Saturday, January 19, 2013

Green Leafy Vegetables - साग-पात हरु - (Part 1)

Green Leafy Vegetables - Hariyo Saag-Paat Haru (साग-पात हरु) - (Part 1 of 4)
A Visual Guide to Green Leafy Vegetables of Nepal

December and January in Kathmandu is the peak season for savoring green vegetables.  Here is a seasonal guide to what you can find in most outdoor Nepali Tarkaari Bazaar (vegetable shops).  Look at the giant size Mustard Greens leaves (raayo ko saag).  Happy marketing!
Open Air vegetable market at Maru Sattal Chowk, Kathmandu (one of the major tourist attraction area).  Meet my favorite friendly and cheerful saag vendor - "Tapai lai aaja kun taajaa saag chaahiyo?" - (translation - which fresh greens do you want this morning?). I captured this picture with his permission, and he smilingly tells me to bring back the digital photo prints.  He promised to reimburse me the printing cost.

Vegetables - (Tarkaariharu)

Nepal has a complex topography with hills and flat lands, and the Kathmandu valley is renowned for the seasonal vegetables grown in its fertile soil.  Vegetables (tarkaari) are one of the most important foods in the daily Nepali diet, and a typical Nepali meal consists of rice, lentils, and some kind of side vegetable dish.

The most common vegetables include green beans, cauliflowers, cabbage, eggplants, greens (mustard, spinach), okra, potatoes, Nepali radish, squash, tomatoes and many other seasonal local vegetables.  Due to the scarcity of cultivated land in many rural and hilly areas of Nepal, fresh vegetables are limited, so locals tend to consume root vegetables as well as dried and fermented vegetables.  Generally, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and mustard greens are eaten daily in large quantities wherever available.  Vegetables are also made into pickles, salads, snacks, and desserts.

During the peak season, you may see a local farmer balancing a bamboo pole across his shoulders, holding two wicker woven baskets full of freshly picked vegetables, heading to the market.  In Nepali vegetable markets, one can experience the proud skills of vendors arranging every tiny space with a dramatic display of vegetables and fruits.  Greens, such as spinach, mustard, fresh coriander, and garden cress are neatly tied in small bundles and piled up in a beautiful way.  A variety of dry vegetables such as potatoes, onions, and shallots are skillfully arranged in a wicker trays, or baskets or in jute-burlap sacks.  On many street corners, vendors set up small stands with the fresh fruits and vegetables such as green gooseberry, labsi (Hog plum), guava, or tangerines.  The vegetables are sold in the markets weighted in a hand-held local scale, known as taraaju, which comes in a variety of sizes and forms.  Measurements are done in kilograms.  Most Nepali households do not store vegetables, so they are bought fresh every day.

Here is the pictorial tour of Nepali Green Vegetables - my early morning wandering through the outdoor markets of Ason Bazaar, Indrachowk,  Maru Sattal block, Bhotahiti, Ratnapark overhead bridge, Durbar square and sometimes to Kalimaati Fruits and Vegetable markets. Most of the pictures were taken at the old town of Kathmandu, but  some pictures are from Farmer's Market at 1905 Restaurant Garden and Pokhara-Nawalparasi-Chitwan farm house outside Kathmandu.  

This blog is divided into four different sections.  Please check out all the sections. I hope you will have much fun as I have putting together scenes of lively outdoor markets, freshest local produce, hustling and bustling of customers, and the Nepali culture and tradition around the Tarkaari Bazaar.  Please drop me a few line in the comment section of the blog on what you liked, highlight on any other vegetable greens that are not listed here, and any correction on image and caption not matching.  Your comments are important to me as it will help me to improve the blog.

Extremely fresh Paalungo ko Saag - पालुंगो को साग- com name: Common Spinach, Bot. Name: Spinacea oleracea - Spinach is an annual cool season vegetable, has a smooth dark green leaves with a long stock and is a very good source of vitamin C, A and mineral especially Iron.  It is a hardy vegetable, can withstand temperature as low as 20 degree F. and grows well in average soil, in cool and moist conditions.  It does not tolerate hot weather, as it goes into seeds as the daylight lengthens. The picture above is the most commonly found spinach sold in bundles at most Kathmandu markets.  These varieties have an arrow-shaped leaves with thick pink roots.  They are very flavorful, cook very quickly and are well liked by Nepalese.  They are also grown extensively in Kathmandu valley.
In just a few blocks south of Hanuman-Dhoka Durbar Square area, where Gaddi-Baithak is located, I spotted a local farmer, warmly dressed, balancing a bamboo pole across his shoulders and holding two traditional kharpan (wicker woven baskets) full of freshly picked greens.
 Look at the extremely fresh spinach in bundles that are displayed here in the kharpan. They were probably picked at the peak of its perfection. 
Wide selection of seasonal greens - everything you want to purchase is right in this Doko (hand-made bamboo basket),  from left - mustard greens, spinach, garden cress, fresh coriander (cilantro) and green onions. 
According to the lady who is standing next to me in this lively market, she says the above picture is Gobre Paalungo ko Saag (गोब्रे पालुंगो ) - seeded flat-leaf spinach, but the other lady says no it is  Bhote Paalungo ko Saag (भोटे पालुंगो) - I have no information on these varieties of spinach.  Any help?
Visiting the open air market at the Ason Tole area of Kathmandu is a pleasurable way to get to know all different seasonable vegetables of Nepal.  Out there, with all other greens, I found a fresh round leaf greens with long stems (above middle).  There was no root attached to it, but looked like a round leaf spinach - I have not been able to identify these variety of saag. Any help?
The frost kissed winter spinach are the most delicious, flavorful, tender and cooks quickly.  In Nepal, the entire portions of spinach are eaten -  the leaves, stems, and the red roots. 
Meet another young vegetable vendor carrying two evenly-distributed Kharpan loads of green vegetables on a long bamboo pole. He is moving swiftly to another location from the crowded Basantpur Durbar square area.  He will probably have a better sale somewhere in a quiet corner.  It is unusual to see a young street vendor with a latest fashion trends - Levis slick denim jeans, designer hooded sweatshirt or jacket, modern sneakers, cell phone and Polaroid sunglasses in his pocket......10 years from now will there be any young vendor carrying a Kharpan?
Methi ko Saag - मेथी को साग - Com. name Fenugreek leaves, Bot. name - Trigunella foenum-graecum, L - known as Methi ko Paat or Saag.  These are the edible green leaves of fenugreek plant. The methi leaves resembles watercress vegetable. The greens have a very bitter taste and bold flavors, but it is much loved by Nepalese. The young leaves are cooked mixed with other greens or potatoes. They are grown in Nepal both under Terai and hilly condition. 
Another image of Fenugreek leaves (Methi ko Saag) in close up look - they are sold tied in bundles. 
Already a fan of green market shopping? Outdoor vegetable markets in Kathmandu are a thriving tradition and a way of life - sometimes in the market, different bundles of greens such as mustard greens, different varieties of spinach, fenugreek leaves, garden cress, turnips greens, tori ko saag and radish leafs are bunched together and sold by the same vendor for convenience.
Chamsoor ko Saag - चम्सूर को साग - (Garden Cress, Pepper+Grass) - Bot. name: Lepidium L., Family: Cruciferae - Low growing winter annual grown in Kathmandu valley and other hills as one of the most important green vegetable.
  Here is a picture of top 10 widely eaten green vegetable of Nepal - The warm and welcoming atmosphere of lively Tarkaari Bazaar.  I love how these ladies are sitting in a row in front of the doko full of fresh produce near the stone-paved street around the back side of Kathmandu-Maru-Ganeshthan. The street vendors either sits on the dusty ground on top of a thick burlap sacks or on a on a low wood stool or platform (pirka) surrounded by a variety of vegetables.
Chomsoor ko Saag are sold neatly tied in  bundles
Chamsoor-Paalungo (Spinach with Garden Cress) is a favorite combination in Nepal, where a mild-flavored spinach is cooked with the peppery pungent-flavored garden cress.  Garden cress (chamsoor) has long tender stems, pointed narrow leaves, and a spicy aroma.  The cress can be cooked by itself, like a common green, but tastes best when combined with other greens.
To find out some of the vegetables that are not included in my blog, please  go to the field survey on the "Traditional, Neglected Vegetables of Nepal: The Sustainable Utilization for Meeting Human Needs" ......In total, 184 traditional vegetable species were recorded in the field survey. Species composition and numbers differed along the elevation gradient. About 50 traditional vegetable species were documented in the market more here.....
Nepali Saunf or Sunp ko Saag - (सुप को साग) -  Fresh Dill Greens - Com. name:Indian Dill - Bot. name: Anethum Sowa, Roxb. Family: Umbelliferae

A few blocks away from Asan Bazaar, there is another busy vegetable market around the stone image of Kal Bhairav in Kathmandu.  I spotted a man wearing a traditional Dhaka topi carrying a huge load of kharpan - full of fresh greens and offering his vegetables for sale. He is calling customers, "laijaanus taajaa saag haru" लैजानुस ताजा सागहरु (translation without Google help "fresh greens are here") ...... This is where I captured the picture of saunf ko saag (dill greens). The street vendor should take a pride in the wonderful arrangement of produce in his basket.  He smilingly nodded when I complimented him, but requested "no photograph of him!"
Raayo ko Saag - (रायो को साग) - Leaf Mustard - Bot. name: Brassica Juncea (L.) Czen. & Cos, Family: Cruciferae. Raayo ko Saag is widely variable winter annual, lower leaves broad oblong to obovate usually with puckered surface, the upper leaves, narrow lanceolate and toothed.  It is the most common cultivated green vegetable of Nepal, grown in hilly regions and now cultivated in the Tarai also.  The several types of leaf mustard so far believed to be met with in Nepal are as follows.  Broad leaved Mustard (Juncea, Var folicosa Bailey, Curled Mustard, Ostrich plume (Juncea var.crispifolia Bailey - (Source - An Introduction to Nepalese Food Plants by P. P. Regmi)
Display of  Several different varieties of Sit le Khaeko Rayo ko Saag - The young tender leaves of mustard greens are a cool-season annual vegetable.  They are one of the most common and popular vegetable in Nepal and are grown in abundance.

In the winter months, when the tangy leaves of mustard plants are exposed to frost, they become very tender and delicate.  "Sit le khaeko saag" literally translates as "mustard greens tenderized and marinated by the mild frost" and are among the most tender and delicious greens.

Mustard Greens comes in a different colors and textures.   Here is a picture of deep purple to red mustard green leaves.  The leaves grow up to 8-10 inches in length and up to 5 inches in width and they have a delicious peppery taste.
...and a close-up look of red giant mustard leaves...
Warm and welcoming atmosphere  -  Nepali markets are usually a very friendly place where you can start catching up the latest town gossip, and find out whose price is lower and who is selling at a rock-bottom prices.  The vendor with a red shawl greets me,  "Sanchai huno huncha didi aaja?" - सन्चै हुनुहुन्छ दिदि आज?- (how are you my sister today?) and started a conversation. I wonder how they manage to remember me from my last visit.
Bigger and flatter Nepali mustard leaves, crisp with bright green color - best winter specialty straight from Dhading, Mahesh Khola area.  It is the most liked and consumed winter green vegetable of Nepal.  It is pungent and bitter when eaten raw, but becomes soft and most delicious when cooked. A typical authentic way of cooking is as simply as possible with a very little seasoning. 
My mother's helper, Radha, who accompanied to me in the Tarkaari Bazaar told me, "Do not be shy to bargain"...."milaayara dinos ne"- - "मिलायर दिनोस न"  - the vegetable vender told me in a  friendly tone. "I have to match prices with other fellow vendors....prices have dropped so much because of the over supply from the farms"....
Happy marketing! Go right ahead and bargain over the fresh greens! There is no other place to experience it first hand around the produce.  Experience the hustle and bustle of customers, the art of bargaining, experience  a way of life around Nepali culture... It is a very beautiful place to stroll around, whether you are there taking pictures or just shopping.
Pea vine growing at a local farm - Kerau ko Munta is the tender uppermost leaves, green tendrils and shoots of the young pea plant.  The shoots are typically harvested from pea vines before the pea-pods starts to form.  The tender shoots are pinched in the uppermost section  about three inches from the growing point of the plants.  They should be young and tender with shoots that include the top pair of small leaves, delicate tendrils that is attached to young stem. The blossom can also be used.

Keraau ko Muntaa ko Saag - (केराउ को मुन्टा को साग) - Pea Vine Shoots - The flavor of this vegetable is a cross between peas and spinach.  They can be eaten raw or slightly stir fried until crisp-tender.  In Nepal it is cooked very quickly in the hot oil with small amount of spices.  The pea vine shoots are very perishable, and should be used immediately in fresh stage because they start to lose flavor.

Pharsi ko Muntaa - (फर्सी को मुन्टा) - Pumpkin Vine shoots - they are the young uppermost shoots, delicate stems, leaves and tendrils from the pumpkins plants.  It is eaten as vegetable in Nepal.  The shoots are harvested from the growing end of the vine (about 3-4 inches) by pinching off the tender end.  The plant will put out a new shoot or growth after the vine shoots are harvested.  The plant is cultivated mainly for young shoots tips for vegetable use.  I am going to link "Pharsi ko Munta" to my previous blog posting - more details about growing, picking, preparation and cooking of the most delectable green vegetable of Nepal.  Kathmandu Vegetable markets brings in a variety of various types of green vegetable.  The above picture of Pharsi ko Munta was taken as Ason Chowk area.  
Occasionally, in the open air market at Ason Tole, one can experience a variety of different exotic vegetables. I was not able to identify the above vegetable, but the friendly vendor told me that it is Chayote Shoots (इश्कुश को मुन्टा) Ishkush ko Muntaa.  It is the young uppermost shoots of Chayote Squash plants and eaten similar to pumpkin vine shoots.   They make an excellent vegetables and loved by most Nepali people. Something new to try! He promised me next time he will bring Chatel ko Muntaa (Indian Gourd-Kantola shoots).

Part I

Paalungo ko Saag - (पालुंगो को साग) - Common Spinach
Gobre Paalungo ko Saag - (गोब्रे पालुंगो) - Spinach variety
Bhote Paalungo ko Saag - (भोटे पालुंगो) - Spinach variety
Methi ko Paat or Saag - (मेथी को साग) -  Fenugreek leaves
Chamsoor ko Saag - (चम्सूर को साग) - Garden Cress
Saunf or Sunp ko Saag - (सुप को साग) - Fresh Dill Greens
Raayo ko Saag - (रायो को साग) - Leaf Mustard
Keraau ko Muntaa ko Saag - (केराउ को मुन्टा को साग) - Pea Vine Shoots
Pharsi ko Muntaa - (फर्सी को मुन्टा) - Pumpkin Vine shoots Greens
Ishkush ko Muntaa - (इश्कुश को मुन्टा) - Chayote Shoots Greens

Please turn to the next chapter (2 of 4) to take another visual guide to leafy vegetable of Nepal 

A Visual Guide to Green Leafy Vegetables of Nepal - (Part 1 of 4)
A Visual Guide to Green Leafy Vegetables of Nepal - (Part 2 of 4)
A Visual Guide to Green Leafy Vegetables of Nepal - (Part 3 of 4)
A Visual Guide to Green Leafy Vegetables of Nepal - (Part 4 of 4)

Index of Green Leafy Vegetables of Nepal  


  1. great pics...reminds of fresh mustard and fenugreegk greens in village markets in India..

  2. Lovely photos.So many varieties of greens and so fresh, I wish I could buy them.

  3. I am not being able to find my answers!!!!

  4. Great blog Jyotiji! Have you written about kauso, the beans with itching exteriors?

    1. I am looking for the picture of kauso beans - "The plant is notorious for the extreme itchiness it produces on contact, particularly with the young foliage and the seed pods. It has value in agricultural and horticultural use and has a range of medicinal properties" - from

  5. Excellent blog! just love to see that green leafy vegetables! natural -original photographs!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. Namaskar. I am working on a food plate for Nepal. A dietary guideline for health living campaign with MoH. I was wondering if i could use your images of saag for the food plate. thank you in advance. Sushil

    1. Yes, please use my image and send me link of your page..

  8. जलुकी साग कस्तो हुन्छ ?

  9. Any lettuce available in Nepal (outside Kathmandu)?

  10. Nepali people eat more green leafy vegetables then compare to India, methi ka saag, rayo ka saag, palak, chamsur ka saag, dil ka saag, or many more, love the way they love their food.

  11. Wow, such great detail. I like your article. I want to read more about your blog. Thank you for sharing an amazing post.