Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Tamatar Matters - How To Seed Bonds

Our little family, now just the two of us, always did a bit of gardening. From the time our son was a toddler and enjoyed playing in the mud, right down to today when he is very grown up indeed, we still bond over plants. 

The first thing I do when he visits is drag him into the garden to show him my latest “baby”. Today it’s a capsicum which is very bravely growing bigger every day. Near that plant, stands the Mogra I planted for my Daughter-in-law and I love to see her sparkle when it flowers.

Hubby’s a busy bee, absent minded and a workaholic to boot. But say “Garden” and he’s all agog, be it watering or pruning, pest control or composting, he’s there beside me, toiling away joyfully.

Peering at Methi

Right from my days as a young mom, I got into a habit of throwing almost all seeds from the vegetables I was cooking into pots. Now, of course, we have a garden and that’s where they go.  The amazing fact is that most of them sprout. Many of them even go so far as to flower and a few brave ones are bold enough to offer me the odd vegetable or two.

The real joy is when you can gift your freinds and relatives a bit of what you have grown. I once had some lettuce seeds that I can't find now in any shop and they grew so easily! Each time I could crop a bit and use it or present it to a guest and it would grow bountifully all over again.

The easiest of the lot are tomatoes. I love tomatoes! Just can’t get enough of them. So imagine my thrill when, long long ago, I threw a rotten tomato into a pot and plants grew!

Alas, that’s all they did for some time. Tomato plants take some amount of pampering as do other plants. They need support.

Although you can buy and plant all kinds of vegetables and enjoy family time with your dear ones, sowing, caring and harvesting, tomato still remains my favourite.

Saucy Saas! Now that I'm a mom-in-law, I get to have a lot of fun sharing snacks with my DIL. And what's a snack without some sauce? Ketchup figures prominently on my grocery list. I'll admit that, as a DIY fanatic, I've tried making tomato sauce at home and it's usually a miserable flop. That's why I remain a diehard Kissan fan. From childhood to now, in my fifties, I can't resist my favourite brand of ketchup.

Tomato Treats Not only can you make a lot of tasty dishes with tomatoes but they are also excellent for health. Hubby and I are still trying to master a tomato chutney that he once ate and loved and which we almost got right recently.

Basic Recipe
Coarsely chop a few tomatoes and onions and finely chop some ginger, garlic and green chilies.

Heat some oil and saute, first the onions, then the ginger, garlic and chilies. When the onions are translucent, add the chopped tomatoes and cook lightly.

Season with salt, a dash of haldi, some red chili powder to taste and temper. For the latter, heat a Tbsp. of oil and splutter some mustard seeds, a few pieces of broken dried red chilli, some curry leaves and some urad dal if you so desire.

Goes well with puris but also with anything else.

Jai Kissan! I was so excited, recently, when surfing for things to do with tomato sauce, I came across a website where you can not only order seeds but access a whole PDF on growing tomatoes! And that’s not all - there are a whole lot of activities for your kids! What better way to bond?!

Family apart, neighbours get engaged once you start exercising your green thumb. In modern life, who cares for neighbours? Loneliness is silently becoming a major problem for the growing numbers of the elderly in India. With a little thought, we can all address this problem by
Being aware that this issue exists.
By being discretely aware of the elderly people in our neighbourhood and of their needs.
Set a reminder to visit at least one such person per week, just to say hello. Often, a simple gesture or two will be of enormous help to them - ask them if you can get something for them when you shop, if they need a lift, etc.

Down the road from me, live an elderly couple. They have a lovely, neat garden and, earlier, they grew a lot of vegetables. But these days they are lonely and getting on in years and gardening can be a major exertion at that age. They are very dear to me and pop in now and then and always head straight to the garden to see how my plants are growing. As we chat, the old lady plucks a flower or two for her puja and, of course, some curry patta.

A little kitchen garden can build the best bonds within a family and even beyond. Somehow, food growing is a blessed sight to all.

In the West, today, unused public spaces are being used to grow food. What if, in some of our condominiums, we initiate a small kitchen garden? Of course, there would be many problems. But start small, with the help of kids and the elderly and try to avoid ego and possessiveness and you will plant the seeds of a better tomorrow for all.

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