An earlier post on ridge gourd drew several reactions mostly of the 'ughh', 'yuck' and 'sheee' (Maharashtrian expression of extreme disgust ) genre. Gustad ( the Ironcheff), in New York went so far as to call it..."bahhji". I never realised so many people didn't like ridge gourd. Perhaps it is like karela / bitter gourd...an acquired taste.
Not many people I know wax eloquent about cluster beans either but once you taste this version you will be a fan for life.The slight bitterness is tempered by the addition of gur and the milk gives it a creamy feel.This is one of my favourite Maharashtrian recipes.
For those who would like to know what Govar is known as in their own language here is a glossary in Indian languages.
Gujerati-Guvar ni sing
250 gms guvar/ cluster beans chopped into 1/2 " piece
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp rai/ mustard seed
1 potato peeled and cut into small cubes.
Pinch of hing / asafoetida
1/2 tsp haldi / turmeric
A generous pinch of ajwain / thymol seeds
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp grated gur /jaggery
1 tbsp chopped green coriander
Clean, chop and cook the beans in two cups of water till done.Drain and keep aside.
Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the mustard seed . When they pop add and fry the potatoes. When golden brown add the hing, ajwain, haldi and salt and stir well.
Now add the cooked beans and the milk
Bring to the boil and add the chilli powder and grated jaggery. Cook till most of the milk has been absorbed. Then add the coriander, stir once and serve.
The bean must be picked when young and tender as it becomes woody, fibrous and hairy as it matures and then is not fit for human consumption.They can then be fed to animals ! The beans have always been used as fodder for animals and it is said that it was originally brought to India by Arab traders as horse feed from the Middle east, where it grew profusely in the deserts.Contrary to this version of history it is also said that guar originated in India and since the country has so many arid and semi arid areas it also produces 80% of the world guar crop.
The cluster bean has a large endosperm which is used to produce a guar gum, a highly refined form of which is used as a stabiliser in cheeses and whipped cream substitutes. It is also used as a stiffener in icecream.
It is a good crop for India as it is drought resistant, nor does it deplete the soil; in fact it actually enriches it with nitrogen. After the harvest , if bits of the roots and other "waste" materials are ploughed back into the soil, it improves succeeding crop yields. Rajasthan grows most of the guar produced in India and it is harvested in October-November. However this vegetable can be found throughout the year in most markets here, and it is a pretty popular part of the Maharashtrian Thali.