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In Our Little Garden

Updated on February 8, 2013

It’s just a little patch but we love it. It’s green, everything’s organically grown and we do get quite a bit from there to put on our table. Summer in Pune, the city we live in – three hours away from Bombay, India’s commercial capital – is dry and scorching. So it’s only the larger trees that survive – everything else becomes brown and dry. Fortunately, that lasts for just two months of the year. Then comes the rain in June, armed with a palette of the most incredible shades of green. Almost overnight, there’s a miraculous change and we wake up to a garden that has been painted with hues no human can match! The very air changes – filled with moisture, Nature’s great refresher….. and it’s time to plant and to reap.

We have a bit of this and a bit of that. My husband, who hates the ‘manicured’ look when it comes to gardens, loves it when everything springs up lush and full of life. We have a gardener who thinks the same – I swear I’ve heard him singing to the plants! So let me take you on a tour, to be followed in a few days with some of my favourite recipes using what we get from our little garden.

Going Bananas

A banana plant bears fruit only once. Once the bunch of bananas is cut, you need to cut down the plant. The great thing is, there are always three or four young trees that grow around the root so the garden always has a surfeit of banana plants. They need a lot of water. Everything can be used – from the leaves which people used to eat on – now used only in traditional wedding feasts, the flower which you find at the end of the bunch, the bananas themselves, both raw and ripe and the centre of the stem.

Overflowing with Passion

Passion fruits hang in bunches like orbs – green at first, then a wonderful yellow. The flowers are lovely and the pulp inside is a bright yellow-orange. The plant is a creeper and you get quite a lot of fruits from one plant with a sweet-tart taste. It hardly needs any looking after – just a fence or tree to grow on. There’s a lot you can do with passion fruits.

Click here for recipes

Custard Apple Treat

The fruits from our garden may be smaller than the ones we get at the stores but they are also sweeter. Not everyone likes to eat this fruit because it means ploughing through so many seeds. If you have the patience, you’ll find that it really is a delicacy. They’re best eaten when they are slightly soft to the touch. They’re great in desserts too.

Pink with Pomegranate

This tree needs a lot of sun and you get plenty of fruit from a fairly small-sized tree. Our fruits don’t have the smooth look you see in the shop stores but they taste wonderful and can be used in so many ways.

Click here for recipes

Papaya – packed with nutrition

The fruits have just begun to appear and we’re hoping we get a good crop this year. Both the raw and the ripe papayas are used – one in curries, the other usually as a breakfast fruit. It is said to be a great digestive.

Delicious Chikoos

They’re known as sapotas in most other countries but here in India we call them chikkoos. They can be eaten as fruit or pureed and used to make fruit shakes and desserts. You should wait till they are fully ripe when they are sweet and delicious.

The flavour of Bayleaf

Some use them fresh, most dry them a bit and use them as a flavouring. All one needs to do is to cut a small branch, leave it in the sun for two days, take out the leaves and store them. The Indian bayleaf is used extensively in curry powders and in biryanis.

Green Living

I don’t know what these spinach-like greens are called – all I know is that they are great in soups, as a vegetable dish and in salads. The leaves are slightly fleshly, the flowers are a lovely delicate lilac.

The other greens that we love are the leaves of a creeper called Ceylon spinach. We use a lot of the leaves in cooking. They’re great as a snack too – dipped in batter and deep-fried.

Drumming with Drumsticks

The drumstick or Moringa tree supplies us with so much more than something to put on the table. While drumsticks (they really do look like drumsticks!) make a great vegetable, the leaves are used to make a vegetable dish. More than that, the leaves are very useful to get rid of a fever especially in a flu attack. A decoction of the leaves is used as a preventive as well as to treat flu. Almost every part of the tree is used by traditional medicine practitioners.

Seasoning with Curryleaves

It’s what we use to temper our curries. A few leaves and a few mustard seeds. It has medicinal properties and is said to stave off infection.

The awesome Neem

We let the leaves that fall be – they’re the best pesticide ever. Skin irritation? Wash with an infusion of neem leaves. Dogs with bad breath? Give them a twig of neem to chew on – it also prevents worms. Put a few leaves in the rice or lentils you store and in cupboards to keep bugs away.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
curryleaf plantrunner beansgingerlemon treemangoneem treedrumstick tree
curryleaf plant
curryleaf plant
runner beans
runner beans
lemon tree
lemon tree
neem tree
neem tree
drumstick tree
drumstick tree

Seasonal stuff

Some of the plants we grow are seasonal. Okra or lady’s fingers, eggplant or brinjal, tomatoes, lemongrass, fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, bitter gourd, lemons,mangoes, coriander, beans.

It’s great to be able to get so much from this little patch of ours. With the homes around us coming down and huge apartment blocks being built in their place, will our little corner last? One can’t tell. To live hemmed in by ten and twelve storey apartment high rises is not very appealing. Till that happens, though, we’ll just go on enjoying all the goodies from our garden.

The view from our terrace - how long will it last?
The view from our terrace - how long will it last?


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    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 7 years ago from Castelnaudary, France

      Your garden looks amazing, we have a bay here as well which is very handy, We also have the 2 month problem in summer, July and August are very warm, probably not to the extent you see but things do turn a little brown and it is nice to get a some rain to spruce things up again. Having a nice garden is very gratifying.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thank you for reading Brian - yes, it's in the 40s in summer and dry to boot. And we don't water the garden because it just doesn't seem right with water being so scarce. But it's great how the bigger trees survive!

      I'm sure you have a wonderful garden :)

    • dianacharles profile image

      dianacharles 7 years ago from India

      Your own little heaven on earth. What lovely, clear pictures.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 7 years ago

      What a gorgeous and lush garden. The pictures are amazing. Fabulous hub.

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 7 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Lots of my favourite fruit and vegetables there, especially okra and Indian bananas which are completely different from the Caribbean version! I didn't know about cutting the plants down after fruiting. I'd always thought they were permanent palms, like dates.

    • IslandVoice profile image

      Sylvia Van Velzer 7 years ago from Hawaii

      Love your garden and the fruits! I enjoy gardens very much, it's a place to relax, dream and paint. Thanks for sharing one of your blessings!

    • EleanorL profile image

      EleanorL 7 years ago

      You have a wonderful garden. I believe in most all natural produce. Wonderful picture gallery.

    • Pete Maida profile image

      Pete Maida 7 years ago

      Thank you for a lovely look into your life. I am sorry to say that very few in the US take to time to understand how people live in other parts of the world. We'll take a few clips from a movie like Slumdog and decide that is what India is all about.

      You have a wonderful variety of plants in your garden and it doesn't sound all that little.

    • Feline Prophet profile image

      Feline Prophet 7 years ago from India

      How completely delightful! And all those lovely shades of green! I hope your patch stays lush and bountiful forever! :)

    • quicksand profile image

      quicksand 7 years ago

      Hi Shal, I did not know that banana leaves were eaten. I used to think the leaves are used only to serve food.

      Nice garden! :)

    • Storytellersrus profile image

      Barbara 7 years ago from Stepping past clutter

      Shalini, I have used Neem gotten from the health food store. I did not even know it was a plant, lol. I had not heard of chikoos or sapotas so I looked them up to see if there was an American name for this plant and I found a list of all these names on Wikipedia, which I thought was amazing and I hope it does not offend you to list here...

      Sapodilla is known as chikoo ("??????" or "chiku," "????,") and sapota in India, sobeda/sofeda in eastern India and Bangladesh, Sabudheli ("????????") in Maldives, sawo in Indonesia, h?ng xiêm (lit. "Siamese persimmon"), l?ng m?t or xa pô chê in Vietnam, lamoot (?????) in Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, sapodilla in Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago, naseberry in Jamaica, sapathilla or rata-mi in Sri Lanka, níspero in Colombia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Dominican Republic and Venezuela, nípero in Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic, dilly in The Bahamas, naseberry in the rest of the Caribbean, sapoti in Brazil, chico in the Philippines and chico sapote in Mexico, Hawaii, southern California and southern Florida.[2][3] In Kelantanese Malay, the fruit is called "sawo nilo" which is closer to the original name than the standard Malay "ciku". In Chinese, the name is mistakenly translated by many people roughly as "ginseng fruit", though this is also the name used for the pepino, an unrelated fruit; it should instead be "heart fruit" because it is shaped like the heart.

    • Catherine R profile image

      Catherine R 7 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      What a delightful and productive garden you do have! I love the view from your terrace best of all and I hope it lasts! Thank you for sharing your beautiful little patch with us.

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Amazing garden shalini..I always loved to have my own Garden..unfortunately that was not possible...Thanks a lot for sharing. :)

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Diana - thanks! Yes, it is our refuge :)

      breakfastpop - thanks for reading, appreciate it!

      Paraglider - we have three varieties of bananas/plantains - one very small and very sweet. Did you know okra is supposed to be the best brain food according to South Indians?

      IslandVoice - I agree - it's inspiring!

      EleanorL - thank you - I believe natural is best, too.

      Pete - thank you for coming by. We have that too, unfortunately - but it isn't the whole picture :)

      FP - that's a wonderful wish - thanks!

      quicksand - no, it's to eat on, not eat :D...and thanks!

      Storyteller - thank you for that info - I didn't know it has so many names!

      Catherine - thanks for reading - I hope it lasts too!

      livingsta - thank you - I hope someday you do :)

    • profile image

      Kiruba Harris 7 years ago

      Lovely reading about your own little garden of Eden. I am glad you do not have apples!!!!!!! Hope you enjoy this quiet patch for a while.

    • dohn121 profile image

      dohn121 7 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

      I envy you, Shalini. I wish I could have a garden as vibrant and bountiful as yours...Were I in Laos I might be able to! I've not heard of the chikkoo or the apple custard fruit before, by the way and would like to try them one day.

      My sister's Pekingese could use 5 or 6 of those Neem leaves :D I really enjoyed your fantastic pictures and excellent ways in which to enjoy this harvest. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Godslittlechild profile image

      Godslittlechild 7 years ago

      Really very nice!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Hi K - I'm guessing you're having trouble with your apples! :) Thanks for reading - yes, I do hope so! There's one 8-storey building that's up already on one side so it's only a matter of time :(

      Dohn - thank you. If ever you're in India, I promise to take you around to sample all the typically Indian fruits. Tell you sister neem capsules work as well :)

      Thank you, Godslittlechild.

    • profile image

      allseminars 7 years ago

      very food work

    • wormcompostingfan profile image

      wormcompostingfan 7 years ago

      I really like how your garden's so green and have lots of fruits! No need to buy fruits from the market. :) It's great that you don't have to really make effort in caring for them and they're still so healthy! :)

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 7 years ago from Philippines

      Wow! I love your garden! I also have bananas, (both edible and ornamental)in my garden. They don't have fruits right now though. I also had okra and eggplant before but all died and I have not yet replanted.

      Thank you for sharing!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thank you allseminars.

      wormcompostingfan - we do get a bit from the garden - but not for all our needs :) Thanks for reading!

      Jill - thank you - I love the ornamental banana plants and have been thinking of getting some. Thanks for coming by.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

      What a fabulous garden! It's a far cry from my pocket handkerchief patch, that's for sure. THe plants are so lush looking, and the view from your terrace is a treat.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Hi there Amanda - thank you! I'm sure you have a wonderfully green garden too. We're drinking in as much of the view as we can. We're in the heart of town and highrise seems to be the only way things are going :(

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image

      Laila Rajaratnam 7 years ago from India

      Shalini..great green hub!You garden is very much like mine except for the bananas (my neighbor has it though)and bayleaves.However much I try,I have never had luck with bananas! :( Your view from the terrace is awesome! :)

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Hi Laila - thanks! Bananas need a lot of water - fortunately we have plenty of that for 10 months of the year. The bayleaf is very easy to grow too :)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      So wonderful! This is truly how we are meant to live - with real food growing nearby. Thanks for taking all the great photos and sharing them. I am so happy for your healthy bounty - just wonderful!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thank you BkCreative - yes, it does feel good to enjoy naturally grown food!

    • neysajasper profile image

      neysajasper 7 years ago

      During my surfing I came across to your hub. It is admiring one. Pictures of garden and fruits provided there are pleasing. I belongs to village, therefore, am found of such collection and information. Nowadays people are living apart from nature that’s why we are suffering from disease. Your collection is medically helpful. Thanks for good collection.

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 7 years ago from Manila, Philippines


      It seems your patch of green is a paradise on its own. And I agree with the hubby, I prefer the English garden-kind of landscape, too. It also seems that we have similar weather conditions as some of the fruit trees you described are common here where I live.

      A most refreshing hub. Thanks for sharing. :D

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thanks for reading and commenting, neysajasper.

      Cris - thanks for coming by. Yes, the weather conditions are similar though Pune, the city I live in, is 3000 ft above sea level so we also get fruit that are usually found in colder climates - like strawberries, mulberries, raspberries, etc.

    • rexy profile image

      rexy 7 years ago's the best garden l ever are so blessed to have....and living in a beautiful Country...Thank you for sharing.....

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thank you rexy!

    • EleanorL profile image

      EleanorL 7 years ago

      How thankful we should all be for our daily meals. Thanks.

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Yes, we should!

    • profile image

      Sandra 7 years ago

      you know, shalinii lived in pune for 4 to 5 months when i was 13 or 14 years old: t'was the best time of my life and pune is my most favotite city: where i even tasted lemon grass tea! your garden is very very beautiful!!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thanks Sandra. Lemongrass tea is a local favourite.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 7 years ago from East Coast, United States

      Shalini - not only is your garden beautiful, but produces such useful plants, the perfect garden. And so many trees! I have a few banana trees. Due to our cold winters, I just pull them up and stick them in the basement. They come back beautifully in late spring!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 7 years ago from India

      Thank you Dolores! Yes, banana plants do seem to love the sun :)

    • theherbivorehippi profile image

      theherbivorehippi 6 years ago from Holly, MI

      You have all this stuff in your garden?!! I Am SOOOO jealous! wow! this is fabulous!!!

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 6 years ago from India

      Thank you the herbivorehippi :)

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