DURING WINTERS, carts loaded with leafy green vegetables are a common sight in Delhi. Vendors ferry around a variety of greens such as mustard, spinach and fenugreek. Once in a while, but not often, they get chickpea greens or chane ka saag. Chickpea (Cicer arietinum)—which is the second-most commonly grown legume in the world—is cultivated for its protein-rich seeds and not for the green leaves, which is why finding them in the market is a rarity.
To improve the yield of chickpea, these tender leaves are nipped off the young plants—this makes the plant bushy as it promotes the growth of lateral branches which help produce more seeds. The leaves are slightly sour in taste due to the presence of oxalic and malic acids. In villages, it was common to see children snacking on them. The farmers would not mind as long as the children plucked only the young leaves at the top. The sour taste is lost if the leaves are washed.
The saag is rarely available in the market, but you don’t have to lose heart if you do not find the leaves with the vendor. You can grow them at home, taking a lesson from the microgreens fad. Instead of harvesting the plants immediately after the first two leaves are formed, let the plants grow for a longer period till the shoots bear more leaves. The appropriate number of leaves would be available in about 10 days.
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