Raai ko saag : mustard greens magic

It’s the that time of the year when we in the north east especially in Sikkim cannot get over the two vegetables that can be found all over the vegetable markets at this time; Duku (mustard well grown greens) and ishkush (chayote). In the hills of Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim, these two vegetables are readily available during the months of January end to march beginning.

loads of mustard greens being sold in the markets

The mustard greens (raai ko saag) maturation cycle and timings

woman holding a big mustard green leaf.
picking raai saag leaves

In the home gardens, when the mustard greens start to mature into small flowerets, people know that it is time for winter to slowly retreat and take a back seat. The very last breath of the seasons starts to blow and one may catch a winter rain here and there, even a heavy hailstorm every now and then. I remember when I was young, my granddad who used to be working in the garden would be stopped by a passerby for a leisurely conversation and they would say, “hajur ko duku kati majale umreko” (your mustard greens have matured so well ) and my grand dad would say “ khai abo kaile samma khanu paune ho… ashina le bigar gari di ta halne hola abo” (let’s see how long we get to eat these mustard greens; sooner or later the hailstorm is going to smash these upright mustard leaves and spoil them).
mustard greens plantation

Once the mustard greens grow, one gets to eat them for a good period of 1-2 months but after the first hailstorm that indicates the end of the winters comes by, the vegetables start to slowly deplete and start to finish. Thankfully we have not yet received the hailstorm and we are still relishing on the sweet and spicy flavors of the tender mustard greens.

As for the chayote, it is a vegetable that can be consumed throughout the year but there is a catch. Chayote can grow naturally in the winters without any manual care required for it to grow like wild fire. Chayote grows so much in the winters that often times one may find a couple of ripe chayote fruits fallen on the roads and there are no takers. In the summers however the chayote starts to slowly back down as well. The luscious fleshy fruit that fed so many people throughout the winters starts growing scarce by the end of the month of March.

Mustard greens are known to grow best in the spring and fall seasons. Here in the hills, people are crazy over a fresh bundle of mustard greens. The leaves are big, fresh, juicy, crunchy, mustardy and super healthy. The flavor profile of the mustard greens go so well with a lot of dishes. It is super tasty to enjoy it as is, in salads or by simply blanching it in oil with a little salt to taste. But I’m sure a lot of folks would agree to how amazing mustard greens tastes with meats; especially pork to be precise.  (I’m pretty sure I got some people vividly imagining the rai ko saag drenched in delicious pork fat and the meat).

All leafy greens are health boosters as we all know. But mustard greens may as well be the stereotype of the “eating your greens” catch phrase that we often hear mothers say to their children. The leaf has been used from well in the past, specifically for all the good it does to the health of a person.

Studies have shown that mustard greens are a diuretic that support kidney functioning. It also helps with detoxification (a process that involves eating only naturally growing vegetables and greens to flush the toxins in the body that accumulates due to consumption of processed foods). Mustard greens are an anti-septic and also help heal wounds. It is also consumed as a supplement to catalyze the cure of sore throats and cough.

The greens contain a lot of immunity boosting antioxidant varieties such as beta carotene which not only help you with skin issues and ageing, but also help you with lowering risky factors that add to diabetes. It is a really rich source of vitamins B such as thiamine (B1,) niacin (B3,) and pyridoxine (B6.)

A single serving of the mustard greens is known to provide:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K
  • Potassium &
  • Calcium

The amounts of nutrition that can be expected out of a single helping of Raw Mustard greens (when consumed as salad) are:

  • Carbohydrates (6 grams)
  • Fiber (4 grams)
  • Calories (33)
  • Proteins( 3 grams) &
  • Sugar (0 grams)

Mustard greens and even the mature mustard greens are an excellent source of vitamins, nutrition and minerals that one’s body needs to maintain a good immunity health. One of the most important vitamins that help with immunity boosting is the Vitamin C and a single helping of mustard greens can hold up to half of the daily vitamin c needs that your body is required to consume to do so.

Even when you cook raai ko saag, you can consume up to your entire day’s requirement of Vitamin A. it is this very vitamin that is known to benefit the health of organs such as the kidney, heart, lungs and pancreas.

Some of the other health benefits include:

  • Improving of brain functioning :

It is suggested by a study that is ongoing that the luten present in the mustard greens can affect the brain tissues positively. This very effect can boost cognitive functioning and performance and also reduces the other risks of a mental degeneration.

  • Helps strengthen bones:

Vitamin k in raai ko saag not only helps improve and protect your heart health but at the same tie also helps strengthen bone health. It is prevalent in young people that a deficiency of the vitamin k results in illness such as osteoporosis and bone mineral abnormalities. Studies have therefore suggested that a good amount of vitamin k in your diet can help you avoid such risks to bones and the vitamin in turn helps protect the bones against fractures.

I guess the people up in the hills have got it all right in consuming unimaginable amounts of organic rai ko saag every spring and fall, after all walking on such inclined land requires a good bone health.  In another article we must discover the quintessential recipe of the “raai ko saag ra sungur ko masu” (pork and mustard greens recipe).

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