QUEEN OF KITCHEN GARDEN
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
Sudha, my wife of four decades plus, was keen that we plant something outlandish this season in our kitchen garden. A kitchen garden at the back of the house is indeed a luxury in Noida in the National Capital Region. Before the township came into existence, the entire chunks of land comprised agricultural fields where farmers sowed and harvested seasonal crops as had been going on for centuries. The open fields have a story to tell of a battle that the Marathas of Gwalior fought and lost to the British general of the East India Company. Perhaps the marshy land prevented the Maratha artillery from moving barrels of guns three hundred sixty degrees and the red coats took advantage of this crucial gap, attacked the guns with their cavalry and spiked them. The Maratha dream of ruling Hindustan from the Red Fort, Delhi came to an end.
The British engineers found the area prone to flooding with the Yamuna waters and had an order passed that the general area of what is Noida today would never ever have a cantonment for the Company Bahadur’s army. However, in the post-independence period a sturdy bund prevented Yamuna from overflowing its banks and inundating vast stretches of agricultural lands around. Came up the human habitation in 1970s that carried the longish name, New Okhla Industrial Development Authority. The Uttar Pradesh government had assembled some officers and staff to plan, execute and plan again a township that would give some cash to the government treasury and also line up pockets of all concerned when they sold big and bigger plots.
The Indian Army also bought some plots and built houses that was named after a war hero Lt Arun Khetrapal and was called Arun Vihar in common parlance. I was fortunate to have been allotted a single unit house that had a handkerchief lawn in front and a small plot of land in the rear to provide fresh air for our lungs. We planned to make that area greener for more oxygen and it grew into a kitchen garden where weeds and pests including white ants were in abundance. Nothing would grow there in the near future, so said a friend who had read books on horticulture but never planted a creeper in his life. My wife and I chose to ignore him and his advice to save our green label tea that was served to him and his better half every time they came across to give us a piece of advice on horticulture. It worked. We relied more on the expertise of the garden supervisor of the Noida Shaheed Smarak than on the uncalled for words of self proclaimed plant experts. Anyway, some semblance of a kitchen garden was visible. However, the plants were all mundane and nothing attracted the attention of our brother officers and their lady wives who dropped in off and on to carry on with the old colonial system of “calling on” to build comradeship. What a disappointment it was!
THE B CAME TO OUR RESCUE
Broccoli – ah, that is what we were looking for. A new kind of vegetable this broccoli is, that is indeed the elixir of life. The absolutely green cauliflower, that is how broccoli looks, was something new to our gardener who had come from his village recently. He preferred to call it hari gobhi in Hindi and the female cook from Orissa had no objection to it. She knew from experience in another household that sooner or later she would be doubling as a gardener. Therefore, it was in her professional interest to keep abreast of what was going on in the kitchen garden. In any case judging by the attention that the new fangled vegetable was receiving from the master of the house, lady of the house and the children, the green cauliflower appeared to be the Queen of the kitchen garden. I had a hunch that the enthusiastic household might do over watering or administer an over dose of manure and the broccoli plant may not take it. So specific instructions were issued on the subject and these were meticulously carried out. The happy tidings are: the broccoli plants, planted by the gross, have all survived.
Are we making much ado about nothing, I asked myself. Since just about every member of my house is computer savy, we all chose to ask Google all about broccoli. We were not disappointed. Google showed us column after column of articles containing information on the characteristics of broccoli. We loved it; we lapped it, we digested it. The information about broccoli is now on our finger tips. We are prepared to participate in a declamation contest on qualities and uses of broccoli and how a human body is benefitted if broccoli is eaten in one form or the other. We need not go into minute details otherwise we would be competing with the compilers of the English language dictionary. A summary would suffice.
BROCCOLI THE RAM BAAN
Broccoli is the panacea of all ills. Taking recourse to Hindi, one may say it is a Ram Baan or Lord Rama’s arrow that would demolish demons of all sorts including Ravana.
Cancer is one of the biggest bug bears of the present age. If a human being suspects that a cancerous growth on his body is manifesting, he must start eating broccoli in one form or the other. The tangible results will be visible within a month. The growth of tumour is halted well in time and broccoli ensures that it is rooted out. Broccoli cheers you up when you are struggling with a bout of depression. Consuming broccoli in any way will buttress your body and make your mind cheerful and spirit will go soaring high in the sky like a blithe spirit. You will be saying time and again “Three cheers to the friendly Broccoli”.
Is broccoli expensive? It is precisely so if you compare with the normal and traditional cauliflower from whom broccoli has taken its Hindi name; hari gobhi. Looking at the myriad qualities of broccoli, it should be worth its weight in gold. However, since men like me have started growing it in the kitchen garden in the backyard, its prices are bound to crash. They did crash in the national capital but not in the provincial metropolis. Possibly the new enthusiasts in horticulture have not yet caught up with the pros and cons of growing broccoli in the kitchen garden. Of course, a word of warning on over consumption of water in irrigating broccoli plants might be helpful. If the water meter is a functional one, the new enthusiasts may use the surplus water of the bath tub. That device will keep the water bill within permissible limits. As far as manure is concerned, go in for the cow dung as nothing has surpassed its utility in growing broccoli in backyard. Please keep your broccoli plants organic by sticking to manure used by ancestors and not spraying poisonous medicines to kill germs. Do kill them but with love.
Unconventional use of broccoli will also do good to the human body, mind and spirit. Besides making simple vegetable of broccoli, one may cut it in small pieces and mix it with the idli and dosa mix to be baked or semi-fried, as the case may be. Broccoli has a neutral taste and will blend easily with all kinds of concoctions. Just eat it raw and the additional advantages are all yours.
Finally, it would be a good idea to say three cheers to my kitchen garden, specially the Queen named broccoli.
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