Ala Podcast: Forgotten Greens and Where to Find Them

In our first podcast, Ala talks to Shruti Tharayil about her experience as a forager, and the importance of localizing knowledge systems in a rapidly transforming Kerala society.

Shruti Tharayil 

Have you heard of the purple “iodine chedi (plant)”? Did you know that “mashithandu” (inky stem) is a great herb to add to omelettes? These indigenous plants continue to thrive on street-sides and backyards, but also in unlikely spaces like road dividers in the expanding urban jungles in Kerala. Join Ala as we speak to Shruti Tharayil, who is on a mission to put Malayalis back in touch with their forgotten greens and local ecosystems, through her initiatives Forgotten Greens, and Unlearning Ashram.

We discuss:

  • 03:00 – Foraging: what it is, and how Shruti got into it
  • 05:15 – Why we should care bout foraging
  • 07:45 – Foraging in Kerala–what’s different?
  • 10:00 – Urban foraging and resilient greens
  • 12:15 – Language as a bridge
  • 14:45 – Shruti introduces us to some of Kerala’s common greens
  • 18:25 – How to identify a green–there’s only so much the internet can do
  • 22:45 – Why Malayalis take our greens for granted
  • 23:30 – “Colonisation” of Malayali cuisine and our changing food-habits
  • 25:00 –  The return of ten-leaf upperi and marunnu-kanji
  • 27:30 – Why foraging should be seen holistically, and not broken down into boxes
  • 29:30 – Some precautions
  • 31:00 – Unlearning Ashram and the importance of localizing knowledge systems.
  • 32:25 – Kerala’s transitional phase and the need for contextual spaces


Producer and Interviewer: Harikrishnan S.

About the Guest: Shruti Tharayil lives engaging with each day as a possibility of exploring ways to unlearn, reimagine and recreate every aspect of her life. Spending over 6 years in the grassroots working with various rural, dalit and adivasi communities disillusioned her from the theoretical knowledge of all that she had diligently learned till her post-graduation. Since 2011, Shruti has been on a journey of active unlearning; she gave up her PhD opportunity, choosing instead to set up her own NGO on contextualizing and decolonizing the learning process with adivasi children and youth, engage closely with projects on self-designed learning and mentorship for youth, and experiment constantly to reclaim autonomy of her life – from food, clothing, relationships, etc. During this time, she has been part of Swaraj University, Learning Societies UnConference, The Dalai Lama’s Foundation (Furrhhdl), India Youth Jam and South India Jam.

Presently, Shruti lives with her partner in Kozhikode, and together they offer spaces for those who wish to deepen or begin their own ‘unlearning’ journey. When she isn’t happily busy working on these offerings, you may find Shruti engrossed in gardening, crocheting, cooking or just daydreaming about a wild edible plant!

You can follow her work on Instagram [Forgotten Greens, Unlearning Ashram] and on Facebook


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