BEANS AND SWEET POTATOES

After the rice harvest at the end of the monsoons, some of the fields in Saligão would be turned over to growing vegetables and sweet potatoes. The lack of large-scale irrigation did not allow for a second rice crop after the monsoons. However, the fields had a high water table, and shallow wells would be dug to provide water for the vegetable patches.                                 44-BEANS & SWEET POTATOESWater was drawn from the wells by means of a latt  – a contraption with a counter-balanced boom designed to scoop water from the well in a four-gallon pail. The pail would then be tipped to let the water flow into a grid of channels that criss-crossed the vegetable patch.

My grandmother, would plant beans in one of her two fields, and the beans would be picked when the pods were sun-dried. She would split the pods at home and store the beans in a jar. These were then cooked to make a popular Goan dish called melghor.

I often helped Mãe pick beans because it felt good to be out in the open field with a refreshing breeze blowing in from the Indian Ocean. Besides, I loved that pat on my head when she’d tell me what a great little helper I was.

If time permitted, I’d saunter over to the other fields where Fulu, my cousin, grew kongio  (sweet potatoes) and some vegetables. She’d let me take home a few kongio  which I would roast one at a time by burying the potato in the glowing embers of the leaves that had just heated the komfro  containing bath water. It would be left there for a few minutes until the skin was singed to indicate that it was done. I’d then scoop it out, toss it from one hand to the other while blowing on it to cool it down before peeling away the skin.

I loved munching on a roasted sweet potato while sitting in our tiny kitchen with the sweet smell of burning leaves wafting through the tiled roof. It was all a part of Goa’s rural ambience.