For a while now I have been wary of consuming fruits and vegetables. Why? Well, come April, I have a friend who goes mango crazy. In fact, his children say two months in a year their father turns into a ‘mangoose,’ a play on words, to say their dad feasts on mangoes.
This year Mr. Mangoose went a little over-board and when he got a health check up recently the doctor noticed something odd about his liver and asked him what had changed in his lifestyle? After much discussion, it turned out the change in his liver was due to excessive consumption of mangoes! Well, not mangoes but the calcium carbide used to ripen mangoes had caused this change in his liver.
Fruit-sellers use calcium carbide because it reacts with the moisture emanated by the respiration of the fruit. And when it does, a gas called acetylene emanates which helps in ripening the fruit. This gas is carcinogenic. Now, Mr. Mangoose is happy sipping and being Mr. Mazaa. Guess, obesity is better than cancer !
This adulteration of fruits and vegetables has become rampant. Even green vegetables like bitter gourd and lady’s finger are dipped in copper sulphate water to make them look greener. Brinjals are coated with old oil to give them a shine; carrots are dipped in red dye-water and watermelons injected with gulal to make them red from inside. Even spices are not spared, turmeric is mixed with a yellow metallic powder. Most of us turn a blind eye to this saying that we cook hot meals and all “these things die”… not really.
All this chemical application by farmers and sellers has made me feel inferior. It seems, our farmers and fruit-sellers have more knowledge of Chemistry and Botany than a guy with Master’s degree !
But the fallout of this food adulteration is the rebirth of kitchen garden and organic farms. My mother has a green thumb and while she loves her flowery garden, after hearing all these scary stories of food adulteration has shifted to creating a kitchen garden, and today almost 80% of our vegetables come from our garden.
Guess it’s time to go back to our granny’s ways, when kitchen gardens were an integral part of a house. Many may remember that even if one lived in a small house there was always enough space to grow a little beans, a few tomatoes, the must-have kothambari soppu (coriander leaves) along with karibevina soppu (curry leaves).
If the house had a little space in front, then there would be fruit trees added to the mix with the customary coconut tree.
Today it’s cactus, orchids and bonsai all around — one you can’t touch, the other you can’t pluck and the bonsai near the door makes you feel like you are Gulliver the giant entering Lilliput land.
It’s time to move on from show gardens to kitchen gardens. Every year during Dasara the government has a competition for the “Most beautiful garden.” May be the same publicity must also be given to “Best kitchen garden.”
In Bengaluru, the concept of kitchen gardening has picked up and people are having kitchen gardens in their balconies. If you don’t have a green thumb or are too lazy to mix soil and get your hands dirty, there are companies like Green Thumbs Boutique, ArtyPlantz, etc… who will do it for you!
Also, if you live alone and worry about who will water the plants when you are out of town, then you have self-watering pots from the German company, Lechuza, which is now available in India.
Of course, now organic food has become the trend. Yes, while it’s easier to just buy organic food, it is also very expensive. India today has numerous organic food brands but the problem again is the certification process is questionable, so you cannot be sure if it’s really organic. The best way to buy organic food is locally. Even better, do your own certification – visit the farm.
In Mysuru, there are quite a few organic farms. Two that I trust are Oxygen Acres for Dairy products and Yarroway farms for vegetables. Both these farms are run by people who love what they do, and more importantly take pride and care with their produce. One is run by an ex-US-based software engineer and the other by a couple who are second-generation Organic farmers. In fact, Yarroway will deliver freshly harvested vegetables to your home every week!
Now gardening is not only essential in today’s adulterated food world but it can also be therapeutic in today’s hectic world. Instead of the hassle of paying for a yoga class, you may just get your hands a little dirty and eat healthy.
P.S.: Speaking of organic food, once a husband went to the store to shop for his wife who was very health conscious and wanted organic vegetables. The husband went into the store, walked to where he saw vegetables stacked and asked the sales man if it was the organic vegetable section. The sales boy didn’t understand. The irritated husband picked up a carrot and asked, “These vegetables are for my health-crazy wife. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?” The petrified sales man replied, “No, Sir. You’ll have to do that yourself.”