Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Monsoon vegetables in Mumbai

So I had gone Missing In Action. And that too after promising to post more regularly. Very irresponsible of me! But I've been so swamped with work from all sides. What's a gardener to do?

First of all, the Monsoons took over Mumbai.
You know me ... I get a little (okay, very!) giddy during the monsoons. Just the lightest hint of a drizzle is enough to get me into an ecstatic frame of mind. And then all I can do is to sit back and enjoy the moment.
I think I really must be turning into a plant myself!

And then, it's been 'monsoon veggie planting time'. One of our busiest times ever.
First there were veggie beds to prepare; dug up, manured and kept ready for the monsoons.
Then once it was here, there were seeds to sow, trellises made, seedlings to transplant, shelters made against the powerful gusts of wind that show up every once in a while.

And then there was constant checks to be made, climbers to be trained up the trellis, neem to be sprayed (see what I mean? I dont know how they do it but the first leaves also showed up along with the first bugs)
.... oooffff! This is one hyper-busy gardener.
Actually, this is also one dead-tired gardener! But I'm not complaining (... too much).

Especially when what started off like this, soon becomes ...

... THIS!

Cucumbers have to be the most vigorously growing plants ever. After putting up trellises for the snake-gourds I was forced to take some time off because I was travelling. And by the time I got back and before I knew it, the little seedlings from the earlier photo (third in this post) had grown and leaped and galloped into the jungle you see here. Can you believe it?

Luckily, not having a trellis to climb up does not affect cucumbers much. In fact, in many parts of Maharashtra they are normally grown without a trellis.
The only problem pops up when it is harvest time. How do you find them under all that greenery?

Oh, and that's the start of a trellis that you can see in this pic. No, not the completed one in the background. I mean those little fragile sticks poking out from the cucumber plant swamp.
We really under-estimated how fast and how big these plants grow!
And they're growing on just good ol' traditional growth promoters ... well-composted cow-manure and neem. That's all! (Oh, and of course, on rain)
Doesn't it make you feel good when you can avoid all those chemicals?

So what are we growing now? Well, there's some bitter-gourd (not my favourite vegetable, which is why I thought I'd mention it first and get it out of the way)...

... and a whole lot of snake-gourds. This is the smaller variety which doesn't get really long like the regular ones. But the flavour is the same and demands that you cook it while it is still tender.

And these extra-long beans hijacked the snake-gourd trellis too.
I like growing these beans. There's something so very simple and easy about growing them. Perfect for those who'd rather enjoy their gardens more and sweat over it a little less.

And then there's the okra (ladies fingers) and the red amaranth.
All the bugs seem to love okra. They're usually the first vegetable plant under attack each season. Okra grows really well in my veggie patch because of all that sunshine.
So does the Red Amaranth.

The pumpkins aren't ready yet. They're still busy blooming. And I do love those flowers!
So do many foodies who love to batter-fry them. Have you tried it? To my mind there's something so decadently exciting about eating a flower!

This is just part of one of our first harvests. I had just gone out to check on them but when I saw so many vegetables ready for harvest, I just couldn't resist.
No secateurs or knife to cut them, no basket to collect them but I just couldn't wait!

Hey dont forget the fruits! This papaya is so full of fruits that I'll have to harvest some green ones to make room for the others to grow to their full potential. But that's okay because I love shredded green papaya lightly sauteed with a hint of coconut.
And green papaya (cooked) is so good for you!

No, I haven't forgotten the passionfruit. I built a few more trellises for them and now they're all over the place with their green globes of fruit.
Does it take longer for them to ripen if I look at it too often? I have a nasty suspicion that it does. But the glorious scent of their flowers makes the waiting so much easier. Seriously!

While the Sense of Taste and Scent are taken care of, the monsoon wildflowers take care of the Sense of Sight.
These wild balsams have sprung up all over the place, even among the vegetables. I hesitate to pull them out even if it means that I'll get a couple of baskets fewer vegetables. They are so beautiful that they qualify as food too.
Soul food, that is!


52 comments:

  1. There is no way I would ever know you were back to blogging if you weren't in my google reader. I'm glad to see you back! Esp. after promising to post more ;-)

    I see you have a huge garden compared to my little one. You have a lovely harvest too. I hope to see more of you. xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And I'm so glad to be back, Joyful :)
      Fingers crossed that the next post wont take so long in coming up!
      The Monsoon season is the best for growing vegetables here. The bounteous harvests have a lot to do with that and less to do with my growing skills, I'm afraid ;D

      Delete
  2. Your garden is looking very prolific. Our climate is very similar to yours but opposite hemispheres so I am heading into our cyclone season. I have often wondered about growing bitter melon, but never tasted it. I will have to try green papaya sauteed with coconut - I am not that partial to it in a salad.. I grow cucumbers in the dry season, I will have to try some in the wet season. I have planted chokos this year. Do you hand pollinate your pumpkin?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the monsoon season which makes everything grow so well :)
      Bitter gourd (or bitter melon) is not my favourite veggie though my husband loves it. It is also one of our most beneficial veggies so I hesitate to bad-mouth it. It is ... well, bitter (no surprises there!) But its definitely worth a try.
      No, I dont hand-pollinate the pumpkins. They are pretty much left to their own devices. I'm such a bad plant-mom! :D

      Delete
  3. Sunitha, are the ones after the papaya's lemons ?
    I envy you your harvest!
    My tomato plants did not fare well but the chillies were good. Pleasure to read your posts as always.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Those are unripe passionfruits, Shri.
      Why dont you try sowing some more tomato seeds. Sometimes one little factor can make things go wrong, so I just start all over again.

      Delete
  4. My garden is too small to have vegetables and often infested with squirrels and pest which I sort of settled with hardy plants which can take care of it self.
    But I just love all your vegetables plants - the way they grow.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, James!
      Squirrels can be a real nuisance when you're trying to grow anything edible. Luckily they seem to avoid my garden probably because my dogs dont like trespassers :D

      Delete
  5. Oh Sunita, you have a very healthy vegetable garden and so prolific. I love them except the snake gourd. Your soil is very fertile. What do you do with the neem as you mentioned it here? I also encorporate cow manure and goat manure compost, but we have lots of insects. Judging from the growth there of your papaya, your soils are more fertile than ours. But of course our papayas don't get the manure, they are just volunteer plants anywhere, and i cut two tall ones 2 wkends ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Andrea! :)
      I continuously work on improving the soil, Andrea. I keep adding composted cow-manure, leaf-mould and dried and powdered neem to the soil. The neem works on the pests slowly but surely and also conditions the soil. I also spray all the plants in my garden with diluted neem oil for added protection.
      I dont really add anything for the papayas. The special treatment is only for the seasonal vegetables. But after all this work we also lose a lot of our amended soil during the monsoons because we are sited on a slope. All the terracing of beds, etc. just doesn't prevent the heavy downpour from carrying it down-hill :(

      Delete
    2. Amazing seeing all those fruit and vegetables growing out of doors like that. If you like the rain so much you should consider moving to Scotland. We have hardly had a day without rain all summer. We could swap. I could move to Mumbai to enjoy the warmth and sunshine and your beautiful butterflies. You could move over here to enjoy our rain and cold!!!

      Delete
    3. Great idea, Nick. Except, I love the rain but can't stand the cold (can't stand the heat either but that's another matter). And you may not be too happy when Summer rolls around with its baking hot 36*C days!
      I do have this emotional connect with Scotland because my father lived and worked there for about 7-8 years while he was preparing for his FRCS. It's definitely on my list of places to visit.

      Delete
  6. I just come across you blog and enjoyed the informative articles... I would like to link your blog to mine but would like to ask you for permission first.
    if its ok with you I’ll add a link to my article on a similar topic:

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad you liked my blog, Wason. Please e-mail me regarding the link? Thanks!

      Delete
  7. Love seeing pictures of your garden, Sunita! What a rich haul! And more to follow... I'm sure when you're there you don't keep track of time. The same wild balsams spring up here too. They're so pretty so I let them be. The sight of those snake gourds...I'm thinking of ways of having them.:)

    Happy gardening and blogging!!

    Kanak

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Kanak. When I'm in my garden I totally lose track of everything else. And since I refuse to carry my cell-phone around when I'm gardening (what a thought!) I'm totally incommunicado with everyone too. That's caused a lot of grumbles but I can live with that ;D

      Delete
  8. Things tend to get so busy at gardening time for all of us. Your garden looks marvelous.Just look at those vines. Have a wonderful week.

    ReplyDelete
  9. The vegetable growth is lush.
    I would love to try out passion fruit .
    When is the sowing season for it.
    Does it need a lot of sunlight?
    Do you sow seeds?
    It a whole lot of questions but very excited about trying it out.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Usha. There is no particular sowing season for the passionfruit as it is a perennial plant. But the monsoon season should be as good a time as any (avoid summer).
      I sowed the seeds from some fruits I had got as a gift but later found that the fruit from my plants were different from the ones I had got. So obviously there was some cross-pollination at work there.
      If you can get hold of some seedlings that is always a better option.

      Delete
  10. Whoa Sunita what bounty from the garden! My snake gourd was eaten by something so I have to get some more seeds. My passion fruit are still young and I will sow some cucumber soon. I love and hate the rainy season. I understand when the garden takes priority over the blogging.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. These are glory days for the garden, Helen. It is so exciting to source almost all of our food from our own garden.
      Sorry to hear about your snake-gourds. That is such a disappointment when that happens!
      (I'll be mailing you soon, ok?)

      Delete
  11. Hello Sunita and welcome back after a long hiatus.
    In garden-related activities,there are few pleasures greater than the satisfaction of harvesting veggies that are homegrown, fresh and ripe for the picking. Quite recently and after many, many moons, I had the opportunity to pick gherkins straight off the vine. Just couldn't get enough of it. Never ceased to amaze me that just when I thought I had bagged the last one for the day,there's another that I could have sworn wasn't there two seconds ago!
    Looking forward to more bounty from your garden, Sunita.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Usha! Its great hearing from you after such a long time. Where did you disappear to?
      You're absolutely right, harvesting homegrown fruits and veggies gives one an almost incomparable feeling of self-sufficiency and independence, not to mention self-satisfaction.
      You've been growing gherkins? Good for you! And yeah, they do like to play hide& seek! :D

      Delete
  12. That is a LOT of fruit and veggies! The papaya would have to be my favorite. That and the passion fruit. My friend from Okinawa grows bittergourd. She brought me one and told me how to cook it and everything but yuck! I don't like it either. I guess it is an acquired taste. Enjoy the rains! I'm with you as they are delightful for us gardeners-even those who feel like plants sometimes:)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And it is just starting to come in, Tina. The first weeks of a harvest are the best, dont you think? :)
      I'm with you about the bitter-gourd. I definitely wouldn't eat it if there wasn't so much of it growing out there. But my husband loves it so we keep planting it. Plus its supposed to keep blood sugar levels under control so it just feels good to be growing it even if I dont enjoy eating it.

      Delete
  13. Hi Sunita,

    Read about your monsoon madness in the papers and got inspired to follow your blog. I live in mumbai with a small terrace garden. can i grow veggies? would you be able to guide me how to go about it?
    i love your harvest.

    Harsha

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Harsha. I'm glad you're feeling inspired enough to grow your own veggies. You can e-mail me regarding it (you'll find my e-mail details in my profile page... just click on the link under "About Me" at the top of the side-bar here).
      Harvest times are always extra-special :)

      Delete
  14. Hi Sunita!
    Love the veggies from your garden, they look great :)

    ReplyDelete
  15. Happy Gardening, Sunita. I remember how the balsam's used to grow wild in Bandra, at roadside corners - when I was a kid. Alas Bandra today has no space for the balsam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so sad, isn't it, Lubna? Sometimes I find plants like the balsam blooming in the most unexpected places in Mumbai. Its almost as if they're saying, "I'm still here!"

      Delete
  16. Wow! love your harvest.. no wonder you couldnt resist picking them up even if you didnt have tools n basket :)
    Lovely pics.. n of course soul food is food too!! Cant do without :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patience has never been my strong point, Priya! :D
      Once you see a whole bunch of fruits or veggies ripe for harvest who can hold back?

      Delete
  17. Hi – Will you please post a link to your Blog at The Gardening Community at vorts.com? Our members will love it.
    Members include: Gardeners, Gardening Enthusiasts, Experts and Horticulturists.
    It's easy to do, just cut and paste the link and it automatically links back to your website...
    You can also add Photos, Videos, Articles and Classifieds if you like.
    Email me if you need any help or would like me to do it for you.
    The Gardening Community: http://www.vorts.com/gardening/
    Thanks,
    James Kaufman, Editor
    Share something to get us through the winter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just added the link, James. Hope I got it right.

      Delete
  18. I love Indian cuisine and I've never been to Mumbai or Bombay as we call it. This post is the nearest thing. I know you enjoy India.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I do. It is a great place to be :)

      Delete
  19. Your veggies are so lush and bountiful! We just started pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplants herbs etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Nicole :)
      What herbs do you grow? We seem to be gardening in very similar climate zones.
      (Incidemtallly I tried to comment on your blog but couldn't)

      Delete
  20. Those papaya are beautiful. Living in upstate NY I have serious envy of those beautiful fruits. Green Papaya sounds perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Felicity! And I'm in serious envy of all those cool-growing fruits which you can grow. Does this sound ironic or can I admit that I love Green Apples?

      Delete
  21. Amazing pale pink flower to be planted in the garden, the flower is really wonderful, your garden is really prolific, just trying to re-plan my garden, hope your gardening tips would help me out.
    munthe plus simonsen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Camellia. I hope they help you too :)

      Delete
  22. Wow that's a lot of growth going on in your garden, both ornamentals and vegies. Everything you posted are also here, except that first one, which i haven't seen here yet. We have lots of orange and yellow cosmos, but the pinks, reds, violets and whites i haven't seen yet here. I want to have at least that one, haha! Maybe your climate is colder than ours, because you have pinks, while we have more of the reds and the orange. The temperate climes have dark violets and blues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gardening-wise we're practically neighbours, Andrea :) Everytime I visit your blog I see all the familiar garden favourites over there too.
      Actually, that hot-pink cosmos was sowed towards the end of summer (think 36*C )and has been blooming non-stop ever since. I got it in a packet of mixed-colour (lilac, hot-pink, and a very dark shade of purple))Cosmos seeds from a local company. The yellow and orange are definitely more common but I like to grow these too just to shake things up a bit :)

      Delete
  23. I am here after ages!! Love the pictures and the commentary. Thank You!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello IHM. I'm here after ages too. So ashamed of that! But somehow Life ... and the garden ... takes over and before I knew it, months have passed. But its so good to see you here again :)

      Delete
  24. Its amazing to see such a lovely garden in space deprived Mumbai. Where and how do you grow in such abundance in Mumbai ? Is there an alternative to using soil - say coir bedding supported with chemical nutrients for plants ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you!The how of it is simple ... sheer perseverence!
      Yes, coco-peat can be used instead of soil. I wouldn't recommend chemical nutrients, though.

      Delete
  25. Hi Sunita,
    when you say you use diluted neem oil to spray on the plants what exactly do you dilute it with? I have few potted plants in my balcony and now plan to start on
    vegetables so want to avoid using chemical pesticides.

    Thanks
    Neelam

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're taking the right steps, Neelam, both in deciding to grow your own vegetables as well as in deciding to go chemical-free. Good for you! :)

      You have to dilute it with water. The recommended ratio is 30 ml neem oil : 1 litre water. Make sure you add 1 drop (just 1 drop) liquid soap to this so it will adhere to the leaves, etc. instead of getting washed away. Spray the mix as soon as it has been mixed, don't use it after 1-2 days. And avoid spraying it in the hot times of the day. Evening is a better time to spray it.

      Delete

Hi, hope you enjoyed reading this post? Tell me what you think about this post; I love hearing from you.
But please note ... if there's a link in the comment, it will not be approved for publishing (sorry, but I'm getting way too much spam with links).