Back in Uganda, the flat I lived in as a child was above the marketplace- boisterous and bursting with stuff, including new and weird vegetables to interest the many Asian Ugandans who were vegetarians. Like other consumers, their palates tired of the usual and wanted something different. So one time these pale green, long things appeared, looked a bit like a policeman’s baton. They were a kind of marrow. Indians called them ‘dudhi’ meaning milky because when you cut them open they were pure white and light- including the seeds.
Another white and large baton, much eaten in the Punjab- is the mooli, from the radish family. They can be two feet long. They are not usually cooked but eaten raw, sliced up and with Indian breads. The best can blow your mind- they are stronger than radishes and have that nasal lick like horseradish. Crunchy and strong they cut through the richness and fullness of Indian food and it is said help digestion. But that may just be something ‘ethnic’ passing for wisdom. Where is the evidence? My friend, the scientist Simon Singh would ask and as usual I have no answer. Nor did my Aunt who just said; ‘ believe me, it works’.
Third, the most unusual- a very long, thin, green veg, which if it was a woman would look like one of those bony teachers who never smile and seem to hate food and kids. Anyway, wee call it ‘saragwo’. It is usually, like dudhi, added to dhals, to add interest and texture. You have to learn how to suck it, slowly from top to bottom, going all the way. It tastes like the love child of asparagus and artichoke.
You can buy all these in Indian groceries if you look and even Morrisons stocks them sometimes. We really are now the most varied marketplace in the world. Find any recipe for Dhal. Add chunks of dudhi or the thin ladies half way. They should be soft yet hold firm. And for your salad thinly sliced mooli with some lemon juice and salt. Suddenly that sometimes boring yellow soup, becomes the next big thing …