Indian Summer Vegetables
Indian summer vegetables includes those vegetables that are traditionaly available between the months of April and June. Though, sceintific prgress has made it possible to grow these vegetables all year through, they are at their nutritional best during the summer season. They also suit are constiution during those months.
 Why should I be aware of this?
A three-month study conducted by doctors at the Institute of Population Health and Clinical Research, Bangalore, has found that sugar levels in new diabetics, with fasting blood sugar counts below 200, can drop by 16% by simply slurping the curried vegetable, known to botanists as Coccinia indica. It also reduced post-prandial blood glucose (sugar count after a meal) by 18%.
 All about Indian summer vegetables
The typical Indian summer vegetable is soft-skinned, soft-fleshed and moisture-filled, and perfectly suited for hot climates. A thumb rule is that all vegetables that grow on creepers can be classified as summer vegetables.
The gourd family is a vast group of Indian summer vegetables, with regional variations across the country. The most commonly available vegetable is bottle gourd (ghia, doodhi), bitter gourd (karela), ridged gourd (tori), snake gourd (chichinda), ash gourd (petha) and wax gourd (padval, parmal). Another very common vegetable that grows on creepers is pumpkin (kaddu, sitaphal, kumrha); the tender pumpkin has a green skin that is edible, which later ripens to a hard orange skin that needs to be peeled.
- Kundru (Coccinia Indica), yet another humble summer vegetable, so far met at the dining table with indifference, may now find new respect even among picky palates. That's because new research shows that consuming 50 grams of kundru daily can help keep your blood sugar under check.
- Tinda or baby squash is another common summer vegetable, especially in North India, as also the ladyfinger, okra or bhindi, which is available throughout the warmer months. The cucumber is a cooling, juicy summer vegetable that is had raw. Among leafy vegetables, choulai saag (amaranth greens), as well as its lovely red version, are typical of summer. Tender green mangoes, another popular summer offering, is full of Vitamin C, and are cooked in various ways.
 Nutritional Benefits of Bottle Gourd
It’s not just a bland, shape-less and taste-less vegetable. Bottle gourd has properties that are valued in traditional healing, and which most of us are unaware of. The cooked vegetable is cooling, calming (or sedative), diuretic and easy to digest. It’s excellent for light, low calorie diets, as well as for small children, people with digestive problems, diabetics and convalescents. Bottle gourd is rich in iron (any vegetable that turns brownish after being cut has iron) and also has Vitamin C and B complex.
A glass of raw bottle gourd juice with a pinch of salt is an excellent drink in summer to quench thirst, fight fatigue and prevent loss of sodium. Since the juice is alkaline, it is also a good cure for urinary infections (to counter the high acid levels in the urine that cause a burning sensation).
 Nutritional Benefits of Other Summer Vegetables
Most of us are familiar with the term beta-carotene, an anti-oxidant found in red, orange and yellow vegetables. It is known to increase immunity and prevent cancer. Pumpkins are rich repositories of beta-carotene, calcium, potassium and fibre. In traditional medicine (Indian and Chinese), pumpkin is said to be cooling, diuretic and good for stomach upsets. It is thought to regulate blood sugar levels and help stimulate the pancreas — thus diabetics are advised to eat pumpkin.
Ash gourd or petha is a vegetable North Indians seldom cook, but know better as the famous candied sweet, Agra Petha. It is more popular as a cooked vegetable in the eastern and southern states of India. Petha is a natural source of iron, Vitamin C and B complex, and is excellent for anaemia. In fact, Ayurvedic doctors prescribe a spoon of powdered petha (or dried petha leaves) to be had daily with a glass of lassi to cure anaemia. As we know, calcium (in the lassi) aids the assimilation of iron by the body.
The most common green leafy vegetable in summer is choulai or amaranth greens (also known as Chinese Spinach). They are a very good source of Vitamins A, B6, C, riboflavin and folate, and rich in minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. Wash these leaves in plenty of water, chop and sauté with green chillies and garlic; it tastes delicious with rice or rotis.
 Nutritional Benefits of Bitter Gourd
Children might pull a long face at the mention of bitter gourd or karela, but as one grows older, ones cultivates a taste for the bitter. And the body needs it too. Bitter gourd is a medicine chest all by itself. It contains Vitamins A, B1, B2, C and iron, and is known as an established cure for blood disorders such as boils, rashes, fungal infections and ring-worm. It also helps control hypertension and diabetes, and generally increases immunity. Bitter gourd has phenolic compounds that reduce glucose release during carbohydrate digestion. Thus, it has a hypoglycemic effect and is good for diabetes.
All traditional Indian cuisine has bitter gourd dishes, but the best way to have it is the least cooked, and with the least spices. If you can stand the bitter flavour, don’t boil it and throw the water away (as many cooks do) — try and have it steamed or lightly tossed with little spice. The simpler the summer vegetable dish, the better — you get all its natural goodness and flavours.
 What can I do?
 Some preparations of summer vegetables
Here are 12 imaginative and healthy ways to prepare bottle gourd, tori and tinda, those eternal summer vegetables.
- Julienne the bottle gourd and steam it lightly. Make a raita of this, seasoned with cumin and mustard powder. This is a traditional Bihari dish.
- Boil bottle gourd, carrots, tomatoes and a handful of moong or masoor dal. Liquidise it and make a delicious chilled soup. For a special dish, see recipe for Bottle gourd-Green Peas Shorba below.
- Cook bottle gourd as you would a chicken curry, with an added cup of soya nuggets.
- Cook bottle gourd with frozen shrimp. This is a Bengali favourite, see the Lau-Chingri recipe below.
- Slice tori in thin rounds and make pakoras out of it with gram flour batter.
- Oven-grill tori with Italian herbs, olive oil and garlic, and serve on bruschetta (French bread toast).
- Stir-fry sliced tori, sliced red and yellow peppers and onions in extra virgin olive oil. Add some bacon or ham if you want a non-vegetarian variation.
- For a typically French Mediterranean dish, scrape and slice the tori; sauté in a frying pan with butter and fresh dill (sowa greens).
- Make a Spanish omelette with sliced tori, onions and capsicum.
- Cook tinda with a mild onion-garlic-ginger gravy; add milk instead of water and simmer till done.
- Pan-cook whole tindas with browned onion, garlic, tomatoes and Worcestershire sauce to accompany a roast.
- Make a tinda and mince stir fry with Chinese herbs — chopped spring onion, ginger-garlic, celery, green chillies and soya bean sauce.
Kundru (Kundroo) or Tindora Sabji
- 250 gm kundru, washed and quartered lengthways
- 1 tbs cooking oil
- 1 tsp Panch Poran spices
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder or haldi
- Salt to taste
- Chilli powder to taste (optional)
- 1/2 tsp mustard powder (Coleman's type)
- Heat oil in a wok, non-stick is better.
- Add panch-pooran and allow the seeds to splutter. Keep a lid on or mustard seeds will go in all corners of your kitchen.
- Add turmeric, stir for a couple of seconds and add sliced kundru.
- Add salt
- Stir thoroughly and cook covered on low medium heat, until tender.
- Add mustard and continue stir frying on higher heat, until they have a fried look and oil shines.
- Serve hot with a dal of choice and Chapatti.
Bottle Gourd-Green Peas Shorba Serves 4-6
- 1 kg bottle gourd, peeled and cubed
- 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
- 3-4 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2-inch piece cinnamon
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp saunf or fennel powder
- ½ tsp black pepper powder
- Small bunch of fresh coriander and mint (chopped)
- Salt to taste
- ½ cup cream to finish
- Heat the butter in a pressure cooker. Add the cinnamon and when it releases a fragrance, add the bottle gourd and peas, and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Now add all the other ingredients (except cream) and sauté for another 2 minutes.
- Add 1 cup water to the ingredients, close the pressure cooker and bring to a boil. Turn off heat after the first whistle.
- Cool the cooker and pour out the contents. Strain through a metal sieve to make the soup. Discard the cinnamon and tomato skin that remains in the sieve.
- Stir in the cream and chill to serve. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint.
- 1 medium bottle gourd (750gm)
- 250 gm frozen or fresh shrimp
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp cumin (zeera) powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp ghee
- For garam masala, pound together 2-inch cinnamon, seeds of 4 green cardamoms and 4 cloves
- Peel the bottle gourd and cut in fine juliennes. Steam it in a covered vessel with just about 2 tbsp of water.
- Coat the shrimp with ½ tsp turmeric and salt.
- Heat the oil in a kadhai. Toss in the bay leaves.
- Add the steamed bottle gourd and sauté for a minute or two.
- Next add the shrimp and all the masalas and salt. Keep stirring on a low heat, till the spices are blended and exude a fragrance; the turmeric and coriander shouldn’t smell raw. This would take about 10 minutes; if the moisture of the bottle gourd dries up, sprinkle some water over it.
- Finally, stir in the ghee and garam masala and serve with rice.