Monday, May 28, 2007
Mustard is a common crop cultivated chiefly for the oil yielded by the seeds. I love it more for the cool yellow of its beautiful flowers. The golden yellow spread across the vast expanse is a heart-warming site so common in fields across north-India. In fact all the stages of mustard, right from its inception as a small plant-flower-pod-back to seed have a charm of their own. This was the first time that I got my garden help to get the seeds out and naturally I was thrilled to be able to use the seeds harvested from my own garden, having passed through all the stages in front of my very own eyes! I had sown mustard in early November last year and by December end they were giving out some lovely yellow flowers. Late February saw the flowers being converted to seedpods. I am tempted to draw an analogy with the life cycle of a butterfly where the Pupa, like the seedpod here, encloses the beautiful creature within. Although, the final result there is more visually appealing than the mustard seed, which is way more visually gratifying in its earlier incarnation as a flower. Shortly thereafter, I harvested my proud produce and left it to dry (The sizzling summer sun was very helpful!) There then, I had my garden help do the skilled bit of separating the seeds skillfully. He thrashed and pounded the dried seedpods and then sieved the seeds to separate them from the husk. After the tedious and time consuming job of dehusking is over, here is the end result. But some processing in the form of cleaning, washing and drying in the sun is still left. Finally, the seeds are ready to be used in some delectable Indian cuisines, very spicy but all the same, very tasty as well. Though mustard seeds are used in various types of Indian food, they find a very special place in south Indian cuisine, where they are used for tempering the curries.
Monday, May 21, 2007
It’s funny how certain things, seemingly unrelated, have such impact on life. I started blogging about my garden and other personal experiences after getting inspired to do the same by some absolutely stunning garden blogs existing on the web. It’s a great feeling to see the beautiful gardens all over the world, to be able to experience the diverse flora across geographical boundaries, in places, I couldn’t have ever dreamt of visiting. Strangely enough all these experiences have made me more conscious and responsible towards my garden. Looking at the garden thoughtfully I felt a reverence towards the senior most members of my floral family. The Peepal tree(Ficus religiosa), the pride of my garden, having its sagely existence much before mine, stands tall and is a witness to several decades of changes this place has seen.Every spring a significant part of the garden is bathed in its dry leaves, giving nightmares to my sweeper. This time I collected the leaves and allowed them to decay, creating good enough compost. Here it sways its sturdy branches adorned in a brand new set of leaves, smiling in the face of a harsh summer and providing the much needed shade to this portion of the house. Another portion of the house is flanked by the relatively younger Mango tree. Mango( Mangifera Indica)being one of my favorite fruits and also the national fruit of my country gives the tree a very special place in my heart. Although it is still not exactly like a fully grown mango tree but it does bear some delicious fruit leaving my heart craving for more.Sadly this season the mangoes are conspicuous by their absence ,for reasons unknown to me. This Mango tree ,teeming with fruits, is in my neighbours' yard.Simply awesome!! Adjacent to the mango stands the pomegranate tree, nowhere as sturdy as the Peepal or as glamorous as the mango, pomegranate or Punica granatum, has a beauty surpassed by no other. Standing tall and slender with delicately hanging branches it seems like a compromise between the strength of a big tree and the grace of a small flowering plant. This is the Java Plum or the Jamun tree as is known in Hindi.Also known as Indian Blackberry,the tree bears fruit in the months of July-August This is the Ashoka tree or the Indian Fir or the Mast tree.The majestically tall tree is almost always covered with dense foliage. Shedding of leaves occur at the onset of spring,just like the Peepal tree.My garden has about twenty of these trees. That’s the Guava tree, a favorite of the birds who frequent here, especially parrots. Intrigue and admiration for these flying visitors preempts any irritation I might have had on finding the fruits of my labor pecked. Looking down upon the garden, quite literally, is the Eucalyptus. It’s a favored hang out for the Eagles, may be they get a better view from this high up without having to bother themselves with the effort of flying! Although the Eagles are a menace, for all the organic freebies they drop in the garden, yet their prying eyes keeps the garden free of small rodents and other squirming creatures. The tree emits a particularly pleasing odor. In fact many of the medicinal concoctions for local pain relief have eucalyptus oil as an essential component and emit that slightly pungent odor so typical of eucalyptus.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Here comes another 15th day of the month and thanks to the Garden Blogger’s bloom day,I gave my garden another comprehensive look.While preparing the blooms' list I was pleasantly surprised by the number of blooms in my garden,all thanks to you Carol.Here goes my list: My Adenium obesum showcasing its vibrant pink bloom. The Caladium flower,thogh not a typical flower in terms of form and colours,but having a beauty of its own. Rangoon creeper or the ‘Madhumalti vine’, as it is known in hindi,is one of my favorites. Its heavenly aroma combines with the night breeze to make the night time stroll in the garden a sensuous pleasure Bougainvillea, with those stunningly colored, papery blooms is a summer savior. It adds color to the garden swathing it with its myriad hues. The white Hibiscus with its pristine white color looks simply beautiful. China Rose or Bunga Raya or hibiscus rosa sinensis , a favorite of biology teachers in high school to teach basic botany b'coz of the simplicity with which its parts are arranged by nature. Hibiscus is widely used in Hindu worships as a flower offering to deities The Gerbera flower with its overlapping ray florets.An interesting fact is that the central capitulum is made up of many individual flowers. Petunias continue giving me company and feature in my Blogger’s bloom day post for the third time in succession. My first Canna lily of the season.Any summer garden is incomplete without these gorgeous flourescent yellow flowers.The ease with which they can be grown here gives them an edge over all other summer blooms. Plumbago, again an essentially tropical evergreen shrub, has just given out these cute light blue flowers. This post has instilled a feeling of immense satisfaction in me. My garden is fighting the intense summer heat and is ,quite literally, coming out with flying colours!
Thursday, May 3, 2007
May marks the official beginning of summers in North India. Although the day lengths have increased but, because of the heat, the actual time spent by me in the garden has come down. Summer annuals are too young to flower and winter annuals are on their way to be one with the soil, meanwhile the foliage plants more then compensate for the temporary absence of flowers. Prudently arranged Foliage plants are a sight to behold. The intricate pattern or the color scheme in the leaves along with their diverse arrangements, the sinuous branches, all of them show how nature can be artistic and beautiful without being ostentatious. Caladium leaves so similar yet so different, one with a sprinkle of colors other looks equally striking with its prominent venation. The crotons-no flowers, still so complete and attractive, managing to hold attention in the colorful pot Buddha belly plant with its multi-lobed leaves make my morning merry like a laughing Buddha with a really big belly! Diffenbachia, adding to the beauty of foliage garden with its leaves. I've heard that its leaves are toxic if chewed and may cause a temporary inability to speak, earning it the sobriquet 'Dumbcane' Disanthus with its beautiful heart shaped leaves. I am waiting for the leaves to change colors with change of season. Chlorophytum comosum or the spider plant- I love the way it self-propagates. It looks much better in a hanging basket, where I am going to put it shortly. With these lovely variegated leaves, the plant is called 'manihar' locally Sanchezia speciosa, an evergreen shrub with such prominent yellow veins. Coming times with ever rising humidity are going to be good for this plant A sine qua non of foliage gardens,this is Money Plant or the Pothos. Contrasting with the soothing green of the money plant is this plant with piquant purple leaves.I don't know its identity and don't even remember where I got it from but it is providing a welcome contrast to my otherwise green garden Flowers epitomize the beauty and complexity of nature and no gainsaying the fact that their presence overwhelms and overshadows everything else growing in the garden but this time their absence made me realize the silent unassuming beauty of foliage plants. Till the summer flowers show up, the green foliage is providing succour to my soul.