Kitchen gardens were something I had only read about in books! Then I heard of Urban Leaves, and visited their city farm on a water tank in the Maharashtra Nature Park, and was hooked! More than me, it was Samhith, who, I must say, was fascinated by the idea of eating vegetables plucked directly from the garden, once he realized how much tastier they were than the market bought ones! A few months back, I hadn’t even thought of having my own kitchen garden, much less heard of something called “World Kitchen Garden Day”. When Preeti first told me about it, I simply relegated it to some corner at the back of my mind, a reminder that there was something on the 28th of August, which I had to attend (if possible). A couple of months and a few visits to terrace farms in the city managed by the enthusiastic volunteers was enough to get me more excited about the event!
You can gauge my enthusiasm from the fact that I woke up early without the help of my alarm clock, and unmindful of the pouring rain, walked through ankle deep water outside our building in search of an auto dragging along a sleepy son who, in spite of all his excitement, would rather have spent such a rainy morning wrapped in his blanket, fast asleep! Thankfully, an obliging auto soon appeared to ferry us through our roads which seemed to have turned into streams overnight! Since the MNP is located in an area notorious for flooding, I wasn’t too sure if we would actually be able to reach, but thankfully, the highway was better, (though the ride was a bumpy one) and we reached MNP well in time.
|Volunteers busy at work.... |
welcoming participants, managing the T Shirts, books, saplings and seeds for sale
Even at that early hour, almost everything was ready at MNP. The harvest from the city farm at Mumbai Port Trust was already there, as were the T shirts and books! While we leafed through the books and decided which T shirts to get, the team of volunteers from Nana Nani Park arrived. These enthusiastic individuals, living in the heart of the concrete jungle, had woken up at unearthly hours, and, braving the heavy and incessant rains, had harvested their vegetables at the park, and then brought them to MNP! Hats off to them!
Meanwhile, the harvests were being laid out beautifully by Neemita.
|Green and fresh! with touches of colour here and there!|
There were so many vegetables, it was such a pleasure to think that these were all grown in the tiny matchbox sized houses we call homes in this city of concrete!
If just a handful of people could harvest so many vegetables, just imagine the kind of possibilities if more and more people join in! believe me, not much space is needed. Of course, the more space the better, but most of all, what is needed is a desire to grow! A plant is like a child, and needs to be nurtured and cared for, just as we care for our children. Love and affection works wonders, even in the world of plants, and here was abundant proof of the fact!
|So many vegetables!! Can you identify all of them?|
Samhith was a bit bored at the beginning, firstly because he had to stay indoors, and couldn’t visit the terrace farm, and secondly, because everyone was busy and he had nothing to do! Thankfully, the programme soon started, and he soon found something of interest!
|Urban Leaves Volunteers, young and old, having a blast!!|
The highlight of the day was surely the talk cum demonstration by Anju Venkat, the renowned nutritionist of The Health Awareness Centre, Mumbai. Their motto is “Health Care is Self Care is Earth Care”, and aptly, she spoke of the similarities between cooking and caring for plants. As she penetratingly pointed out, we take so much care of our plants. We make sure that they are not subjected to chemical fertilizers, or even any kind of chemicals. Using what is easily available, we take the best care of our plants. But do we take the same care of our body? We fill it with oils and supplements which are not just unnecessary, but also harmful. It is as easy to eat healthy as it is to grow vegetables organically!
Even as she spoke, her efficient assistants got the vegetables ready, and she started putting the items together. She spoke of the tastes of the different ingredients, of replacing oils with natural and less oily ingredients like nuts and oil seeds, of steam cooking all veggies instead of boiling or cooking them in the gravy, and all the while, her hands were busy, either gesturing, making a point, or with the item she was making! It was a dual pleasure – a complete audio visual experience! The menu was quite extensive – Raw Banana Cutlets, Dal Dhokla topped with carrot and tomato chutney, Raw papaya salad, Bhindi (Okra) salad, tamarind and date chutney and herbal tea, but she made it sound so easy, I am sure every person in the audience was waiting to get home and try it out! At one point, Samhith burst out, “It’s so easy!” At last, I have some hope of getting him interested in cooking! And let us not forget the smell and the taste of her wonderful cooking! Even as the cutlets were being made for the demonstration, the aroma got too much for Samhith, who couldn’t contain his hunger any more. Even as I exhorted him to wait for a few minutes, he went ahead and got himself a cutlet from one of Anju’s assistants! He not only loved it, but when we did get down to eating, took second servings of every single dish! And this is a boy who usually refuses to try out anything new!
After a short break, which we used very effectively to gorge on the delicious items prepared by Anju and her team, it was time for something we had all been looking forward to – the film made on Urban Leaves. Titled, “Reap what you sow; Eat what you grow”, it mapped the journey of Urban Leaves, from Preeti’s enterprising initiative, which turned a barren patch of land in the heart of Mumbai’s docks to a lush green heaven, yielding kilos of fruits and vegetables, and providing a haven for birds and butterflies! Through conversations with Preeti and other Urban Leaves volunteers, the film showed the growth of the community, expanding to the Nana Nani Park, as well as the terrace farm at the Maharashtra Nature Park, not to mention the numerous other individual terrace farms maintained by the volunteers themselves at their homes!
It was especially a moment of pride for Samhith, when he saw himself in many frames, and one of them especially, which showed his sheer joy and happiness at being in the midst of nature, as he jumped in a pile of leaves which had been collected for making Amrut Mitti. This, to me, epitomized the whole idea of city farming – getting over our city-grown inhibitions over being with nature, getting over our reluctance to touch or be in contact with things like manure, cow dung, cow urine, and of course, mud itself! These, in fact, show nature in her purest form, and are most useful, as our ancestors knew well. It is only when we make our peace with them and learn to handle, and make the most of them that we can live in harmony with nature.
As usual, I took many photographs,but with the idea of speeding up my page loading time, have not uploaded all of them here.... Click below to see the complete album...