Saturday, 2 July 2016



Solanum Nigrum, which is called Manitakkali in Malayalam, Manathakkali Keerai in Tamil and Kaachi Soppu in Kannada is a bushy herb that grows all over south india and in several places around the world. It requires no pesticide or other special care but loves regular watering and produces luscious green leaves in partial shade. In full sunlight, it produces more berries than leaves. Children love to pick the tiny ripe black berries which taste sourly bitter on plants growing in full shade, sour in plants growing in partial shade and very sweet on plants growing in full sunlight.

The local people of Wayanad pick the tender shoot tips holding two or three leaves each and prepare a delicious stir-fry as a side dish to rice. They believe that the leaves are highly nutritious and good for health and that they hold a natural cure for thyroid problems. These plants grow in the wild as well as in gardens and attract a large number of small lovebirds which gobble up the berries and propagate the seeds. The seeds germinate quickly in moist soil.

A good number of plants grow around our home and we love to watch the play of the birds. One of the birds wove a nest in a fig leaf on a plant in our nursery. Tiny chicks hatched out.
While harvesting the tender leaves or buds, take care to avoid the berries and the blooms, for they can turn your stir-fry bitter.

The local farmers say that one should not use a knife or a pair of scissors to collect the leaves, but should nip them with one’s nails or break them with one’s fingertips for contact with iron can turn the plant bitter. However, in my experience, it is the inclusion of the flowers and the berries that lends the bitterness. I prepare the stir-fry in a cast-iron wok as this endows the full taste to the toran.


     1)    Tender Manitakkali (Solanum Nigrum) leaves or shoot tips with not more than 4 leaves – 200 gm.
     2)    Coconut – ½
     3)    Dry hot red chilies – 2 Nos.
     4)    Mustard seeds – ¼ teaspoon
     5)    Salt – ½ teaspoon
     6)    Coconut oil – 1 tablespoon

To Cook:

Wash and drain the leaves. Chop to fine bits and set aside. Grate the coconut and set aside. Break each dry red chili into 2 or 3 pieces.

          Set a cast-iron wok on high heat. Pour in the coconut oil and throw in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds are about to finish crackling, tip in the dry chilies. Stir twice and chuck in the chopped Manitakkali leaves.

          Put in the salt and stir well. Cover with a cloche and lover the heat. Stir occasionally. As soon as the little water at the base of the wok evaporates (this will take less than 5 minutes), tip in the grated coconut and mix in thoroughly.

Switch off the heat and serve Manitakkali Toran hot n’ fresh with rice, with chappatis or with bread. The taste is so nice, even children who do not like spinach or amaranthus love to eat Manitakkali Toran.


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