.
I also came to know that these leaves in combination with turmeric were traditionally used to remove unwanted facial hair.
But honestly, I have never consumed these greens in any form so far. Unless you have someone to guide you do not consume them on your own.
These plants are found to attract cats, like catnips, and hence are also called ‘poonai vanangi’ in Tamil. These leaves are available in powder form even on Amazon.
11)Manathakkali Keerai / Black nightshade greens / Mokoi /Solanum nigrum
Layman knowhow – good for mouth ulcers
Researching on these greens I came across a lot of write-ups on the toxicity of this plant. I feel that these are the most underrated greens I have come across.
In our place, Tamilnadu which is a state in South India these plants are greatly valued, and rightly so.
As kids, we have consumed the berries right from the plant. The leaves which are sold in a bunch by the vendors were always priced twice that of the other greens.
Even the unripe berries are collected, soaked in buttermilk, and dried to make manathakali vathal with which we make the famous vatha kozhambu.
So I can assure you from my experience that these greens are safe to consume and are considered very healthy in our culture. But since it has medicinal value, it is consumed in moderation, about once or twice a week.
These greens are very well known for their ability to cure ulcers. Research has proven that manathakkali blocks acid secretion that leads to ulcers.
Whenever we had mouth ulcers as kids, mom would make sure we had these greens in some form.
The greens are considered good for liver, skin, and stomach-related issues. Manathakali has wonderful liver-protective properties and greatly helps prevent liver damage.
The topical application of the leaf extract is known to help to treat a lot of skin problems.
It contains good amounts of calcium, phosphorous iron as well as vitamins A, B, and C. We get to see two varieties one with purple and the other with orange berries.
It comes up in moist places and you would very well see them in your backyard. I know a lot of you have been pulling them out thinking they are weeds 🙂 . But now you know what to do.
The greens are mildly bitter, which can be got rid of by cooking with some lentils like moong or pigeon peas. Do look up my Manathakali keerai/Blacknightshade soup recipe.
12)Mudakathan Keerai / Baloon vine / Kanphata / Cardiospermum halicacabum
Layman knowhow – good for arthritis and joint pains
Mudakathan keerai is a very valuable plant in Ayurvedic and traditional medicine belonging to the family Sapindaceae.
Perhaps the most well-known benefit of these greens is their effectiveness in treating joint pains. It relieves arthritis pain as well as skeletal fracture pains. The leaves are heated up with oil and used topically for joint pains or applied as a poultice.
It is also used to treat fever & cold and also relieve spasmodic pains and cramps. The juice of the greens is used to cure ear pain.
In Siddha medicine, both leaf and seeds are put into use. These greens contain lots of amino acids, flavanols, glycosides, and phenols apart from vitamins B, B1, and C.
The leaves are known for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and analgesic properties. It is also considered to be a diaphoretic, diuretic, emetic, antipyretic and purgative.
The mature seeds are black in color with a small white heart on them and perhaps that explains the “Cardio” in its scientific name. An edible oil can be obtained from the seeds.
The seeds are also used as beads and the stems are made into baskets.
Since it is a medicinal plant, it can be had once a week in the form of soup or mixed with dosa batter and made into dosas or crepes.
13)Mulai Keerai / Thandu Keerai / Foxtail amaranth / Amaranthus blitum
Layman knowhow – purifies blood
Mulai keerai and thandu keerai are one and the same. It is called mulai keerai when young and tender and thandu keerai when mature. In thandu keerai the stems are peeled and can be used as a separate vegetable.
These greens are rich in vitamins A & C and minerals Phosphorous, Calcium & Iron. It also contains considerable amounts of copper, Magnesium, Sodium, Potassium, Sulphur, and chlorine apart from fiber.
It helps in purifying blood and cools the body and also effectively treating gall bladder stones. Helps in getting rid of constipation and reducing abdominal fat. It is considered very effective for treating piles.
These greens are easily available in the South Indian markets in green and red colors.
14) Murungai Keerai / Drumstick leaves / Sahjan ke pathe/ Moringa oleifera
Layman knowhow – rich in iron
Drumstick leaves are touted as the new superfood as it is nutrient-dense. It is a rare plant that contains all nine amino acids, usually found in animal foods.
It contains high amounts of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6 & C as well as minerals Iron, Calcium, Potassium, magnesium, Phosphorous, and Zinc.
Also, it has antioxidants and a wide variety of polyphenols, phenolic acids as well as flavonoids, and glucosinolates which are considered very good for health.
In fact, moringa is said to provide 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, 17 times more calcium than milk, 9 times more protein than yogurt, 15 times more potassium than bananas, and 25 times more iron than spinach.
The entire plant is edible, though we are used to the drumstick (the pods), the flowers, and the leaves(greens). A variety of dishes are made in South India using drumstick including the famous sambar.
Go to any hotel in Tamilnadu and you will find at least 1 piece of drumstick in the sambar 🙂 . This is because it enhances the flavor of the preparation.
The leaves are stir-fried or made into a gravy kind of dish with moong or pigeon peas. Nursing mothers are given a lot of these greens as it is supposed to help in lactation.
But the fact that the crushed seeds can purify a bucket of dirty water was news to me.
The leaves can be preserved for a long time by dehydration without loss of nutrients. These days we come across Moringa powder, tea bags, and even capsules.
This plant can be easily propagated through seeds or stem cuttings and does not need much care.
Moist climate can breed blanket worms which are indeed a menace and was one of the reasons why my m-i-l never let me grow one 😀 .
15) Nanju kondan keerai /Latcha kottai keerai / lettuce tree /Pisonia alba
Layman knowhow – removes toxins from the body, good for arthritis
Pisonia alba belongs to the Bougainvillea family or Nyctaginaceae. The genus has been named after the Dutch physician and naturalist William Piso. Pisonia trees are also known as bird catchers as it traps birds with its sticky seeds.
The plant is native to the tropical islands in the Indian and Pacific oceans and is largely found in the Andaman and Nicobar islands. It is a short evergreen tree with flat bright greenish-yellow leaves. It is grown as an ornamental plant owing to its bright and aesthetic-looking leaves.
Not many people know that the leaves of this tree can be used as greens. These greens contain ample quantities of mineral iron as well as vitamins A & C apart from B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin.
In traditional medicine, Pisonia alba leaves are used as an anti-inflammatory, antidiuretic, and antifungal. It is also believed to enhance masculinity.
It strengthens bones and is considered very effective in treating knee pains or arthritis. Helps in detoxifying the kidneys and removes toxins from the body. Hence the name ‘Nachu kondan keerai’ which means removing toxins.
16) Palak Keerai / Spinach / Palak /Spinacia oleracea
Layman knowhow – rich in vitamins and minerals
These are the greens that popeye the sailor used to have by canfuls 🙂 . It is a nutrient-rich green containing vitamins A, C, K, E, B vitamins and minerals iron, manganese, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and folate, apart from fiber.
But it also contains high levels of oxalate which renders most of the iron and calcium unusable by the body.
Raw spinach is 91% water and retains its nutrition when fresh, frozen, steamed, or quickly boiled. In South India, these greens are stir-fried, cooked with lentils, or mashed.
In north India, stuffed chapatis called palak paratha are made out of these greens. Palak paneer is another famous Punjabi delicacy.
Tender spinach leaves are used in salads as well as in making smoothies. Come winters and these leaves are mixed up with gram flour/besan and some spices and deep-fried into pakodas.
17)Parattai Keerai / Kale / Brassica oleracea var acephala
Layman knowhow – good in vitamin A
Kale belongs to the huge Brassicaceae family and genus Brassica comprising cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, collard greens, etc. All of them are given the common name Brassica oleracea which is further grouped into cultivar groups based on their developmental form.
Kale is a member of the Acephala group which refers to any type of Brassica that grows without a central head. There are many varieties of Kale too which are indicated by the ‘var’ name along with the botanical name.
It can be flat or curly and vary in color from green to bluish-green or even purple. The most popular ones are curly kale, red Russian kale, lacinato or dinosaur kale, Ornamental kale, Redbor kale, Siberian and Chinese kale.
It was primarily grown for ornamental or decorative purposes and slowly became popular as an edible vegetable coz of its nutritional value.
Raw kale is composed of 84% water. It contains large amounts of Vitamin K and significant amounts of A, C, E, and B vitamins – folate, thiamin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and B6.
It contains several dietary minerals including iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese. Cooked kale retains substantial quantities of Vitamins A, C, K, and manganese.
Kale has ample amounts of carotenoids, and glucosinolate compounds as well as polyphenols. It also contains nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin that give kale its dark green color and protect against macular degeneration and cataracts.
The whole plant is anthelmintic, astringent, antibacterial, and diuretic. It is used in the treatment of influenza, fever, urinary tract infections, enteritis, and diarrhea.
Kale holds its texture well in cooking, and it can be steamed, stir-fried, roasted, or eaten raw. It can also be made into smoothies, kale chips, or made into soups. The midrib is usually removed as it tends to be tough and fibrous and is more bitter.
In South India, it is made into poriyal/thoran or stir fries, and kootu or dal curry. It is also made into sambar or deep-fried into pakodas.
Webmd says that high amounts of Kale can interact with the functioning of the thyroid gland. So people with thyroid issues should exercise caution while consuming kale.
Also, kale is there are a lot of contradicting reports on the net on whether kale contains oxalates or not. Foods high in oxalates can aggravate kidney-related issues. But seems kale contains negligible amounts of oxalate far lesser than spinach or palak. Read here.
18)Paruppu Keerai / Purslane / Kulfa/ Portulaca oleracea
Layman knowhow – rich in omega 3 fatty acid
Commonly known as hogweed, these greens are generally considered as a weedy menace in gardens, as they are very invasive. So people normally pull them out. Maybe you are also one among them but I bet you will not henceforth😄.
These are some of the most nutritious greens and believe me I too did not know to this extent. In fact, getting to know a lot after researching for this post.
Getting back to purslane, these greens contain ample amounts of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It’s rich in vitamin A, C, B & E, and the minerals magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus. It is also a great source of Calcium and Iron.
Purslane is considered a rich vegetable source of omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants, including tocopherol, ascorbic acid, beta carotene, and glutathione. It is full of beta carotene the pigment responsible for the reddish color of its stems and leaves.
Purslane is also one of the few vegetables containing omega-3 fatty acids and is also rich in folate.
It tops the list of plants high in vitamin E and an essential omega-3 fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). Purslane provides six times more vitamin E than spinach and seven times more beta carotene than carrots.
People prone to kidney stones should be careful when eating purslane, especially seeds. Purslane seeds tend to have higher levels of oxalates than other parts of the plant.
The entire plant is edible. It can be added raw to salads, cooked up with stews or soups, or used as a garnish. We call it paruppu keerai as it is generally cooked up with pigeon peas/tur dal.
The plant’s bright yellow flowers are of interest in the food industry because of the nitrogen-containing betalain pigments.
19)Pannai Keerai / Silver cockscomb / Garkha /Celosia argentea
Layman knowhow – good for skin related issues
Commonly known as magili keerai, cockscomb, or quail grass these come up in fields in villages after rain or when the ground is wet. It is a tropical, short-lived, annual, erect herb that reaches up to 1 m tall.
I was never aware of these greens though the flowers called kozhikondai in Tamil were always around, as offering to the god. Cockscomb is an important and nutritious vegetable.
It contains ample amounts of calcium, potassium, sodium, magnesium, potassium, iron, and some amount of zinc, copper, and manganese. It is also rich in vitamins A, C, and E apart from thiamine and dietary fiber.
It is also a good source of quality protein, flavonoids, and essential amino acids, like glutamic acid, histidine, arginine, leucine, lysine, phenylalanine, and threonine. Also contains moderate amounts of valine, histidine, methionine, and isoleucine.
Minimal amounts of antinutrients such as oxalates, alkaloids, phytates, and saponins have been reported in Celosia argentia. These can be reduced or removed by cooking.
In traditional medicine, it is used as relief from diarrhea, bloodshot eyes, hypertension, cataracts, poison from snake bites, and blurring of vision. However, it is not advisable for people with glaucoma as it dilates the pupils.
It is also used to treat skin sores, eruptions, ulcers, mouth ulcers, and other skin diseases. Leaf extracts of this plant possess antioxidant, hepatoprotective, antidiabetic, and antimicrobial activities.
The flowers and seeds are astringent, hemostatic, ophthalmic, and parasiticide. They are used in the treatment of bloody stool, hemorrhoid bleeding, uterine bleeding, leucorrhoea, and dysentery
As a parasiticide it is very effective against Trichomonas, a 20% extract can cause the Trichomonas to disappear in 15 minutes. The seed is hypotensive and ophthalmic. It also has an antibacterial action, inhibiting the growth of Pseudomonas.
The seeds are widely used in India for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. A liquid extract from the leaves and flowers is used as a body wash for convalescents. The leaves are used in the treatment of infected sores, wounds, and skin eruptions.
The whole plant is used as an antidote for snakebites. The roots are used in the treatment of colic, gonorrhea, and eczema. The seed yields edible oil.
The leaves and young shoots are cooked and used in soups and stews. At our place, it is generally made into a mash called keerai kadaisal or masiyal.
Celosia argentea has been found to be a hyper accumulator of heavy metals esp lead and manganese. For heavy metals to be hyper accumulated by plants, it has to be excessively present in the soil. Therefore, to prevent toxicity as a result of heavy-metal accumulation, soil analysis of the field should be carried out before cultivating Celosia.
20)Pasalai Keerai / Kodi pasalai /Malabar Spinach /Basela alba or Basela rugra
Layman knowhow – used in treating anemia
Commonly called the Malabar spinach these plants are perennial climbers with succulent stems and leaves belonging to the Basellaceae family. Two species are found – the green stemmed Basella alba and the red-stemmed Basela rugra, which are indistinguishable in taste.
Ayurveda recommends Basella in the treatment of several conditions such as anemia, cough, dysentery, and diarrhea and as a poultice and in the treatment of mouth ulcers in south India.
The plant is reported to contain several phytoconstituents such as proteins, alkaloids, carbohydrates, polysaccharides, phenols, flavonoids, carotenoids, minerals, and vitamins A and C. It is also rich in Calcium, Potassium, and Iron apart from good amounts of phosphorous, manganese, and zinc.
The mucilaginous liquid obtained from the leaves and tender stalks of this plant is a remedy for habitual headaches. A decoction of the leaves is a good laxative for pregnant women and children. It has also been used to treat cracked feet.
It has immense potential activity on diabetes and this has been scientifically well established. Also found to have hypoglycaemic, gastro-protective, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anti-ulcer, and wound healing activity.
In India, it is generally cooked up with dal, meat, or seafood. Pasalai keerai kootu, masiyal, sambar, gassi, etc are some popular recipes with these greens. It is also cooked with fish or shrimp and also made into pakodas.
The fruits of the plant are used in making red dyes.
21)Pirandai Keerai / Veldt grape / Hadjod /Cissus quadrangularis
Layman knowhow – very good for joints
Commonly known as adamant creeper, it is a perennial evergreen climber belonging to the Vitaceae or grape family. It is native to the tropical region and is widely used in South India, Srilanka, and Thailand.
It has quadrangular sectioned stems with internodes around 8-10cm long. These look like the bones of the human skeletal system and hence it’s also called vajravalli.
There are many types of pirandai. All parts of the plant are put into use medicinally.
It has been used in Ayurveda and traditional medicine for ages. It is used for treating broken joints, injured ligaments, and tendons. It is also considered very effective in treating irregular menstruation and relieving body pains.
It is also used to treat stomach-related ailments like ulcers, indigestion, and gastric problems. Also helps in relieving gout pains.
Pirandai has been found to contain carotenoids, triterpenoids, and ascorbic acid apart from resveratrol. It also contains ample quantities of Calcium which explains its effectiveness in treating bone-related issues.
Most houses in Tamilnadu grow this plant and it is mostly used in making pirandai thuvaiyal or chutney using the stems and consumed with rice. Tender stems are best suited. Slightly matured stems can also be used after peeling the outer skin.
Care should be taken while handling as it can cause itching. Also, the stem should be sauteed well to prevent itchiness
Though generally stems are used, leaves can also be used to make chutneys. Roots are normally put into medicinal use. Other recipes include gravies, soups, vathal or sun-dried pirandai, and pirandai podi.
Pirandai uppu or pirandai salt made using pirandai ash is a very popular Siddha remedy. This is used for a lot of health conditions like obesity, ulcer, and a lot of bone and stomach-related issues.
Many people also make an oil using pirandai which is found to be very effective for joint and muscle pains when applied topically. These days we even get to see herbal powders and supplements.
It can be safely had twice a week in some form using fresh pirandai. Do consult a doctor if you are looking to treat some specific ailments.
Pirandai can be easily propagated through stems. In Qatar, I have seen them at the NSM supermarket, Barwa Village.
22)Ponnanganni Keerai / Sessile joyweed / Gudri saag / Alternanthera sessilis
Layman knowhow – good for eyes
Ponnanganni keerai is basically an aquatic plant belonging to the Amaranthaceae family. It is consumed as a vegetable in India some parts of Asia, though considered as a weed in some other parts of the world.
It is a perennial herb with strong creeping taproots and can grow in all soil types. The stems are generally prostrate often rooting at the nodes and the flowers are small and white in color. It spreads very quickly and is an invasive plant.
Though the plant grows wild it is cultivated for food, medicine, as an ornamental plant, and as poultry feed. Generally, the shoots and leaves are eaten as a vegetable.
A decoction of the greens is recommended as an herbal remedy to treat wounds, flatulence, nausea, vomiting, cough, bronchitis, diarrhea, dysentery, and diabetes. Its root can relieve inflamed wounds.
It is used as a local medicine often in mixtures with other medicinal plants, to treat hepatitis, tight chest, bronchitis, asthma, and other lung troubles. The leaves and shoots boiled and drunk as an antihypertensive remedy.
In ancient India, this plant has been used as an abortifacient, an antidote for snakebite and skin diseases. It possesses wound healing and hepatoprotective property. It also improves memory and is considered very good for the eyes.
Also, brightens skin tone and gives a golden glow to the skin which is why it is called ponnanganni in Tamil which literally translates to ‘golden girl’ 😀 .
The leaves contain significant amounts of Vitamins A , C and B vitamins – B1, B2, and B3. It was also found to be rich in beta carotene and some amount of Vitamin E apart from minerals Calcium, phosphorous and iron.
It also contained meagre amounts of antinutrients alkaloids, saponins, tanins, phytates and oxalates.
Back at our place these greens were also used to make hair oil, as they strengthened the roots and gave a lustre to the hair.
Two varieties are commonly seen – the green ones which are called ‘naatu ponaganni’ and the red ones called ‘semai ponnaganni’. Generally, the leaves are thin and pointed, though round – leaved ones can also be seen.
These greens are easily available and can be had thrice a week. Usually it is made into stir fries, or gravies with lentils.
23)Puliarai Keerai /Creeping wood sorrel / Amrul / Oxalis corniculata
Layman knowhow – used in treating warts
Puliarai keerai is another weedy annual perennial plant that can be found everywhere and is a member of the Oxidaceae family. It is characterized by three heart-shaped leaflets joined together varying from green to purple in color, and a lemony taste. It comes up when the climate is hot and the soil is moist.
The leaves contain about 86% water, apart from minerals calcium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, nitrogen, magnesium, and iron. Also contains niacin, vitamin C, beta carotene.
It is rich in tannins, palmitic acid, and linolenic acid. Also present are glycosides, phytosterols, phenolic compounds, amino acids, proteins, flavonoids, and volatile oil.
It contains ample amounts of oxalic acid, so people with kidney-related issues like kidney stones, uric acid, or gout should exercise care while consuming them. There are conflicting reports on whether pregnant and lactating mothers should consume these greens.
Some reports say that these greens are known for their anti-fertility property and their use in stopping lactation and hence should not be consumed by pregnant lactating mothers.
But this report here says that the Kota tribal women of the Nilgiris district in Tamilnadu consumed these greens to enhance lactation and to maintain good health of the foetus during pregnancy. So if you are pregnant or a nursing mom do consult a doctor before consuming them.
24)Pulicha Keerai / Gongura / Sorrel leaves / Pitwa / Hibiscus sabdariffa or Hibiscus cannabinus.
Layman knowhow – treats stomach disorders
Gongura or pulicha keerai as we call them is a very popular variety of greens widely consumed in the South Indian states of Andhra and Telangana. These greens are sour and are used in place of tamarind as a souring agent.
These belong to the hibiscus family. There are 2 varieties one with red stems called roselle or Hibiscus sabdariffa and the other with green stems called kenaf or Hibiscus cannabinus. The red-stemmed ones are sourer than the green stemmed ones.
The fruit pods of the red one are different from the green one both in looks and usage. The fruit pods of the roselle look like small-sized okra with red-colored calyx.
The red calyces are used to make hibiscus tea which is believed to help in reducing hypertension. Ignorant me, always thought hibiscus tea is made from the petals of red hibiscus flower 😀 . You too didn’t know, did you?
The roselle fruits have lots of medicinal properties. It contains good amounts of pectin and so is used in making jams, jellies, as well as fermented beverages like wine, syrups, and aromatic agents.
The seeds are ground to extract oil or roasted and used as a substitute for coffee. In India, the green leaves of both the red and green varieties are used in cooking.
Outside India, both varieties are priced for their fiber with which rope fiber, paper, animal feed, and bedding are made. It is also used as thread for fabrics
The leaves are a rich source of Vitamins A, B1, B2, B9, and vitamin C apart from the minerals Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, and iron. It is also high in dietary fiber.
In Ayurveda, it is recommended for treating stomach disorders like constipation, bloating, IBS, and also to nurture gut health.
It contains 11 amino acids apart from antioxidants like flavonoids, polyphenolic acids, and anthocyanins.
It is considered a very valuable plant in traditional medicine coz of its antioxidant, antidiabetic, antilipidemic properties.
It is also a diuretic, is antimicrobial, antiparasitic, and liver-protective.
There are some reports on the net claiming that these plants contain ample quantities of oxalic acid which is not good for people with kidney-related issues.
But most other research reports seem to state that they contain mainly phenolic acids and organic acids like citric, hydroxycitric, hibiscus, tartaric, malic, and ascorbic and are considered good for the kidney. Read here, here. & here.
Gongura pappu, gongura mamsam, and gongura pachadi or pickle are some very popular delicacies made using these greens. I have seen these greens disappear like hot cakes in the Indian Supermarket 🙂 .
24)Red thandu Keerai/ Adharanga / Amaranthus gangeticus or Amaranthus tricolor
Layman knowhow – purifies blood
Amaranthus tricolor is another edible green in the Amaranthus family exhibiting often variegated, distal leaves of striking colors. It is called red thandu keerai in Tamil while Joseph’s coat, Chinese Spinach, and Summer poinsettia are other common names.
Amaranthus tricolor is used in traditional medicine to treat pain, anemia, dysentery, skin diseases, diabetes, and is also used as a blood purifier. It is also used to treat piles, bladder problems, and toothache.
The leaf extracts contain bioactive compounds that are found to be effective in treating urinary tract infections. It is a rich source of minerals Calcium, Phosphorous, Potassium, Iron, and Sodium. Also contains good amounts of Vitamins A and C and moderate amounts of B vitamins- thiamine, riboflavin, and niacin.
These greens are one of the most commonly and easily available ones in the South Indian markets and are made into stir-fries or cooked and mashed. The tender leaves can be used in salads while the mature stems are also used as a vegetable.
The seeds are also sprouted and used as microgreens. These greens can be had twice or thrice a week, more so when grown at home or procured organically.
25)Sakaravarthi Keerai / White goosefoot/ Bathua / Chenopodium Album
Layman knowhow – effective in treating arthritis
Sakaravarthi keerai or Chenopodium album is a fast-growing plant in the Amaranthaceae family. Also known as bathua in Hindi it is widely used as greens in India, though elsewhere it is considered as a weedy menace.
The genus Chenopodium comprises around 150 species of which Chenopodium album and Chenopodium quinoa (which is our regular quinoa) are considered nutritionally important.
It is found widely distributed in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres and is a common weed in all cultivated crops and orchards. It is even considered responsible for indirect losses in agriculture in most parts of the world as it competes for nutrients with the crops and is resistant to most herbicides.
These greens are rich in proteins with a high proportion of 10 essential amino acids such as lysine, leucine, and isoleucine. It also has significant amounts of vitamins A & C as well as fibre.
It contained a very high degree of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and manganese and is rich in antioxidants and carotenoids. The nutrient content declined with the advancement in the age of the plant.
The Na/K (Sodium /Potassium) ratio in the body which is of great concern for the prevention of high blood pressure is less than 1 for these greens. Hence its consumption can help in reducing high blood pressure diseases.
Traditionally Chenopodium album is used as anthelmintic, antibacterial, carminative, digestive, blood purifier, diuretic, and laxative. It is also useful in peptic ulcer, dyspepsia, flatulence, ophthalmopathy, and general debility.
It is used in diet to enhance the sensory and functional value of the food. A fine powder of leaves is dusted to ally irritation and leaf juice is used for treating burns. It is also used to treat hepatic disorders, spleen enlargement, and intestinal ulcers.
These contain some amounts of antinutrients like saponins, oxalic acid, and phytic acid which get significantly reduced on cooking. So it is always advisable to cook the leaves and consume them.
Also, I came across certain reports that these greens have contraceptive properties. So please look up before consuming, if you have to. Otherwise, these greens are okay to be consumed twice or thrice a week.
In North India, these leaves are consumed as saag, raitha, or paratha. In the South, it is also called paruppu keerai and is usually cooked with dal/lentils and is believed to be very effective for arthritis and joint pains.
It can also be cooked in ways that other greens are cooked like stir-fries, soups, etc. Sakaravarthi in Tamil translates to king or emperor. These greens have been considered as the king of greens in Tamilnadu.
26)Sigappu Keerai / Red Amaranth / Laal saag /Amaranthus cruentus
Layman knowhow – rich in vitamin A
Amaranthus cruentus is an annual herbaceous plant originating from Central America and cultivated since ancient times for its grain. These are erect plants growing up to 2ft in height with mostly green or reddish-purple stems and dark red, purple, or beet-red inflorescence.
Though it is predominantly grown for its seeds, the leaves are an important vegetable in South Asia. It is classified as a weed in some parts of the world. These are the greens from the seeds of which the nutritious staple amaranth grain or rajgira atta is made.
Amaranthus cruentus is an important leaf vegetable crop cultivated throughout the tropics. The leaves are rich in vitamin A, calcium, and potassium. The seeds of grain amaranth are valued for their high protein content (up to 15%).
This amaranth is also high in lysine, iron, and fibre, all of which are useful as functional ingredient in cereal products. Amaranth oil is high in squalene, a powerful antioxidant used as a dietary supplement for diabetes and those suffering from hypertension and metabolic disorders
Amaranth cruentus forage meal and extruded grains have been used as feed ingredients for broilers. It is also used as fodder or animal feed.
The red dye from amaranth leaves is used to color alcoholic beverages in Bolivia and northwestern Argentina, to color maize dough in Mexico and the southwestern United States, and to dye foods and beverages in Ecuador.
It is considered one of the main leafy vegetables in Africa where they are made into soups, used in salads, or pureed into a sauce and served over vegetables. It is used as a tapeworm expellant and as a wound dressing.
In South India, it is mostly stir-fried with onions and coconut and called keerai poriyal, cheera thoran, harive soppu palya or upkari etc. In some places it is made into sambar and curries too.
27)Siru Keerai/ Tropical amaranth /Amaranthus polygonoides
Layman knowhow – removes toxins from the body
Sirukeerai is one of the commonly available greens in Tamilnadu with elongated stems and small leaves. Siru in Tamil means small and it is so-called coz of its small leaves.
Sirukeerai contains 90% water apart from proteins, minerals, and vitamins. It contains ample quantities of minerals Calcium & iron as well as potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese.
It is rich in vitamins A, B, and C. It is a diuretic and helps in alleviating kidney-related issues.
Also considered very good for the eyes and is effective in treating stomach-related issues like flatulence and constipation. It purifies the blood and is considered very good for anemia. Also, it gets digested quickly.
Its most important function is to remove toxins from the body. So much so that patients on some kind of medication are asked to have these greens to get rid of toxins formed in the body coz of medicines.
Normally consumed as stir-fries with onion and coconut, made into mash, or cooked up with dal.
28) Thavasi Keerai / Multivitamin plant/ Sauropus androgynus/
Layman knowhow – contains multivitamins
These greens are more popularly known as multivitamin keerai or pressure keerai in South India. It is very popular in South and South East Asia and belongs to the Phyllanthaceae or amla family. It is called cekurmanis in Malaysia where it is widely used.
It grows in humid high-temperature conditions and is widely cultivated for traditional medicinal purposes. It has been known as multigreen or multivitamin due to its high nutrient content and inexpensive source of dietary protein.
It contains good amounts of copper, magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, iron, manganese, sodium, zinc, and cobalt.
It also contains ample amounts of vitamin C, carotene, and B vitamins thiamine and riboflavin. Sterols, resins, tannins, saponins, alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenoids, and phenols are some of the phytochemicals present in this plant.
It is widely used in traditional medicine for wound healing, inducing lactation, relief of urinary disorders, as an antidiabetic cure, for fever reduction, and improving vision. Studies have also revealed antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-obesity properties of this plant.
In South East Asia, it is usually consumed raw in salad, stir-fried, used in curry, or cooked in soups. In Tamilnadu, it is made into sambar, kootu, or poriyal like the other greens. I have seen this plant grown for decorative purposes but have not consumed it to date.
The green leaves of the plant are also used as a food dye, while the flowers and fruits are also eaten.
Excessive consumption of these greens could lead to the potentially deadly bronchiolitis obliterans (BO), which is a lung disease. This was first reported in Taiwan in 1994 when it was introduced as a weight-reducing agent, and the raw juice of the leaves was consumed.
Hence consuming them raw, as well as excessive consumption should be avoided. It can be had once or twice a week. Do not consume without proper guidance if you are looking to treat some condition.
30) Thoothuvalai Keerai / Climbing brinjal / Kantakaari Lataa / Solanum Trilobatum /
Layman knowhow – used to treat cold and cough
Picture courtesy – My friend Sujatha Ramkumar
Thoothuvalai is a climbing plant belonging to the Solanaceae or the nightshade family which also has tomatoes, potatoes, brinjals, and chilly peppers as members.
The flowers of this plant closely resemble the eggplant and are mildly purple or violet in color. It is also commonly known as the purple fruited pea eggplant.
In Siddha medicine, it is called ‘kayakalpa herb’, and all parts of the plant are used. It is also said to contain natural steroids.
The plant as well as the leaves have thorns over them. This plant is used in indigenous Indian medicine to treat respiratory diseases like bronchial asthma. It is known to have anti-allergic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antihistaminic properties.
It contains alkaloids, tannins, saponins, flavonoids, steroids, terpenoids, and cardiac glycosides. The leaves are found to be rich in calcium, iron, phosphorous, as well as proteins, and fiber.
Traditionally it has been used to treat colds and coughs. In our households, soups or rasam are made using the leaves and consumed to ease cold-related symptoms. Thuvaiyal or chutneys are also made out of these leaves, after discarding the thorns.
This one is also not used on a daily basis, but had when we have congestion or some cold-related issues. But generally, can be consumed once or twice a week, as it has a lot of medical properties.
31) Thuthi Keerai / Indian mallow / Kanghi / Abutilon Indicum
Layman knowhow – effective in treating piles
The first time I came across these greens was when I was looking up herbal remedies for treating piles. Thuthi is a small herbaceous plant belonging to the Malvaceae family.
These are generally seen along roadsides and are characterized by their bright yellow flowers and circular fruits. They are also grown for ornamental purposes in some places.
In traditional medicine, all parts of the plant are used. It is known for its hepatoprotective, wound healing, immunomodulatory, analgesic, antimalarial, antimicrobial, and hypoglycemic activity, among others.
In India it is also reported as used by the Santals tribe to treat convulsions, cramps, colic pain, spermatorrhoea, dysentery, tuberculosis, coughs, bronchitis, and menorrhagia in humans and bone fracture in cattle.
It contains a number of phytochemicals like flavonoids, glycosides, tannins, phenolics, triterpenoids, and saponins. These exhibited the highest antioxidant and free radical quenching, cytoprotection, and UV-induced DNA damage.
Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Iron, Copper, cobalt, manganese, and nickel are found in all parts of the plant.
In Ayurveda, it is used to treat a number of ailments, the most popular one being its effectiveness in treating piles.
Outside India, it is widely used for its fibre to make jute, paper, and ropes. Also, used as a forage crop.
As with the other greens, we make stir fires, mash it up or cook it with dal which is called kootu. It is also made into chutney powder and consumed with rice.
32) Valla Keerai / Water Spinach /Kalambi or Karmi saag/ Ipomoea aquaticaLayman knowhow – good source of vitamins A,C and E
Also called kangkong, Chinese spinach, or morning water glory, these are very popular in South, East, and Southeast Asia. It comes up in waterways and thrives in moist soil. The stems are hollow and the leaves are arrow-shaped.
There are 2 varieties- the green stem water spinach or Ching quat with white flowers and the white stemmed water spinach or pak quat with pink flowers.
It’s a member of the morning glory family of Convolvulaceae and belongs to the same genus or category as sweet potato. It is a very invasive plant and considered a weed or a menace in the US as it obstructs water flow in canals and displaces vegetation important for marine life.
Water spinach is 90% water, other nutrients being carbohydrates, fiber, proteins, fats, and minerals. It contains good amounts of iron apart from Calcium, Potassium, Magnesium, Manganese, and phosphorous. It is an abundant source of Vit A, C, and E.
Also contains vitamin B, carotenes, amino acids, organic acids, antioxidants, and polyphenols. It is used in Ayurveda to treat jaundice and liver diseases as well as nervous debility.
The tender shoots are preferred for consumption. In southeast Asia, it is stirfried or cooked up with seafood. Back in our place it is usually stir-fried or made into kootu with pigeon peas. These greens do not reduce much in quantity after cooking, unlike the other greens.
One serious matter of concern that I came across is that these plants are very good at absorbing heavy metals. So they are considered a very good option for cleaning up contaminated water and municipal wastes.
Water spinach is found to be an efficient accumulator of metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury when grown in polluted waterways. Mercury in water spinach is found in the form of methyl mercury. All these are toxic to humans.
So do ascertain the source of these greens before proceeding to buy. You can minimize intake of heavy metals by using only the tender upper shoots as the stems and bottom part have a high concentration of these metals.
Or grow your own. These can be easily propagated at home with the stems. For people in Qatar, it is available in FFC and Megamart.
33)Vallarai Keerai / Pennywort / Sarswati / Gotukola / Centella asiatica
Layman knowhow – improves memory
Vallarai or Centella asiatica is a herbaceous perennial plant. It belongs to the Apiaceae family which consists of aromatic flowering plants including ajwain, carrot, parsley, coriander, etc.
It is also popularly known as Gotu kola, the Srilankan name for this green. Also called Mandukaparni in Sanskrit, it comes up easily in wetlands or swamps and is valued in the Indian subcontinent. It’s a very invasive plant that can take up the entire garden if not checked.
Two types are seen. One with heart-shaped leaves and the other with round-shaped leaves also called malai vallarai in Tamil.
It is a very rich source of all essential minerals and vitamins. It contains good amounts of Calcium, Iron, and Potassium as well as vitamins A, C & B2. Also, a good source of dietary fiber.
Centella asiatica extract is a rich source of natural bioactive substances, triterpenoid saponins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, triterpenic steroids, amino acids, and sugars.
These greens have been very popular in traditional medicine and Ayurveda where they have been used to treat skin and nerve-related issues. It is well-known for its neuroprotective and nootropic or cognition-enhancing properties.
In fact, it is a constituent of the medhyarasayana herbs in Ayurveda as it has rejuvenative effects, boosts memory, prevents cognitive deficits, and improves brain function.
It has been used to treat skin disorders. It is used as an active compound in skin care preparations because of its antioxidant, antiinflammatory, anticellulite, and antiaging activity. Its moisturizing properties help in skin hydration which helps in treating dry and sensitive skin.
It is also used to treat stomach disorders like gastritis, GERD, acid reflux, etc. Gotukola extract contains 70% triterpenic acids and is effective in treating cellulite, venous insufficiency of lower limbs, and varicose veins.
It also boosts blood circulation and is known for its antioxidant and anti-diabetic properties. But since it has medicinal properties it should be consumed in moderation about once or twice a week. If you are looking to consume for some medical condition do consult a doctor.
Mainly the leaves and tender portions of the stems are consumed either raw or cooked. In Tamilnadu chutneys, dosas, and vallarai podi are made with these greens. These days medical supplements in the form of tablets and powders are also available.
It’s a breakfast staple in Srilanka where they consume it as a porridge called Kola Kenda and consume it raw in sambols and mallums. Do look up my gotukola sambol recipe.
Because the plant is aquatic, it is especially sensitive to biological and chemical pollutants in the water, which may be absorbed into the plant. So exercise caution while consuming store-bought greens.
Seeds and saplings are easily available at online stores in India, in case you want to grow them. In Qatar, these leaves are available at FFC, Indian supermarket, Megamart, and Shoprite. Herbal porridge mix or Ilai kanji is available at Retail mart and Indian Supermarket.
34)Vendhaiya Keerai / Fenugreek leaves / Methi /Trigonella foenum-graecum
Layman knowhow – good for diabetic people
Fenugreek is a leguminous herb belonging to the Fabaceae family. This plant has been used in both Ayurveda and Chinese traditional medicine coz of its wonderful medicinal properties. The seeds have been used as a spice while the leaves have been used as greens from ancient times.
In fact, the leaves of the fenugreek plant are dried and used as a flavoring agent in North India. These go by the name of Kasuri methi and are an integral part of a number of traditional dishes.
Fenugreek plant contains active constituents like alkaloids, flavonoids, coumarins, steroids, saponins, and other antioxidants. It also contains a major class of phenolics including gallic acid and catechins.
It is a rich source of minerals Calcium, Iron, Potassium, Phosphorous, Magnesium, Manganese, and Zinc. In vitamins, it contains A, C, and B vitamins Thiamine, Riboflavin, Niacin, and folate apart from ample amounts of fiber.
It helps in reducing triglycerides and LDL thereby maintaining cholesterol levels. Helps in alleviating stomach-related issues like constipation, flatulence, and indigestion and increases appetite.
It is very well known for its anti-diabetic properties and is believed to delay galactose-induced cataracts in diabetic patients.
According to Ayurveda, it cools the body. Is traditionally given to lactating mothers and is very good for menstrual issues.
When applied as a pack on the hair, it strengthens the roots and makes the hair shiny. It is also very effective in treating skin-related issues.
The leaves are mildly bitter, so generally in South India, we cook it up with moong dal. In North India, it is used a lot. Paratha, aloo methi, and methi ladoo are the most popular ones.
It is also cooked up with meat or poultry. Look up my methi malai chicken recipe.
Fenugreek can be easily grown at home with the seeds available in your pantry. It comes up pretty quickly and is a low-maintenance plant.
35)Vetrilai kodi / Betel leaf / Paan / Piper betle
Layman knowhow – helps in digestion
Betel leaf is a vine belonging to the Piperaceae or pepper family. It is very popular in India and is economically, medicinally, and traditionally important in the whole world. Leaves of this plant are chewed after food as well as used as an offering to god in temples and on all auspicious occasions.
It is a perennial creeper and bears leaves that are 4–7 ” long and 2–4 ” broad. On the basis of chemical constituents of leaf essential oils, five prominent groups of betel vine landraces, namely Bangla, Kapoori, Meetha, Sanchii, and Desawari have been recognized.
The betel vine is called as ‘green gold of India’ as about 20 million people derive their livelihood directly or indirectly from the production, processing, handling, transportation, and marketing of betel leaves in India.
The leaves of this plant are mainly used as a mouth freshener and are also well known for curing many communicable and non-communicable diseases like cold, cough, bronchial asthma, rheumatism, stomachalgia.
Also used to treat other diseases like bad breath, boils, and abscesses, conjunctivitis, constipation, swelling of gums, cuts, and injuries. From studies, it is known that the aqueous extract of betel vine reduces the adherence of early dental plaque bacteria.
The essential oil of betel leaves possesses anti-bacterial, anti-protozoan, and anti-fungal properties. The leaves contain 83% moisture, with some amounts of carbohydrates, proteins, and fiber.
It contains good amounts of Vitamin C and beta carotene. Also is very rich in Potassium, Calcium, phosphorous, sodium, iron, and zinc.
By phytochemical screening, it was found that carbohydrate, protein, polyphenolic compounds, flavonoid, and alkaloids were present in its leaves. Also contain enzymes like diastase and catalase and traces of some amino acids namely lysine, histidine, and arginine.
Pre-clinical experiments have shown that betel leaf possesses antidiabetic, antiulcer, antimicrobial, antiplatelet aggregation, antifertility, cardiotonic, antitumor, antimutagenic, respiratory depressant, and antihelminthic activities.
It also prevents halitosis, improves vocalization, and strengthens gum, treats indigestion, constipation, congestion, coughs, and asthma.
Despite this, there has always been controversy that the consumption of betel leaves leads to oral cancer. On the contrary scientific studies have shown that betel leaf is itself devoid of mutagenic and carcinogenic effects.
In fact, along with curing different diseases, betel leaf is found to be useful in preventing different types of cancer. But it has been proved scientifically that consuming betel leaves with areca nut, catechu, slaked lime and often tobacco does induce cancer.
Coz of this health risk and constant spitting by the users of betel leaf, it has been banned in the Gulf countries.
In India, the most popular use of betel leaf has been to chew it with areca nut and lime or in the form of beeda. But I came across a lot of recipes using these leaves.
A few leaves were added to icecreams, chocolates, cakes, chaats, juices, etc to give it a different flavor and variety. In South India, rasam, chutney, vetrilai dosa, and vetrilai rice are made. Even pakodas are made with these leaves.
Am not done yet gyz 😀 . This is not an all-inclusive list and there a lot more out there. Working on 10 more on this list. Will keep updating as soon as is possible.
Also, will link to recipes made with greens as and when I make them. In the meanwhile, you can google up recipes with the details that I have provided 🙂 .
How to grow keerai or greens
Most greens come up through seeds, while a few can be propagated using stems too. Seeds of a few you may have to buy from nurseries, while quite a few of them are found all around us.
Water spinach, Ponnanganni, Malabar spinach, and Ceylon pasalai come up easily through the stems of the store-bought greens. Purslane, black nightshade, kuppaikeerai, thuthi, kezhanelli, and puliarai can be seen growing as a weed around.
Methi or vendhaiya keerai can be grown with the seeds in the pantry. The tubers of sweet potato and colocasia when put in soil, too grow into beautiful healthy greens (Am yet to cover this).
Seeds of pumpkin and ivy gourd from store-bought veggies can also be grown and their leaves used as greens which are nutritious.
If you can get hold of a mature bottle gourd from the stores, those seeds can be used to grow bottle gourd greens which are more nutritious than the vegetable. Same with cowpeas. (Post on these greens coming up next)
So that’s 17 varieties of greens that you can easily get access to or grow yourself. Drumstick can grow from stems or seeds, though stems grow quickly and give strong plants. You can easily get a stem from a neighbor who has a drumstick tree and grow them.
Greens like palak, gongura, amaranth varieties, kale, mudakathan, etc will need seeds. In India, seeds can be easily got from the nurseries around or through online stores.
Some people even sell indigenous seeds. So if you are an Indian, do google or look up youtube when you visit. Once you buy and grow them you can keep collecting the seeds at the end of the season.
Soil and plant care
Greens require ample amounts of sunshine, good soil high in nitrogen, and sufficient water. Soil can be prepared by adding a bit of manure, cocopeat, compost, or some potting mix with the regular garden soil. A bit of neem cake can also be added to the soil.
Sprinkle the seeds lightly over the soil and cover it with a thin layer of soil. Keep drizzling water as needed. Once it grows watering should be gentle as the plants can easily fall over.
Green leaves require high amounts of nitrogen. This can be partly fixed by growing a leguminous plant, like bean with greens. Once the greens grow up a few cms, manure tea or fish emulsion can be used once a week. Grass clippings which contain good amounts of nitrogen can be used as mulch.
Keep picking the greens as they grow. This will give rise to newer shoots and you will get a steady supply throughout the season. Else, it will start bolting, which will result in the onset of flowers before harvesting the greens.
Sufficiently water the greens depending on the climate. Insufficient watering will turn the leaves bitter while overwatering will rot the roots. Also as much a possible avoid spraying water on greens as moisture will easily breed worms that are very hard to eradicate.
You need not worry about the greens that come up as weeds, as they can grow on their own.
Greens are no doubt an abundant source of minerals, vitamins, and fiber apart from antioxidants and phytonutrients. But most of them do contain antinutrients like oxalates and lectins.
Oxalates or oxalic acid occur naturally in most green leafy vegetables. It is also produced as a waste by our bodies. Oxalates bind themselves to Calcium as they leave the body, thus increasing the risk of kidney stones in some people.
This also prevents absorption of Calcium by the body which results in bone-related issues. Palak or spinach is one green that contains very high amounts of oxalate, as much as 755mg in half a cup of cooked spinach.
That much in cooked spinach. So people frequently consuming raw spinach in the form of smoothies or salads do ensure that your uric acid levels are normal.
Oxalates can be naturally flushed out of the body by consuming lots of water. Cooking too reduces oxalates considerably. Still, if you have a history of kidney-related issues reduce intake of these greens rather than avoid them completely.
Lectins are anti-nutrients which are protein molecules that bind themselves to certain carbohydrates like sugar. Plant-based lectins are generally considered safe, still, they can become a matter of concern, depending on the type of lectin.
Boiling breaks down lectins so it’s a good idea to cook foods containing lectins before consuming them.
Nitrates – Amaranthus greens, esp the red ones growing in nitrogen-rich soil, are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used.
Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies, and some other health problems. Hence it would be advisable to avoid these greens if they are not grown organically. Read here.
Apart from the above, some greens are said to have anti-fertility properties, while some others seem to have high concentrations of heavy metals that they absorb from the water.
But since greens are rich in a range of essential vitamins and minerals, they need not be avoided altogether. Strike a balance using the general know-how of greens as given above and utilize it to the best of your health.
How often to consume
It is impossible to keep track of the benefits or the negative impacts of all the greens available. Though doctors do advise having a green a day is good for health, I feel even nature did not think so 🙂 . Cleaning up the greens does take quite some time that it is almost impossible to consume it daily.
It would be safe to consume some variety of greens thrice weekly, rather than daily. If you have some health issues like high levels of uric acid, look out and exercise caution while consuming greens that contain oxalates.
Similarly, if you have thyroid-related issues, be cautious with kale. Some people experience allergic symptoms while consuming certain types of greens, while some have stomach-related issues. In such cases avoid that particular green as it is not working fine for your system.
Also, we tend to consume more of certain greens for certain conditions. For instance, mouth ulcers meant that black nightshade greens will be on the menu 3 or 4 times a week. Nursing moms were given drumstick leaves frequently to improve lactation.
Greens that have lots of medicinal value should not be consumed frequently. However, when consumed occasionally they do provide valuable nutrients to the body.
Do consult a doctor or take the advice of grannies or elders in the family if you want to use greens to treat some specific issue. Better still..keep in touch with a Tamil friend 🙂 . He/She will know quite a bit about greens than most people.
Before marriage, we rarely had greens growing in our house. One ‘keeraikaramma’ or the lady who sells greens will be there in every area back at our place in Coimbatore. She was the one who decided what greens we consumed 😀 , coz our choice was limited to what was available with her.
Thrice a week mom bought from her. Back then there were lots of varieties to choose from. These days most have become rare.
Now, I have my own small backyard garden. At any time, I have at least 10 varieties of greens that I grow in pots. So this is what I do. I use small quantities about a handful of them, in everyday cooking or as frequently as possible.
I saute a handful of drumstick leaves, Ponnanganni, Malabar spinach, or waterleaf with the onions when I make dal rice for my son. I add a few drumstick leaves when making adai, which is a South Indian thick crepe-like dish made by grinding grains and lentils.
Green leaves also find their place in omelets and alu parathas where I use mudakathan keerai. Purslane is specifically cooked with dal whenever possible, while pirandai is made into chutney once or twice a month when I get sufficient quantity. Same with gongura.
Once in a week or 10 days I collect all the greens available and make a stir fry or some curry. Growing your own greens is definitely a very satisfying experience. The taste also is so good and incomparable with the store-bought ones.
More to come under this list to be followed by leaves of vegetables used as greens and microgreens. Stay tuned 🙂
51)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5255969/ for Basela alba
52)https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2015/128256/ for Basela alba
53)https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/49455 for Sesbania grandiflora
54)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5891458/ for Alternanthera sessilis
55) Lalitha Sree T, Vijayalakshmi. K. Evaluation of vitamins and
antinutrients in the leaves of traditional medicinal plant Alternanthera Sessilis (L.) R.Br.Ex DC.
Int J Health Sci Res. 2018; 8(10):244-253.
56)https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/16033 for mudakathan keerai
59)https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2019/2684108/ for Celosia argentea
60)Oluwafunmilayo Dorcas Adegbaju, Gloria Aderonke Otunola, Anthony Jide Afolayan. Potential of Celosia species in alleviating micronutrient deficiencies and prevention of diet-related chronic diseases: a review[J]. AIMS Agriculture and Food, 2019, 4(2): 458-484. doi: 10.3934/agrfood.2019.2.458
61)https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/4645#tosummaryOfInvasiveness for Amaranthus cruentus
62)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3931203/ for Costus igneus
Do look up my other glossaries