“Gardening is a key for the survival of mankind.” A visit with Farah Ramchandani.

What was your journey towards gardening?

My relationship to gardening is that it tranquilizes my nerves. It is time to reflect and think of others as we plant the new seeds for others to enjoy, as our forefathers planted the seeds to grow luscious fruits, give shade, and to purify the air.

How would you describe your relationship to gardening, today?

I find that gardening is a key for survival of mankind.  It depends on simple gardening, providing food for the masses.

Do you have cultural traditions that you integrate into your gardening?

In the past, resources of water were scarce. People needed to conserve the water and recycle them. Persian culture takes pride in growing fruits and vegetables that have great flavors and taste.  Otherwise, it would be just good for feeding animals. Even drinking a cup of tea must have a great amount of flavor, such as rose water, or cardamom, and bergamot. I now grow herb and mints in my garden.   

Are there traditions that you practice when you garden, which are of particular importance to you?

I do not use any chemicals for my gardening. I feel any chemical used on plants eventually ends up in humans or drains into the river where the fish become contaminated: humans suffer as a result. To prevent slugs from eating the new plants, I actually wake up in the middle of the night to remove them from the leaves, or I feed them leftover chicken bone or meat and as they collect, I remove them at night or at early dawn before the sun rises. Using beer to eliminate slugs did not eliminate slugs but in the morning I had too many drunk mice on the driveway. 

I grow vegetables and herbs that I can use on my multicultural cooking. Basil, rose geranium, garden mint, chives, quince for making best jam, figs and pomegranate, lemon, sour plum and sour cherries are all great for making sweet and sour rice. 

One must eat the vegetables and the fruits of the season grown for the area. Fruits must not be bitter because growers may have used excessive chemical poison on the plant roots. Also, since the weather conditions in many parts of the countries have limits the amounts of fresh vegetables during the harsh winter season, we often dry the vegetables or freeze (new ways) to use in winter season.  For example, tomato is known as fruit but in winter the tomatos bought in the store have no flavor. I simply can the summer tomatoes and use them in winter for making Basmati rice, lamb, and tomatoes. The summer flavor is contained in the tomatoes. Yummy.

Do you have a garden tool or practice you use that is traditional to your culture?

1. Fingers and hands are used for tools. Simple tools and shovels are used by most people. If you are rich, people save their fingers by using fancy gloves to save their hands. 

2. Bigger farmers used animals such as donkey/mule to help them plow the field. Otherwise, most people use their simple tools to pull weeds and turn the soil around the trees. Often a dead chicken or cat was always buried under the trees to help nourish the trees and help it to go back to nature. Not cremation, which is the worst thing for regeneration of the earth. 

3. Visit the plants each day. Touch the new fruits as you watch it grow, enjoy the beauty of life as it begins to give leaves, blooms, and fruits. I think of it as a child growing. It must be well nourished, loved, protected, and guided. A tree has the same growth process as human (children), if it is not protected, and if the tree is not made to be straight, and stand tall, and bear good fruits, and give beautiful shades, then it is only good for the fire.

Read more about Farah’s recipes for “Must o’ Khiar” and Shirazee Salad, and a video with Farah and mint in her garden.

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What a delight to read Farah’s wise words and hear her talk about gardening which she so dearly loves.

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