My mother used to cook most vegetables with the peel, and when they needed to be peeled, she made spicy chutneys out of them. Even the thick peel of white pumpkin was not wasted. She not only used it for making chutney, but also it them up finely and added to the urad-vadi batter along with chillies and curry leaves. After frying, they turned crisp and added a lovely texture to the vadis. Of course, we washed the vegetables and fruits thoroughly to clean dirt and pesticides, which anyway were not so rampant back then.
I recently came across this site which gives info on the nutritive value of the peel of some unlikely vegetables and fruits like onions and bananas. I am not sure of all of them, but know from experience that most of them are edible as I have continued using them in my own home. There are others I use and which the site does not list. Take a look here.
Talking of peels, I am reminded of an incident at college. We had to make a vegetable sandwich for our home science practical exam. Such an easy one, I thought and proceeded to make the sandwich quickly finishing it off with a tasteful presentation with a colourful collage of cucumber slices, tomatoes and a sprig of coriander. The other girls were still at work, cleaning their work tops and discarding lots of stuff. What were they discarding? I shrugged.
I got just about passing marks, most of which was for the presentation. My fault? I had not peeled the cucumber or trimmed the edges of the bread. So that was what the girls had been throwing in the bin!
I wonder if it had been the beginning of discard-peels-before-cooking period.
Today we have come full circle and are busy re-learning the wisdom we had discarded back then. And peels are back in favour! Lemon and orange zest is used for cakes and desserts and even preserved, and spiced potato peel is roasted for a crisp snack. We are given lessons on their nutritive value by famous chefs who tell us to boil the peels to make stock when we can’t or don’t cook them.
Makes me think that had I given my exam today, I might have got full marks, for not only using the peel, but also not wasting food!
Today I am sharing the recipe of a spicy peel chutney that is a favourite in my family. When the boys were young, I never told them that I made it out of peels, lest they didn’t eat it. In Tamil we call this thuvaiyal/thogayal and I would tell them, ‘It is thogayal. Eat it!’ no matter how many times they asked what it was made of. Recently the younger one said, ‘But you never told us you made them out of peels!’ I merely grinned.
Mixed Peel Chutney
The other day I had made avial and had a lot of peel from white and yellow pumpkin, to which I added some ridge gourd – peel and all.
- Mixed vegetable peel — 2 cups thoroughly washed and chopped fine.
- Mustard — ½ tsp
- Urad dal – 1 tbsp
- Chana dal – 1 tbsp
- Tamarind – small gooseberry sized ball or ½ tsp tamarind paste
- Green chillies – 2-3 (or as per taste)
- Red chillies — 1-2
- Ginger – 1” piece
- Coriander – a handful, chopped
- Hing/asafetida — a large pinch
- Salt to taste
- 1½ tsp oil for sautéing.
- Heat a ½ tsp oil in a kadhai and add mustard. After it splutters, add hing and the dals – first the chana and then urad Saute a little and then add chilles.
- Saute till the the dals turn golden brown. Remove and cool.
- Now add the remaining oil and the chopped peel. Add a pinch of salt to help cooking faster. Saute well till the raw smell goes. Take care not to burn the peel.
- In a mixer jar, take the tamarind, salt, ginger and the fried dal mixture and grind to a coarse powder.
- Add the peels and grind. Halfway through, add the coriander leaves. The chutney has to be a bit coarse and not superfine.
- This chutney can be eaten with rice, roti or idli/dosa. It can even be used as a dip for salads.
- You can use the peel of ash gourd (white pumpkin), peel and pith of yellow pumpkin, bottle gourd (lauki), ridge gourd, the pith and seeds of snake gourd, etc.
- You can use peel of a single vegetable or a mix of them.
- You can substitute tomatoes for tamarind, but saute it before grinding.
- A tbsp. of coconut or a couple of cloves of garlic can be added if you like. Go ahead and experiment!