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Friday, 23 December 2011

Herbs and spices- Mint

This is my first post on herbs and spices. I will try to cover some of those plants which are used for flavoring dishes, have medicinal benefits or are grown as vegetable.

Herbs. The term immediately reminds us of exotic plants used sparingly for their flavor and/ or medicinal qualities, to be grown with great care and patience if one is to have good results.
True, herbs require shade and just enough moisture to flourish. They are very particular, I have still not succeeded in growing coriander; many gardeners will raise their eyebrows at this.
However, one advantage that many herbs have over growing other types of plants is that mostly herbs do not require a very large space or container to grow, they are very happy in shallow containers kept on window sills or in a shaded balcony.

One of the simplest herbs to grow and which I always have in my garden is wild mint also called pudina in Hindi. Other names are field mint, corn mint or Japanese peppermint.
Pudina (Mentha arvensis) belongs to the genus Mentha of the family Lamiaceae. There are many types of mint. All are aromatic and they spread out over the ground. Mint if grown unchecked can spread over the ground and is considered invasive in many places.

Pudina ready for harvest

Use scissors to snip off as much as is required

It can be grown from cuttings very easily. What I do is to strip the thickest stems of their leaves, and stick the shorn stems into a pot with soil and water lightly. The stem should have a few leaf nodes. Many times they have some root like structures also. After a few days distinct growth is seen. Do not allow the soil mixture to become very dry or soggy. Do not keep under harsh sun. Mulch lightly and keep harvesting for healthy and vigorous growth. For fertilizer I use NPK 1-1-1 or vermiwash.
Pests which I have noticed are mostly leaf miners, else mint is relatively pest-free.

Pudina is used in the Indian cuisine as chutney, in soups or as a garnish to add flavor and freshness to a preparation.

Though pudina is used in very small quantities to be an effective source of nutrients, it does contain a good amount of calcium, phosphorous and iron as well as some vitamins.

There are many medicinal qualities associated with pudina. It is used for curing digestive disorders, as a mouth freshner and in cough syrups. Remember 'pudin hara' which your mother used to give you for a tummy upset; it is still in the market and will be for generations to come.

Happy Gardening

Monday, 19 December 2011

Tomatoes and tomatoes

Tomatoes, Solanum lycopersicum - which kitchen gardener can avoid them. One of the easiest and also, very challenging fruit/ vegetable (?) to grow . They have their share of pests; many sites are dedicated to tomato growing problems
You have to be really patient for growing toms; I read on a site that after a flower has bloomed and been pollinated, it takes roughly 1-2 months for harvesting a ripe tomato.
I have generally at least one type of tomato growing in my garden at any time. Right now I have orange cherry tomato and a normal sized hybrid tomato specific for growing in container- Tumbler tomato.
All the plants are in flowering and fruiting stage.
Hopefully the cherry toms will not take that long, they don't have to grow so much ;)
Now for a few pictures of the plants and fruits...

These are the cherry tomato blossoms,and one fruit developing...

Unripe fruits..

And I have 5-6 bunches developing

Yippee, RIPE and you just cannot stop from plucking and eating off the plant.
Contrary to the color, the taste is surprisingly sweet and just a little tart; makes for a good 'pop-in-the-mouth' snack. Incidentally my son is an avid fan of these tomatoes :))))

This is probably the Tumbler tomato. I think I have mixed up the seedlings. I had grown the 'Tumbler tomato' last year and the fruit was definitely different in shape. And they are taking very long to ripen.

I found that some of the fruit is split from the blossom end. It is probably due to a deficiency in the soil which I will have to look into. I don't want to lose my harvest :(.
One action I need to take is to plant beneficial companion plants in my tomato containers for eg mint, garlic and onions. These have been reported to repel pests and also alter the flavor of the harvest. An added advantage will be the fresh herbs that I can use in my cooking.

Hope that my next post will be of red juicy tomatoes

Till then happy gardening

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Garden Update-fenugreek and mustard

I have just got my garden dug up by a local gardener on Sunday (27th nov) and I am raring to start planting... But I will have to wait till the weekend :(
In the meantime I had sowed some fenugreek and mustard seeds on Friday 25th which was an enforced holiday due to a politician being slapped by a youth in Delhi.
I sowed them in tubs and am glad to note that both tubs are showing green. I sprinkled some NPK solution for activating growth.
Looking forward to a green crop...
Methi paratha and sarson ka saag coming up soon :)

Here are some pictures of the little babies...

Fenugreek seedlings 5 days after sowing
I am waiting for the true leaves to appear; I plan to thin some plants for salad...

Mustard seedlings 5 days after sowing
I have never been successful in growing this simple green and plan to take care this time.

Happy gardening

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunset Bells

One plant which I love during the dark monsoon days is Sunset Bells. It is also called Black Flamingo or Copper Leaf. This plant needs no sun to flower and has lovely brown foliage which sets off well against the monotonous green in my garden.

The flowers are yellow-orange with bright orange sepal cups which last quite a while. The nectar guides are prominent, the deep orange lines on the yellow petals are striking.

It can be grown in shallow containers and requires shade. It does not like bright sunlight and shows its displeasure by drooping immediately.
This plant grows from tubers at the base of the stems, so be careful. Even though the foliage dries off after the rainy season, the plant has already stored its food for the show next year :)
A piece from mythology- the botanical name Chrysothemis pulchella ( Family Gesneriaceae Gloxinia family) comes from ancient literature. Chrysothemis was the daughter of Agememnon and Clytemnestra of Greek mythology. The flower truly lives up to its name- Pulchella means beautiful…

Sunday, 28 August 2011

World kitchen garden day

As you must be aware, world kitchen garden day is celebrated globally on the last Sunday of August. Gardeners get together, share their experiences, swap seeds/ plants and generally exchange notes. Workshops are arranged in many cities on this day. This is the first year that India has joined in the celebrations.
Let me wish all my fellow gardeners the very best for their gardens.
I hope that today we have converted many to the joys of growing your own food.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Brahmakamal/ Night blooming Cereus/ Indian Orchid

Today I will write about a favorite of mine, the Night blooming Cereus also called brahmakamal in Maharashtra.
I had this plant for five years and just when ready to give up on it, the plant bloomed. And oh, what a flower!

Initially the buds appear as though they are leaf buds, gradually rounding to the flower bud shape and grow in size till they are the size of your palm.
A few days before flowering, the bud stalk starts to turn till the bud is upright.

The night of flowering is eagerly awaited, I make it a point to have finished my chores and keep tabs of the blooming in progress.

The bud starts opening by 9pm and is in full bloom in an hour. And that is when you get the fragrance! I had five flowers blooming on the same night once and the fragrance pervaded inside till my kitchen.
This flower cannot be described. I am unable to post the fragrance, you will have to grow this plant and realize it for yourself...

Till then happy viewing

Unfortunately all good things must come to a pass. Hence the flower blooms only for 3-4 hours after which it closes and becomes limp by the morning.
There are some common misconceptions regarding this plant. One being that is difficult to grow, flowers only once in a year and requires hilly regions to enable it to bloom.
The plant typically flowers once or twice in the monsoons. I have successfully grown it in Mumbai in a pot which is 12" wide, the size commonly used for roses. Though it asked for a lot of patience as initially you will see only the green leaves/ stems; but then no pain no gain. A handful of compost or cowdung every 2-3 months is all that I used for nutrients.
Propagation is easy - a stem or leaf( I still don't know what they are) will give rise to new plant.
This plant is different from another (Saussurea obvallata) also called brahmakamal which flowers once in 14 years and grows in the Himalayas. A google search will throw up the pictures of both the species. You can decide for yourself which is worthy of its name..
Till my next post happy gardening!

Thursday, 11 August 2011


Hi to all gardening enthusiasts out there!
This is my first post on this blog.
I will be posting about my experiments in the garden; hopefully successes will be more than the failures..
Wish me luck and do follow my blog.

All bouquets and bats welcome