At last the monsoons are upon us, my absolutely favorite season in Mumbai, a season of rebirth and renewal. The yellow amaltas and orange gulmohar flowers that burnished our sweltering summer skies, glorious though they were, have all been washed away in the overwhelming deluge. The city’s trees have been power-rinsed, and now stand shiny green and crowned with fresh, tender, luminescent leaves. City dwellers, find your little green spot, and pause a while to savor the scent of deep, dark, rich earth, as nature renews its promise of life…
I love the Mumbai monsoons. I feel grateful for the seasons, for water, for earth, for life, and for being a Bombay/Mumbai girl 🙂 On stormy nights I choose a couch near my windows, opening them as wide as they can get, and then fall asleep to the sound of thunder and wailing trees, with the mist of rain upon me!
While active farming takes a backseat in the drama of the first month of the monsoons, this is a great time to sprout seeds. We’re nearing World Kitchen Gardening Day (August 24th) so it’s also a good time to consider growing basic kitchen herbs, all time faves that will save you several trips to the market, and will thrive through the pouring rains. Here are some of them…
Curry Leaves/Kadipatta – hardy and lush, grows just as easily indoors in a sunny spot Mint/Pudina – plant fresh stalks obliquely, for a lifetime of freshness, but in a container please, unless you want mint all over your garden…
Chilly/Mirchi – this needs the outdoors for flower pollination, and will produce bountifully
Curry leaves, mint and chillies are basic seasonings for Indian cooking. Having this trinity at hand will prove to be a big time and money saver. I also strongly recommend coriander/dhania – for gardeners blessed with supreme patience 🙂 Somehow, despite all efforts, my coriander plants dance only to their own drummers. They come up when they wish, and where they wish. I am mystified, provoked, befuddled, but will keep trying….
Another seasoning that is a must-have, and a die-hard survivor of all seasons (foreigner it may be but so, so unfazed by the Mumbai monsoons) is Italian basil. A pretty, fragrant, and hardy migrant to the city, it brings life to pastas and pizzas, while holding forth in voce solo, a breathtaking aria in pestos.
Italian Basil – don’t pay good money for it when it will grow happily for free!
(Photo Courtesy: Rhea & Vivianne Tvilling)
Once the first spate of the monsoons is over, I plan to transplant my spinach/palak seedlings and grow a bunch of amaranth/laal maath & chowli as well. I have just discovered Malabar spinach courtesy cuttings from a friend (Thanks, Fr. Terry!), and I love the way it takes to soil so enthusiastically. It’s a joy to propagate, and I have cuttings to spare for those who want some!
More on the Malabar spinach and other leafy veggies in my next post. Until then, enjoy the monsoons and do plot, plan and plant for your own kitchen garden seasonings!
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