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Neem leaves


bong
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In another topic, v.gautam mentioned:

By the way, did you ever reconcile yourself to the fried neem leaves and Neem Begoon or Eggplant with neem leaves? My very favorite, but certainly an acquired taste

This prompted me to start a topic. Fried neem leaves is indeed a speciality in Bengal, and is also something I like. Traditionally, small cubes of fried eggpant is mixed with it. Bengalis eat it with rice, at the very begining of a meal. (I myself dont like the eggplant). Only the very young, freshly sprouted leaves are used.

I actually bought a neem tree sapling from http://www.neemtreefarms.com a while back and happily, the tree is doing just fine in our California weather.

Have others ever had a neem leaf to eat? A neem plant has many other uses as well.

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Hi bong,

this is a new one on me, as I never knew neem leaves were edible - are you sure you don't mean curry leaves?

I used dry neem leaves to pack my carpets away every year before the monsoons, when I lived in Delhi. And in Goa, I use neem powder as an insecticide fand fertilizer for my plants.

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Maremosso,

Bong is dead on; no curry leaves, but young neem leaves, before they turn bright green. Bengalis have a penchant for bitter greens; in addition to several ‘fruits’, here are some other leaves less commonly used to impart bitterness:

Telakucho or Bimba, Coccinea spp. A vine bearing cucurbitaceous fruit that turn bright red on ripening.

Shephalika or Shiuli, Nyctantes arbor-tristis. A tree blooming during September-October, the flower stalks are treasured for the osaffron Vasanti dye people used to employ during Vasant panchami. The leaves are faintly bitter, and are sometimes dipped in chickpea batter and fried, like spinach pakoras.

Parwal or pointed gourd, Trichosanthes dioica. An important vegetable and sweetmeat, the leaves [palta pata] were used for bittering.

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I never knew neem leaves were edible - are you sure you don't mean curry leaves?
Even if you tried, it would be really dificult to mistake one for the other. Especially if you have ever bitten into a neem leaf. :wink:

BTW, a twig of a neem tree is used in Bengal (and all over rural) India as a poor man's toothbrush as well. You smash one end of the twig, so it sort of flares up, and becomes like a brush. You then use this end to brush your teeth with.

There are a few companies in India which market a neem-flavored toothpaste to capitalize on this fact. The toothpastes taste bitter. :sad:

Here is one:lg_tp_neem.jpg

But I digress.

Please share if you ever eaten (or cooked with) a Neem leaf.

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I like neem begun...a lot. I've only ever been able to find the dried leaves packaged for cosmetic purposes....I figure those are not good to eat. Not to long ago I asked a friend who was visiting W.Bengal to bring some sort of edible neem, like a dried powder or something. He climbed up into a tree and tore off a whole branch and smuggled it over in his suitcase!! I dried the leaves and powdered them myself.

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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Parwal or pointed gourd, Trichosanthes dioica. An important vegetable and sweetmeat, the leaves [palta pata] were used for bittering.

I had a neighbor from the Phillipines who grew bittermelons in her yard. She would let me take as many leaves as I wanted. I would cook them in dal sometimes....definitely bitter.

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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Parwal or pointed gourd, Trichosanthes dioica.  An important vegetable and sweetmeat, the leaves [palta pata] were used for bittering.

I had a neighbor from the Phillipines who grew bittermelons in her yard. She would let me take as many leaves as I wanted. I would cook them in dal sometimes....definitely bitter.

Edward, I think v. gautam is referring to the leaves of parwal or "patol" as the bengalis call it. This is different from the bitter melon. The "potol" vegetable itself is not at all bitter, as you know. However, the leaves are something else altogether. They are probably more bitter than anything else I have eaten.

Re: neem leaves, you mentioned you like neem-begun a lot. You should probably consider growing your own neem tree (I did), since I don't know of any other way to procure neem leaves in the USA.. It grows well in a flower pot, and it will only grow upto the size allowed by the flower pot, i.e. if you leave it in a small pot, it wont grow big. It also makes a beautiful indoor house plant. In winter, we keep ours indoors.

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Parwal or pointed gourd, Trichosanthes dioica.  An important vegetable and sweetmeat, the leaves [palta pata] were used for bittering.

I had a neighbor from the Phillipines who grew bittermelons in her yard. She would let me take as many leaves as I wanted. I would cook them in dal sometimes....definitely bitter.

Edward, I think v. gautam is referring to the leaves of parwal or "patol" as the bengalis call it. This is different from the bitter melon. The "potol" vegetable itself is not at all bitter, as you know. However, the leaves are something else altogether. They are probably more bitter than anything else I have eaten.

Re: neem leaves, you mentioned you like neem-begun a lot. You should probably consider growing your own neem tree (I did), since I don't know of any other way to procure neem leaves in the USA.. It grows well in a flower pot, and it will only grow upto the size allowed by the flower pot, i.e. if you leave it in a small pot, it wont grow big. It also makes a beautiful indoor house plant. In winter, we keep ours indoors.

I knew what he meant, I was just adding to the discussion of bitter leaves to eat.

I would love to grow a little neem tree. I wonder how it would fare here in the Mid-Atlantic. Cold winters and hot humid summers.

Edward Hamann

Cooking Teacher

Indian Cooking

edhamann@hotmail.com

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Even if you tried, it would be really dificult to mistake one for the other. Especially if you have ever bitten into a neem leaf. :wink:

BTW, a twig of a neem tree is used in Bengal (and all over rural) India as a poor man's toothbrush as well. You smash one end of the twig, so it sort of flares up, and becomes like a brush. You then use this end to brush your teeth with.

Thank you bong.

As I have both neem and a curry leaf tree in my garden in Goa, I shall examine the leaves more closely on my return there. (I am in Buenos Aires now).

But if memory serves me right, they are very similar.

Regarding the company that makes the toothpaste... I am afraid it's on my personal boycott list - too many tall claims aiming to fleece the uneducated poor!

Unfortunately in India there is not much regulation about that.

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http://www.chennaionline.com/columns/chenn...003/trees01.asp

The neem has a special place in the hearts of Chennaivasis because it puts forth its flowers just before the Tamil New Year. They form part of the New Year ‘pachadi’ lending it a bitter taste, with a philosophical message: There is bound to be some bitterness n life and you must learn to bear it; Moreover, not all bitter experiences have bitter consequences, the message being that the neem flower, though bitter to taste, is salutary in effect because it is vermifugal, killing off worms in the intestines

http://www.kamat.com/kalranga/festive/yugadi.htm

Yugadi (a.k.a. Ugadi) is the first day of the Hindu calendar (first day of the first month, the Chaitra).

In some parts of India, the tender leaves of neem mixed with jaggery are distributed on the occasion. The neem, extremely bitter in taste, and the sweet and delicious jaggery, signify the two conflicting aspects of human life -- joy and sorrow

is this done in other parts of india ?

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In some parts of Bengal, those returning from the crematorium where a relative has been seen off, are greeted by the women of the household, who ask you to bite into a neem leaf, touch iron, and then pass your hands over a flame, before entering the house. These customs are referred to as 'desacara' [deshachara], i.e. not sastric but folkloric.

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can we find neem leaves in US?

Are they fresh or dried?

I know mom puts few leaves between clothes in closet. Supposed to keep moth away.

AFAIK, you cant buy neem leaves in the USA. You can purchase neem extract, neem oil, neem-based moth-repellants etc, which I have no experience with.

Or, you can buy yourself a neem sapling :wink:

Neem tree and its leaves are known to have pesticidal qualities.

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I am really surprised at the lack of responses about experiences about cooking/eating neem leaves.

Does this mean Bengalis are the only ones to eat neem leaves?

This is really surprising, considering Neem trees grow all over the Indian subcontinent...

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I remember having it some time in some dish and also as a medicine but I chose to wipe out its memory entirely, so I don't have it readily. I think I had to eat it when I got one of those mumps or something anyway I've forgotten all about it but I can't bear to eat it now..

I can manage to eat karela though so I respect the acquired tastes of my Bengali friends who have put upon this brave frontier to adopt as usual customs to people of Indian subcontinent.. hmm

Can't say no to any one who'd let me try a neem based dish though I'd love to try it really..

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...and here in Latin America (where it probably originated, like the mango and the cashew)...

Wow, are you saying that neem and mango all originated in Latin America? ( I know that cashew did, but not neem and certainly not mango).

That's contrary to what I have heard all my life.

Can you please substantiate?

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...and here in Latin America (where it probably originated, like the mango and the cashew)...

In The Oxford companion to Food Alan Davidson writes -" Mango, one of the finest and most popular fruits, has been cultivated in India since 2000 B.C. ...From south India the mango was spread by the Portuguese, who took it to Africa in the 16th century. It reached Brazil and the West Indies in the 18th century and Hawaii, Florida and Mexico in the 19th century."

Ammini

Ammini Ramachandran

www.Peppertrail.com

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In The Oxford companion to Food Alan Davidson writes -" Mango, one of the finest and most popular fruits, has been cultivated in India since 2000 B.C. ...From south India the mango was spread by the Portuguese, who took it to Africa in the 16th century. It reached Brazil and the West Indies in the 18th century and Hawaii, Florida and Mexico in the 19th century."

Ammini

You save me trip to Oxford Food Companion or google. I always know that mango are Indian fruit. Was worried I think of it same as tomato and potato. thank you for clearing this confusion.

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Wow, are you saying that neem and mango all originated in Latin America? ( I know that cashew did, but not neem and certainly not mango).

That's contrary to what I have heard all my life.

Can you please substantiate?

Botanically the mango tree belongs to the Anacardium family, the same family as the cashew.

I found this out when planting my garden back in Goa, where I have both types of trees.

I am afraid I cannot quote directly from the many books I have there - but will do a search when I get back.

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We ate neem leaves (as young girls) to battle acne. Only the young freshlight green leaves were used. Washed and gulped down with water.

I also spent a lot of time as a kid, eating nimbori - the ripe fruit of the neem tree. It turns a bright yellow, gets a little pulpy and is very swet laced with a hint of bitterness. Quite good really.

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