Plants have always fascinated me, since childhood. We moved houses a few times, but one constant through all of them was a garden, small or big, but there, right outside the door. Even when we lived in apartments, we would have gardens in the balcony with pots lined up all along the walls. Dad was always fond of the money plant, we always, always have had at least one growing in the house. Dad would be super particular of cooling the plant down with ice during the hot summer afternoons, and he would be super happy if it grew a new leaf. Mom has been just as passionate about gardening and plants. And I inherited this love of plants from both my parents. I get sad if I feel something is wrong, I often tend to be overtly loving, showering it with so much water that my plant would as well have just drowned and died, tough love, huh! I like having the happy, healthy plants around, they bring me joy. Every time it grows a new bud or a new leaf, I go crazy happy, it literally makes my day.
One thing mom and I would do as a child, would grow some fenugreek or methi together in the garden. She taught me how to shape out those small raised beds to plant the seeds in and prepare the soil for sowing. We would then sow the seeds together, and I would be assigned the responsibility to water them regularly, which was generally after coming back from school. It felt like such a big responsibility and it make me feel important, like I was nurturing a new life, and its survival depended on me carrying out my responsibility faithfully. Then, a few weeks down the line the fenugreek would be ready to harvest, so mom and I would get down to plucking the tender leaves, collecting them in a plate. The freshly harvested fenugreek leaves would then be cooked into pakoras or a subzi, and be relished by my family.
One time, mom taught me to plant chilies. It looked like an ordinary plant to me, until small chilies started growing on the branches. The miracle of life on that plant wowed me, and still does. I was quite young then and I had no idea that you shouldn’t really touch a chilly & then touch your eyes. i unwittingly did do that, and cried a lot after. But I haven’t done that ever again, so lesson learnt, I could say.
When we began learning about germination and a plant’s lifecycle in school, we were asked to grow some plants. Dad took a used plastic container of Amul Cheese Spread – a yellowish colored container, and put in some soil from our garden, and we sowed some moong beans in it. Then, I took it to school, and the entire class kept their containers and pots out in the class windows. We would water it regularly, and the mean kids would try to sabotage some of the plants that began growing. As luck would have it, my container refused to show any signs of life brewing inside it and it began pissing me off. One day, as I stood at the water taps watering the plant, being angry at it for letting me down by not germinating, I ended up filling the entire container with water – something like two inches of water layered over like two inches of soil. Realizing what I had done, I got into damage control mode. And I did what in hindsight feels like something extremely stupid but quite the reflex, I turned my container upside down to drain the water out! And boom a chunk of soil from the pot fell off and got drained away with the water! Ooops! Proves that nothing good comes from taking decisions when you are mad pissed, right? Well, here’s the twist. When I turned my container back right again, there I saw – the most beautiful, the tiniest shoots of moong peeping out from between the soil in my cheese spread pot! Only the soil that had gotten wet from the angry ‘water attack’ fell off, the rest was safe and fine in my container, and it had life growing inside it. I was so happy, standing there in front of the water taps.
In recent times, mom and my sister have been actively working in our kitchen garden, growing a range of amazing vegetables and fruits – cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, kohlrabi, fenugreek, onions, garlic, coriander, okra, radish, carrots, potatoes, mint, spinach, peas, and so much more. I recently sowed an avocado pit and it has been growing at a miraculous speed. While the lock down was on, we had spinach, coriander, radishes, and mint growing. I can’t even begin to describe the joy it is to harvest fresh coriander leaves straight off the plant and chop them onto the vegetables and dal. Mom loves radishes and she would relish eating freshly harvested radishes. I have a special spot in my heart for pea plants that have those cute tendrils that the plant has to be able to stand straight up, I often do a funny imitation of that too. And it makes me so, so happy to see the pea pods growing on the plant. Ditto for the okra. We’ve tried growing chilies but apparently the ants around my house have this unconditional intense love for chilly seeds, so they just end up eating all the seeds, leaving nothing behind to sprout & grow. We’ve tried it so many times, and are beginning to kinda give up after a decade of failed attempts.
We now have tomatoes growing too. The plant flowered a while back and has lots of raw green tomatoes that are just beginning to ripen up. Mom plucked some of the ripe ones yesterday and they are the cutest. We even plucked the raw ones last weekend, and made a delicious potato-raw tomato curry with it, had it with khichdi and ghee – the perfect Gujarati lunch.
Buying local is important, and going organic just as much, for our environment as well as our health, being able to grow your own vegetables is quite a blessing. When you grow your own vegetables, you know for sure that the produce is 100% safe and healthy and fresh. Above all, the sense of fulfillment and happiness it brings, is beyond words. You’ve grown something, from practically nothing. Maybe because I am a woman, or maybe because I inherited those genes from my parent, but being able to nurture a new life is a magical feeling, mothers everywhere would likely agree with me here. And being a plant mom is a superb feeling too. I worry when my plants are not doing good, I celebrate when they grow a new leaf or bud. I lose sleep if I feel one of the plants isn’t doing too well. And when it finally bears fruit, it is an immensely satisfying feeling to receive the bounty nature showered us with. Freshly harvested food tastes better and has more nutrients. And since you don’t use any harmful chemical fertilizers or pesticides that are commonly used on a lot of farms, you get much safer and better food from your plants.
On the plus side, growing your own vegetables is an immensely calming and uplifting feeling. Sit in a garden for some time, and you will see yourself feeling happier, calmer, more at peace. Studies have found that spending like half an hour in a garden can be immensely beneficial for mental health. It gives you something to be invested in while also giving you a chance to enjoy the happy hormones. Plus – fresher air, more oxygen – a must in the busy, polluted cities we now live in.
Well, as I write this, I am relishing more of my home-produced vegetables. I needed to tell you all about how happy it makes me feel, and I am thankful you chose to read this!
Do you also feel the same way about plants? Are you also a plant parent? I would love to know more, drop me in a line in the comments or find me on Instagram – @banjaranfoodie.