Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Super sweet Tomato Recipie - a South Indian Delicacy - especially for the lazy

Tomatoes are one of my favourite vegetables (just look at this blog's header image right at the top of the page). A super dish which can be made easily with tomatoes and is a variant of the popular South Indian Dish 'Rasam' is the soup I prepare at home. The recipie is as follows:
1. Clean the tomatoes well. DO NOT CUT THEM. (Makes it easy, doesn't it)
2. Boil water in a long vessel. Add the full tomatoes to the boiling water and close the lid tightly. The vessel should be long so that the water doesn't spill out. Let this simmer for around 20 minutes, by which time the tomatoes will be cooked nicely and will not have the raw tinge in them.
3. Churn the tomatoes with a churner (called Mattu in Tamil) till they blend well with the hot water. You can also use a mixie and blend the tomatoes.
4. Add salt and pepper and mix well, and lo, the delicacy is ready.
5. For those who love cream, let the mix cool. Now, add cream of milk and beat the mixture in a mixie. And vow, you have a lovely soup ready.
6. You can optionally top it up with fresh, small coriander gratings.
Hope you like the taste. Enjoy this especially on a chilly day as a starter.

Why Kids love gardens

Spending some time yesterday with my kid in the garden inspired me to write this post... My kid loves the garden. He likes to run around and get his hands dirty with the soil. He loves to keep digging, making holes, pouring water into them and creating his own little wells of water. He also loves to chase the butterflies and try to catch them. Spraying water on others using the hose pipe is another one of his favourite pranks. I love to watch him play in the garden - Its such a good, refreshing activity that keeps him physically fit. And of course, a welcome break from watching cartoons on television.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Roses - Symbolizing the stark reality of life

A stroll into the garden this morning and my mind became cheerful - roses of five different colors greeted me.
I love roses - they are so good to look and beneath the surface, they symbolize the stark truth of life . These beautiful flowers with soft colorful petals growing cheerfully in the midst of sharp thorns - just like how to attain success in life, we need to strive hard and literally walk on a path filled with thorns. Our whole life resembles a collection of hard work and some failures, interspersed with some beautiful successes and joys.

Tamilnadu is a state with a very short winter - its cold only towards the end of November and upto early February. Somehow, these rose plants seem to love the cold conditions and there are several flowers in all the rose plants. The plants are also booming with buds. Each day, I await the morning stroll in the garden to catch a glimpse of the roses and count the numbers of these beautiful flowers. Among the different varieties, I love the 'Paneer Rose' - it gives such a beautiful aroma. Its called Gulab in Hindi and Pale Rose in English.
Beyond its beautiful looks and fragrance,  the soft and shiny petals of the paneer rose have medicinal properties. It cures stomach aches and clears the intestines from parasites as well. The petals are crushed to make a beautiful scent called Rose Water, which is offered in Abhisheka to the deities in Hindu Temples. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Some beautiful flowers

Photos taken during a recent trip - Flowers in full bloom

Friday, September 9, 2011

Trimming the rose plants have produced wonderful results

My rose plants just kept growing- a few roses once in a while was a disappointment. Due to increasing insects & reptiles, I trimmed many plants including the rose plants. And wow, its a fortnight since then and several green leaves and many buds have made their appearance. I am now eagerly looking forward to the flowers.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

How google is polluting the earth

Web giant Google revealed what had been one of its most closely guarded secrets: how much power it uses to fulfil its mission of organising the entire world’s information.

In a blog posting, Urz Hoelzle, the company’s senior vice-president of technical infrastructure, said that the company used 2.26 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in 2010 — the equivalent of some 200,000 U.S. homes. The company also emitted 1.46 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the yearly emissions of 70,000 Americans. 
For those of us who are worried about polluting the environment, keep this in mind - every time you are on the web(how ironical, I am right now polluting the environment), you are contributing to spoiling the earth! 

Some interesting facts about recycling

Recycling is easy... and see the benefits
  • It is believed that a ton of paper that is recycled saves 7000 gallons of water, 380 gallons of oil and as much electricity to electrify an average household for 6 months.
  • One aluminium can recycling can save electricity needed to run a TV for 6 hours.
  • Recycling one glass bottle saves as much electricity as to power a 100-watts bulb for 4 hours, so calculate the amount of energy one would save by using an energy saving bulb.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Natural beauty - Preventing hair-loss - a homemade garden product

Hibiscus hair oil is believed to help make ones hair grow nicely - thick and strong. It prevents dandruff and hair-loss.
How to make homemade hibiscus hair oil
Get five flowers. You can use fresh as well one day old flowers. Take 3 fresh leaves also. chop these ingredients into small pieces. Using a mixer/grinder just crush it. No need to make it a paste. You can get 1/2 cup of it, accordingly add more flowers if needed.Then put this mix into a heating bowl or pan. Add 1 cup of your favorite oil which you uses on hair. May be you can choose coconut oil. Mix well. Heat it in low flame. Now when the fumes starts coming add three leaves of tulsi if you have. And add few grains of corn or rice or fenugreek and see it pops up. At that time switch of the flame. Allow it to cool. Sieve the homemade hibiscus hair oil into a glass bottle.Before bathing warm the oil and apply on hair and scalp and do a massage. Wait for 10 min. and take a bath. If you use this homemade hibiscus hair oil at least once in a week consistently that will hep your hair to grow well.
  • Do not add water to crush the leaves and flowers. If you use mixer/grinder then add little oil to if you need to ,make a paste.
  • The more you boil, the longer the oil can be preserved. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

The 3000 years old Mango tree - The miraculous wonder of Kanchi

The Ekambranatha temple in Kanchipuram is dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is believed that Goddess Kamakshi performed penance to the Lord here under a Mango tree. One can see the Mango tree till date inside the temple complex. The age of the tree is estimated to be more than 3000 years old. Another amazing feature of this tree is that it bears fruits of four different tastes each season.
Right under the tree, there is a shrine of Lord Ekambranatha and Kamakshi. 

Curry Leaves - adding wonderful flavor

Its almost six months since I planted a curry tree in my garden and now, it has taken its place firmly and produces bright, young, cheerful leaves. Incidentally, it is so near the kitchen window. 
The fresh leaves are so young and tender as compared to the ones that we buy from the market. 
The curry tree, popularly called kariveppilai [கறிவேப்பிலை -  ( kari-curry, veppu- neem and ilai-leaf )] in Tamil is a wonderful addition to the garden. 
You can hardly find a south Indian dish that is not spiced up and seasoned with the curry leaves. They are also used to prepare exclusive dishes like Kariveppilai chutney. The medicinal properties of the curry leaves as anti-oxidant and anti-diabetic are well known.
One other popular benefit of the Kariveppilai is that consuming it is believed to add black color to hair and prevent hair from graying. 
India also exports curry leaves to other countries.
Names of the plant in other languages:
botanicalChalcas koenigii
EnglishCurry leaves
Gujaratiમીઠો લીમડો
Mitho limado
Hindiकरीपत्तामीथ णीममीथ नीम पत्ता
Karipatta, Mitha nim, Mitha neem patta
Kannadaಕರಿ ಬೇವು
Kariveppilai, Karuveppilai

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hummingbird Tree - rich leafy food

Agathi Keerai Leaves
Agathi Keerai in Tamil is known as the Hummingbird Tree. The botanical name is Sesbania grandiflora. The tender leaves, green fruit, and flowers are eaten alone as a vegetable or mixed into curries or salads.
Agathi keerai which is also known as “Aathu keerai” and it has cooling properties. 

Eating Agathi keerai has a lot of benefits -
It is a tonic
It is cooling
It helps in digestion
It will cure ulcers in the stomach
It is a laxative
It balances pitta and kapha
It is an antidote for poisons
It is good for fever
It cures insanity
It is a very satvic food
Crushed leaves are applied to sprains and bruises of all kinds.
A tea made from the leaves is believed to have antibiotic, anti-thelmintic(a medication capable of causing the evacuation of parasitic intestinal worms), antitumour.
The principal medicinal effects are due to the trees’ astringency, hence it is used against inflammation, venom and other poisons, bacterial infections and tumors.
The bark is considered as a tonic and an antipyretic, a remedy for gastric troubles, colic with diarrhoea and dysentery.
A bark decoction is taken orally to treat fever and diabetes.
Juice of flowers put in the eyes is said to relieve dimness of vision.
The leaves also have medicinal value and are reported to cure night blindness in cattle.

Although its bitter in taste, don’t you think we need to eat this occasionally considering the health benefits associated with it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A new entrant into the garden - Moringa oleifera

Sunday provided ample time for me to go around and find a new plant species to enter the garden - and I chose Moringa oleifera. Oh, thats the scientific name. Its more commonly called Drumstick. Surprisingly, the Tamil name for the tree is Murungai, so similar to the scientific name. The leaves are highly nutritious and the green pods make a very tasty dish. Its widely used in the preparation of Sambar, a South Indian Delicacy. 
An interesting fact that I came across on the web (and I am proud of this): India is the largest producer of Moringa.

There is a saying in Tamil Language in India "Murungaiyai odithu vala, pillaiyai adithu vala" (Meaning: the murungai tree must be cultivated by regular pruning, children must be groomed with proper guidance(by punishing too).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

English names of a few popular flowers of Tamilnadu

மகிழம்பூ = magizhampoo = Spanish Cherry;

தாழம்பூ = thaazhampoo = Screwpine ;

மனோரஞ்சிதம் = manoranjitham = Ylang Ylang / Tail grape

செண்பகப்பூ = shenbagappoo = Indian Magnolia;

நாகலிங்கபூ = naagalingapoo = Cannonball tree flowwer

This plant is 'banned'

One of the common plants which is found especially in South India is Oleander. I have white, pink and red oleanders. When I tried buying a yellow Oleander for my garden, the vendors told me that it was "banned". I was really surprised to hear that and when I probed further, they informed me that the seeds and other parts of the Oleander, especially the Yellow variety is extremely poisonous. Its so difficult to believe that nature packages even dangers in such beauty. One can only keep admiring the tricks and trades of Nature. 

So, beware of such plants which are poisonous. If you have them in your garden, keep your kids and pets away from eating any of the parts of such plants.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Tossing banana skins to improve yield - A tip for gardeners

Recently came across an article about how Banana Peels are rich in both phosphorus and potassium. These are important macro-nutrients that plants need. I have started implementing this in my garden. I really look forward to the results. One blog specifically refers to the benefits that rose plants get from such banana peels.

An advantage of these peels is that they very quick disintegrate into the soil. Also, this is a better method of disposing off an otherwise "waste" commodity.

Here are some specific steps for creating the Banana Peel Fertilizer:
1.Cut the banana peel up into small pieces and put them in your soil. As they break down, they will help your plants by adding nutrients to the soil.

2.Cut the peels up into small sections and put them into an empty spray bottle. Fill it with warm water and let it sit for a couple of weeks. The peel will ferment and turn the liquid into fertilizer.

3. Blend the peels in a blender with warm water, and pour the results directly onto potted plants or into the dirt in your garden. Same result: fertilizer!

A creepy wonder - the Betel leaves

Betel leaves have several medicinal properties as described in Ayurveda. It helps in digestion and also acts as an antiseptic. I bought a betel plant about two months back. Its a very slender creeper and hardly occupies any space. It has a tendency to cling on to other plants which are beside it. I planted it right next to a wall and very amazingly, the creeper has clung to the wall at several places by letting out small roots. These roots bind the creeper to the wall pretty strongly and the creeper keeps growing steadily and vertically. Its really amazing how these plants adapt to the various conditions.

Betel is popularly called Paan in Hindi and Vettrilai in Tamil. Its a tradition to have a few betel leaves immediately after food due to its digestive properties. It feels good to walk out to the garden, pluck one or two leaves and have it fresh. It looks so tender and nice as compared to the betel leaves that are sold in the market. Its pretty pungent too and spicy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

My Maiden attempt to make compost at home- the results have arrived

Plants need to be taken care of like kids - they need to be given good feed and water. Watering alone is not really sufficient to keep them growing. Plants need minerals and nutrients. While buying readymade "nutrient" packs from the store is one option, most often, they mostly chemicals which do more harm than good.
A better alternative is to make compost at home. I read about it on the Internet and started to do home composting about three months back. And finally, the results have arrived.

A description of the output first... Its a nice, good-to-smell black powder and it appears so nice and good, considering what went into making it. I am just adding this to the soil with a little prayer on my lips, seeking bountiful fruits, flowers and vegetables in my garden.

Coming to the input and process...Just kept piling up vegetable and fruit peels, fallen leaves, and anything organic, into a big bucket with a few holes in it for air circulation. Placed this bucket in the terrace to ensure it gets adequate sun light and added little water once in a while to encourage the decomposition. And lo, (of course, its a very slow process, but you have to do nothing except stirring the contents once every few days), the output is ready.

I did come across some fancy websites and products (like www.dailydump.org/) but I wanted to try it out with stuff I had at home. The result is amazing. 
  Some tips:
a. If the mixture is not stirred occasionally, the layers at the top will not decompose
b. Ensure a right mix of sunlight and water so that the mixture doesn't get too wet and soggy

Monday, January 17, 2011

Home-grown turmeric plants for pongal

Every year, its customary in our part of the world to prepare a sweet-milk dish on the day of the Pongal festival, which usually happens in January. As per customs, turmeric plants are tied around the vessel used to prepare the dish. This time, we had the double joy of reaping a good harvest of the turmeric plant in the home garden and using the same for tying around the sweet-milk dish vessel. The joys of home gardening are really wonderful!

Its winter and the roses are blooming

Winter is that time of the year when gardening takes less effort and there is a higher yield of flowers. Not to mention, there are fewer reptiles like lizards to deal with. This year has been wonderful (my garden's second winter). Last winter, the rose plants were really small. This time, They have become pretty huge, almost blocking the path in a few places. The yellow, pink and red roses are flowering almost every day and its quite a site to see . 
There is one special variety of rose called the "Panner Rose" locally in Tamil. This one too is in bloom. The flower gives off a very sweet smell. The petals are often soaked in honey and eaten. Its quite delicious. Rose water is also made from this variety.

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