Monday, 12 September 2011

Leafy Greens

While veggies like tomatoes and ladies fingers provide the "wow" factor in a kitchen garden, it is leafy greens that are more reliable and easy to grow.
Of all my kitchen garden plants, the most faithful has been spinach. For over 9 months now, I've been getting a fresh crop of crisp spinach leaves every couple of weeks. At each harvest, I leave about 25% of the inner leaves to ensure another crop. While I've always been led to believe that spinach is a cool weather plant, which is quick to bolt in hot weather, the truth seems very different. Even in the height of summer, when temperatures soared to nearly 40 degrees C, my spinach never failed me. The variety I have, is well adapted to Chennai's heat and hasn't shown any signs of bolting or ageing. My homemade compost and regular watering have seen it through.
Crisp Spinach Leaves
Thriving Spinach
This vegetable is among the easiest to prepare and is very versatile. But if you're interested in deriving the most nutrition from it, it's best to combine it with vitamin C rich foods. Freshly squeezed lemon juice before serving will do the trick. A doctor explained to me, how the iron in spinach (and in fact all greens) is of the "non-heme" kind, which isn't easily made available to the body unless combined with enhancers, such as vitamin C.

Drumstick Tree (Moringa) Greens:
While the health benefits of spinach are well known, most of us do not fully appreciate the nutritional benefits of drumstick tree leaves. A few months ago, when the building gardener had vigorously cut back the drumstick trees, there were enough greens to fill several sacks, but very few  takers. Even I was hesitant and took only one large bunch, though I was offered several. I sauteed the greens and sprinkled a little jaggery in the end, fearing that they would be bitter. But the leaves tasted very good and were not the least bit bitter. In fact now that I know, I'd simply prepare them the way I would spinach.
Treeful of Greens: Drumstick (Moringa) Tree
Super-nutritious Drumstick Greens
Internet sources declare that drumstick leaves are exceptionally nutritious. They all claim that they are such an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamin C, protein and iron that in many parts of the world they are used to fight malnutrition. What I find spectacular though is how quickly the tree grows. Even after thorough pruning, the trees have grown back in about six months. So if you can't invest much time and energy in gardening, but still want your daily serving of greens homegrown, a drumstick tree can guarantee that.

Microgreens and Baby Greens.
Fenugreek (Methi) Baby Greens

Mustard Baby Greens
Micro/Baby Greens in My Raita
Microgreens are tender, young greens harvested when the first true leaves appear and they are just a few inches tall. Baby greens are slightly older and larger. Both these are great in salads and garnishes and only take a couple of weeks to harvest. An ideal option for the impatient gardener! So far, I've tasted success with mustard, fenugreek (methi) and fennel (saunf), all of which are spices found in any Indian kitchen.
Radish Seedlings: Intensely Flavourful
Green Beginnings: Fennel (Saunf) Greens are Great in Hummus
Another comforting fact about growing them is that they hardly require any space. Old tin cans, plastic trays and other small containers can be put to use for the cause. And all they need is a sunny spot on a windowsill or a balcony ledge.


  1. Nice . Have u tried fennel leaves in tea?

  2. Fennel leaves in tea sounds good. Thanks Arati.

  3. Pretty harvest and pretty photos! It's nice to keep a stock of greens growing at the garden, isn't it?

  4. My spinach did not survive once it hit 42 C here. I have tried fennel and fenugreek tea, but never had them as greens with a meal.

  5. Fenugreek Tea! Now, that's again something I've never tried.

  6. Hi Anita, despite growing your greens in pots you seem to have a steady supply of nutritious veggies from your garden. Such a pleasure to read your posts...and your photos are wonderful!!