Palak is one of those typical ingredients to be savoured in a North Indian dish. But did you know that, much like amaranthus, palak can be grown in our kitchen gardens too? In fact, it’s easier to grow than amaranthus. It can be made an essential ingredient of every kitchen garden. Although palak can be cultivated throughout the year, this is the best season for it.
Palak, also known as Spinach beet or Indian spinach, is a member of Chenopodiaceae, the Beetroot family. Unlike beetroot, however, the plant is cultivated for its nutritious, tender-green crispy leaves and tender stem.
Packed with dietary fibres, minerals such as calcium, phosphorous and iron, Carotene, Vitamin C and folic acid, the leaves provide antioxidants too.
The leaves taste delicious, raw in salads or steamed, boiled or sautéed. The leaves are compatible with a wide variety of food such as paneer, potato, cauliflower and chicken making it a versatile dish for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Palak doesn’t require much space to grow. The seeds are relatively cheap and conspicuous enough to work with. They can be grown anywhere, on trays, plastic pots, grow bags or on the ground. It is easy to grow it even in window boxes as the plant is shallow rooted.
The only thing one must do is to ensure that the plants get a few hours of sunlight. It grows well in full sunlight to partial shade.
Fertile soil and ample water give good yield and for that fill the container with soil, sand, compost, and cocopeat, all in equal ratio. Powder the soil loosely. Soak seeds in water for few hours to ensure good germination. If planning to plant in large areas, 40-50 grams of seeds are required for one cent of land.
Sow seeds in rows. After sowing, press the soil firmly over seeds. Thin the excess plants one week after planting. Apply first dose of fertiliser 10 days after planting. Spray water soluble fertilisers such as 17:17:17 or 19:19:19, two to five grams dissolved in one litre of water, once in a week.
The plant responds well to organic manures too. If resorting to organic cultivation add bone meal as a basal and then neem cake, groundnut cake and cow dung. Applying fresh cow dung slurry after each harvest increases the growth rate. Also pour pseudomonas, a bacterial bio-control agent, once in two weeks to control soil borne diseases. The plant becomes ready for harvest one month after planting.
Harvest by cutting stem with a sharp knife or scissors approximately 5cm from ground. Apply a spray of 17:17:17 or cow dung after each harvest. Harvest four to five times every two weeks.
The leaves should be used immediately after harvest. It loses its freshness if stored for more than a day. To store, keep the leaves in an unsealed bag or cover it with paper and keep in refrigerator.
Where to buy seeds
All green, Pusa palak, Pusa Jyothi, Pusa Harith and Arka anupama are some of the varieties of palak suitable for Kerala. The seeds of these varieties are available at Agro Super Bazaar (Contact: 2471347). Seeds are also available from National Seeds Corporation on request. Contact: 9895013810