Bas saaru, Uppina saaru and massoppu are curries made of mixed greens, and are staples in the homes of Bengaluru residents. But these greens are not always bought in the market. They are also gathered from sidewalks, little strips of soil beside the road, drains, and around lakes. The act of gathering such edible plant species from private or public spaces in the city is called urban foraging, and it is a common practice across the globe.
In Bengaluru, it is mainly middle-aged or older women from low-income backgrounds who forage. These women are vital knowledge holders and experts on the local wild plants around them. They know what parts of the plants are used for food, medicine, or cultural uses, and which is the best season to forage. They also have delicious recipes, of curries, chutneys, and pickles that have been passed down through the generations.
Sadly, as the city has developed and urbanised, these foragers are losing access to the spaces where these greens were found.
Yet, so many people still forage for wild plants across the city. It is a dying art, one which needs to be repopularised.
Chasing Soppu is a guide to wild edible plants of Bengaluru. In this book, we provide an introduction to 53 forageable species in the city. For each, we provide a guide for identification. We also share a collection of local recipes, shared by women foragers we spoke to, which can be used to cook these plants. In addition, we share some home remedies as well.