Published: 15th May 2021
How Shruti Tharayil's workshops will help us find food, medicine in all the 'forgotten' plants that grow around us
Kerala-based Shruti Tharayil knows a lot about wild plants, information which she has pain-stackingly gathered over the years. And now, she is willing to share them with you as well. Here's how
The wilderness holds many secrets, most of which were discovered by our ancestors. They manifested themselves when someone had a cold and a certain plant was used to remedy it or some cooling or even some soulful tea prepared with a wildflower. But somewhere, these secrets faded from public consciousness. There have been many who have been on the quest of their rediscovery.
During a workshop | (Pic: Forgotten Greens)
In 2011, an explorer by the name of Shruti Tharayil was working with rural women who would harvest plants, that were otherwise considered useless, and cook delicious meals with them. This was a part of her NGO Rela for which she worked with rural and adivasi women of rural Andhra Pradesh. "I was awestruck. Even plants that are often overlooked or seem useless have so many properties, I wanted to know about them all," says the 33-year-old. From then on, she plucked all these secrets from the minds of the knowledgeable and filed them in her mind. Now, she is ready to share all of them in her workshops.
Identify it in your surroundings | (Pic: Forgotten Greens)
The Thrissur-born social worker, who currently resides in Kozhikode, had already opened up the treasure trove of knowledge and had been sharing tidbits via her Facebook and Instagram pages called Forgotten Greens since 2018. "The focus was to learn about plants that I see every day, that grow wild and free in urban as well as rural areas," she says. Her reference points were always the elderly from her own family who guided her through everything. Take for example calotropis gigantea or the crown flower, the name might not ring a bell, but it's that purple flower that pops up on roadsides. The sap of its leaves are actually a natural pest repellent. How about slender amaranth? A wild leaf that could be used to make the Gujarati snack Muthiya, a steamed delicacy. Such are the precious gems she knows about. Essentially, what she has done via her social media pages is to inform people about how to identify these plants, their properties and recipes and whether it's edible or medicinal.
Shruti | (Pic: Forgotten Greens)
"Since the lockdown last year, people have been almost forced into observing their surroundings. That's when interest around my pages grew," says Shruti. That's also why she started conducting online workshops in August last year and has held three of them so far. "What happens is I share information and show the participants the plant. They go out to forage for them and come back and then an information-sharing session begins," says the youngster who pursued her PG in Women's Studies from TISS. Some of the most fascinating finds are butterfly pea, a flower which when boiled with water gives the most beautiful cobalt blue tea. And if you add lemon to it, it turns pink! The leaves can be added to your hair pack, the roots are anti-depressant, it's a wonder plant all the way.
Made from what she found | (Pic: Forgotten Greens)
"All of my experiences have really made me rethink modern practices. I've never been a strong believer of allopathy and the shift happened gradually yet consciously," explains Shruti. And now, she is waiting for those showers which make everything all the more greener in the coastal states and which will certainly bring out the wilds in all their glory. Then, her workshops will begin again.
For more on her check out instagram.com/forgottengreens