In the past month my 4 p.m tea time slot has been all about a favourite childhood snack ; boiled groundnuts. My local organic vendor has had this ingredient on their list week after week. For some reason I never refer to it as a peanut in it’s boiled form . This salty , juicy ,tender treat eaten when warm ,just out of the pressure cooker is for me one of the most distinct memories of snacking after school. I never gave it much thought about which time of the year it made it’s appearance on our dining table but I was very glad when it did ! Eating boiled groundnuts for me is a time spent in quiet solitude. There’s something so calming about peeling the wet and slightly sticky shells before scooping out the soft pinkish brown nuts that lay cocooned inside.
I have also perfected the technique of peeling down to a T . Rarely do I fail in popping the pod open under a fraction of a second , I kid you not ! It’s rather simple really , comes from years of practice . Hold the cooked groundnut firmly between the thumb and forefinger along the edge of it’s seam. Press gently around the middle and you will be rewarded with a satisfactory ‘pop’ sound . Quickly pry open the two halves with as many fingers as necessary , pick out the tasty morsels and devour instantly. All this in under a minute , mind you. While chewing , the fingers are already onto the next one ! Very soon the bowl would be filled with empty shells along with a small trail beside that got chucked in a hurry ! That ,for the uninitiated ,is the art of snacking on boiled groundnuts.
Did you know that these nuts when freshly harvested and eaten while still in their green state contain far less calories than in the dried or roasted form ? Surprising but true ! Apparently the process of boiling allows the antioxidant properties to be drawn in from the shell to the nut. Another advantage that boiling allows is to render the allergen milder, that is commonly known to be found in peanuts. Small quantities of boiled nuts are introduced as a form of treatment to build tolerance against peanut allergies .
I’ve noticed in the past weeks that not just my own organic grocer ( Bio Basics ) but also many department stores and mobile vendor carts are selling bag fulls of fresh groundnuts. Since they are so fresh , they are sold in these net like bags which allow them to be aerated. If they were to be sealed in tight polythene covers , the inherent moisture in the groundnuts will quickly lead to them getting spoilt.The best way to store these at home is to boil them and then refrigerate . If left too long oustside , they tend to sort of wither and dehydrate inside the shell.
The roadside sellers will do one better than just sell it to you , they will also have a steaming hot already boiled option for you to tuck into . The aroma of groundnuts boiling in their shells is enough to get your stomach rumbling. What I like best is that some of the shells will have a little residue of the cooking liquid in them where the groundnuts hadn’t grown fully which left a bit of empty space to fill. After eating the tiny morsel ,it’s literally a lip smacking experience to tip the shell upward and slurp in the salty juices. A trifle messy maybe but immensely satisfying !
Another dish I ate as a child at my aunt’s home is a delicious tamarind and coconut milk gravy made with fresh groundnuts. The sweet and sour taste of this delicious South Indian kozhambhu seasoned to perfection and tempered with dried red chillies to add that hit of tongue numbing spice remains one of my all time favourite gravies to eat with any carb that’s available; idli , dosa , rice , uppma etc didn’t matter which. My cousin still makes this dish to perfection and it is a hit everytime !
If you haven’t guessed already I’m going to make the most of this seasonal availability of this fresh produce. It’s an ingredient that is so versatile that you can play around with it in myriad ways. If you haven’t indulged in this yet , you’d best keep a basket ready to fill when you spot the groundnut cart , this is one taste you don’t want to forego !
P.S … in other countries different flavourings are added to the water while boiling groundnuts , think cajun spice , garlic , chilli and whatever else that catches your fancy !