Thursday, April 10, 2008

Ladies That Lunch

Yesterday, I joined a couple of other women for lunch in a restaurant (North Indian, in case you’re curious), something I do maybe once every six months. Today, I’m happily working away at home, writing about the avifauna of Tabin Wildlife Reserve and looking forward to seeing the birds there once again in a couple of weeks.

However, my stomach tells me it’s getting close to lunchtime so I stared in the fridge but nothing spoke to me. I went out into the garden to see how my tiny rocket seedlings survived the night of rain after yesterday’s transplanting and there it was, lunch staring me in the face: Asian pennywort.

This herb grows wild in much of Asia and used to be in our lawn in our Singapore home at Rochester Park. It was Jamie’s job to pick the daun pegaga for Fatimah, our wonderful Malay amah who kept the house clean, the clothes ironed, the dishes washed and was second mother to the children. Fatimah always said this plant was “good for women” and it is, indeed, a very valuable medicinal plant: rich in vitamin A, good for purifying the blood, boosts the memory and concentration (well, so they say), lowers blood sugar levels, relieves the pain of arthritis and rheumatism etc etc. I just love the slightly bitter taste and often add a handful to some fresh pineapple and whirr it in the blender to make a pale green and alarmingly healthy drink.

In Sri Lanka, this plant is known as gotu kala and is often made into a side-dish called Mallung, which is what I’m going to have for lunch, mixed with some grated coconut (a tiny packet removed from the fridge), onion, lime juice and dried mackerel flakes (katsuobushi).

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