When we were kids, mum would shout out to us, to bring a stalk of celery (Apium graveolens var. dulce) growing in one of the pots in the garden, to add to the soup, or for some sprigs of curry leaf (Murraya koenigii) to spice up the dal.
Over the years, Bangalore has lost its gardens and became a concrete jungle, forcing people to buy their daily requirement of herbs, from the market. In a matter of a few days the bunch bought from the supermarket, wilts and is wasted.
Today a lot of Bangaloreans have reverted to growing their own rosemary, thyme, parsley, basil and mint, in pots on their terraces or balconies. Yohan Nazareth, who was checking on the drip irrigation of his variety of herbs on his terrace in Castle Street said, “They are amazingly fresh and make great toppings for pizzas, bakes and soups. I bought seeds from various nurseries across the city and grow them in a completely organic base of vermicompost, neem pellets, coco peat and soil which I buy from the S.P. Road area. I have sweet and regular basil, Japan mint, spear mint, wild mint and an African herb which smells and tastes like the coriander leaves we buy.”
Most of these herbs grow quite easily with minimal care. These are organic and do not contain all the pesticides and herbicides used in commercially grown vegetables and herbs, which are proven cancer triggers.
Anil Kapur, one of the owners of Rex Theatre, is behind the Squarefoot Gardening concept that he spreads in the city. “On my farm in Sarjapur, we teach people that they should not depend on anyone and should grow their own vegetables, anytime of the year, anywhere, on your terrace, balcony, patio or patch of garden. The method is effortless and any one from a child to an old person can do it, plus it is organic and environmentally friendly,” he says.
Wet waste from your kitchen when composted, makes great mulch for your herbs and gives you the satisfaction of keeping your waste off the roads and putting it to good use. Do not add meat and bones to the compost, but tea leaves and eggs shells are fine and cut up larger leaves and stalks to speed up the break down process. Your herbs will thrive in this compost.
Green Thumbs boutique in Kamannahalli is run by Ranjit and Minette. The husband-wife duo say, “All herbs need a lot of sunlight, so a terrace is an ideal spot. Start with sticking your mint (pudina) stalks, or the head of celery which normally comes with its roots, into a pot and in no time they will grow. Water them once a day and you need to cut just as much as you need to use each time. Rosemary too grows very easily and can be just sprinkled over Maggi noodles to make them taste wonderful. You can fill empty milk sachets, juice cartons, anything which can hold 50 per cent compost and 50 per cent soil and happily grow your herbs in them.”
They sell seedlings of various herbs as they say homeowners get disheartened if seeds don’t sprout. A seedling gives them much more satisfaction to nurture.
So, start with some discarded mint sticks or a wilting head of celery, to grow your own thriving herb garden, on your balcony or terrace in a matter of months.