Monday, 8 August 2016




          Agatti / Agathi / Agasthi cheera are the leaves of Sesbania Grandiflora, the hummingbird tree – perhaps so called because it is the happy haunt of so many small birds, especially the hummingbird, the bulbul, the nightingale, the wagtail, the parrot, the sparrow and the wild pigeon.

          I am awakened every morning by the happy chirps of these birds on the agatti trees just outside our window. Perhaps, the very structure of these trees give the birds a sense of joy and security. The thin, long branches provide a nice perch and the sparse leaves, an all-round view of possible predators.

          Widely used in the Siddha branch of medicine, the leaves, the flowers and the roots are harvested to make simple remedies for several elements. Ayurveda too prescribes a spoon of Agatti leaves roasted in a teaspoonful of ghee to be taken daily, mixed in rice (without salt) every night for strengthening the optic nerves, for curing night blindness and for improving the sight.

          There was a storm last night and we heard a cracking sound. In the morning, to our dismay, we found the largest Agatti tree on the ground. The trunk had cleaved and broken. Only two smaller trees remained. The birds flew around surveying the scene and soon left. My husband cleared the tree and brought in some tender branches. The leaves have a slight bitterness and our children do not like them. Agatti is generally cooked as a stir-fry – a side dish to rice.

Despite its taste, it is often eaten by many people in India as a cooked spinach once a week or a fortnight. It helps maintain strong bones, improves eyesight, deworms the stomach and the intestines, cools the body, reduces unwanted bile, acts as a mild laxative and prevents piles, sores and ulcers.

My husband asked me to make some tasty soup with the leaves so that I could post a recipe for a dish which even children would enjoy while reaping the obvious health benefits, especially good eyesight, when they spend so much time on their computers and smartphones. Thus, this recipe was born.

As I watched my husband happily tucking into the soup, dipping in pieces of freshly baked bread, I knew this recipe was a success. And wonder of wonders, both my children loved the soup. Do cook and enjoy!


     1)    Agatti leaves pulled from their sprigs (Agasthya pallo in Konkani, Agatti Keerai in Tamil, Heta in Marathi, Gaach Munga in Hindi, Agise in Telugu, Agastya in Kannada, Hummingbird tree leaves – Sesbania Grandiflora) – 200 gm. 

     2)    Tor dal (split pigeon pea lentils) – 200 gm.
     3)    Potato – 200 gm.
     4)    Cumin powder – 5 gm. (1 teaspoon)
     5)    Turmeric powder – 1.5 gm. (¼ teaspoon)
     6)    Hot red chili powder – 2 gm. ( teaspoon)
     7)    Garam masala powder – 2 gm. ( teaspoon)
     8)    Amchur (dry mango) powder – 10 gm. (2 teaspoons) OR Juice of a big lemon
     9)    Ghee (clarified butter) – 1 tablespoon
     10)    Salt – 8½ gm. (1½ teaspoons)
     11)    Water – 1.5 litres

To prepare:

          Soak the dal (lentils) in water for 30 minutes. Rinse, drain and transfer to a pressure cooker. Pour in 500 ml. of water and set on high heat. As soon as you hear the first whistle, lower the heat and let cook for 5 minutes. Now switch off the heat and let cool naturally.

In the meantime, peel and grate the potato. Wash and drain the leaves. Chop or slice the leaves to superfine pieces.

To cook:

Set a wok on high heat. Pour in the ghee and tip in the leaves. Stir frequently. Once the leaves heat up, lower the flame and continue to stir for 5 minutes. Now add the grated potatoes and stir frequently for 5 more minutes.

The cooker should have cooled down enough to open the lid by now. Tip the contents over the leaves and stir again. Throw in the turmeric powder and the salt. Pour in the remaining water (1 litre). Add the chili powder and the amchur (dry mango) powder (if however, you are planning to use lemon juice in place of dry mango powder, please squeeze some only at the time of serving the dish).

Turn up the heat and continue to stir till it boils. Now turn down the heat and let the soup cook slowly and thicken for 10 minutes. Stir frequently so as to avoid burning at the base. Now tip in the garam masala powder and the cumin powder. Stir well and switch off the heat. Your tasty Agatti soup is ready to serve. Serve hot with freshly baked bread or with buttered toast.


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