January 09, 2009

Kutti plantains and Kitchen Gardens!

My New Year evening was spent with friends.
There was music but no dancing.
I don't dance much nowadays. I should, to burn the kilos that the doc has suggested I get rid of.
We had a few drinks, pork curry and chappatis. Dessert was simple - finger-sized ripe yellow plantains. My host kept tearing them off the bunch which was hung from a clothesline in the balcony.
I laughed and laughed before I told my amused host that the nook with the bananas looked like Nair's tea shop in Irinjalakuda.
The plantains were delicious.
They had to be. They had grown on the trees that Manoj has in his kitchen garden.
Yesterday, my watchman handed over five raw plantains from a bucket that had two dozen in them.
I closed the door and laughed to myself. The opening week seemed to drive me bananas.
When my maid reported for work today, I asked her to cook them rightaway. They were delicious.
They too had grown on the plantain tree in our backyard.
The veggies and fruits and leaves that grow in our backyards always have a special taste to them.
Perhaps it has to do with the special attention we give them.
Or is there a psychological twist to the way we experience this food?
As a child I could not comprehend why my grandma or my aunt or my mom used to slip out of their village house kitchen, rip the leaves off the branch of a sunny tree and toss them into the kadai.
Today, I make sure the local store provides me a sheaf of curry leaves when the billing is done.
Nobody at my apartment block has made the effort to grow a tree whose leaves grow as fast as we rip them for our cooking.
Kitchen gardens can be developed on terraces, balconies and window sills. Watching chillies and tomatoes grow there can be fascinating.
Talking to plants is therapeutic, we are told.
If you have lovely kitchen garden stories to share, do so on my blog - vincentsjottings.blogspot.com


Swarna said...

I miss the garden back home in Annanad.
My relatives (non-malayalis) in Chennai think the house is in a jungle! and ask if it is not scary at night. lol.
Have sent you pictures of an unusual banana bunch from the home garden - jungle!

mythily said...

Yes, the veggies and fruits grown in our backyard have a special taste. And it is fascinating to watch chillies and tomatoes grown in your balcony. You could add methi leaves, pudina leaves, palak, (the Delhi variety), Malabar valrikkai, (the one used for Vishu kani) payari (string beans) and green mung (I am not joking) to this list.
Watering them every morning and peering through the leaves to catch a new bud is a rewarding experience. So what if there are only three small tomatoes that go into the rasam, or just a handful of payaru for the olan, the food that comes out of the kitchen tastes heavenly, it has that fresh fragrance that you don’t sniff at anymore, often stirring nostalgic thoughts of having known that smell while growing up in a small town of Bengal.
Fed on kitchen waste and nature’s support and lots of attention, our balcony garden comprises of maybe ten pots. And the plants are close to our hearts. I owe this love for plants to my parents, who walk to their balcony every morning with child like glee to catch a flower in bloom or a bud raise its head. Their green fingers has seen them grow almost everything from cauliflowers and carrots to raw plantains and yam. The pride and joy is evident in his voice, when my dad gives me a few green chillies or four ladys fingers, as he says, ‘How about some ‘Jus Picked,’ stuff?
Home grown veggies and fruits certainly lend their distinct and fresh flavor to our lives. Why even Ram, my husband who initially did not like the idea of pots messing up the new balcony seldom misses watering the plants.


Vincent D' Souza said...

Interesting posts.

Swarna, please post the pictures of the bananas. That would set off a contest!

Madhulika said...

Hi I am Madhulika Gautama from Deccan Chronicle and i am working on a story about kitchen gardens in the city. Vincent I'd appreciate it if you could tell me how to get in touch with your friend. And Mythili I'd like to talk to you as well. Please mail me at madhulika.g@deccanmail.com and gimme your contact number. I'd love to get in touch with you.