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!