The Citrus Bomb of Goodness

The Citrus Bomb of Goodness

As I drove into a weekend resort on the outskirts of Gurgaon, I was mesmerised by these tiny bright balls shinning on a hardy hedge that lined its drive away. This was almost two decades ago and that was when I ever saw a chinese orange or naarangi tree for the first time. The dazzling oranges against the deep green foliage were very welcoming and added vibrance to the entrance.

The picturesque view stayed with me for long, so much so that almost ten years later, when I started growing a little food garden, I planted these for their sheer beauty. They dont really ask for much care except for a dose of nutrition twice a year while keep flowering and fruiting throughout. Additionally, if you need some guidance on growing plants in your own greenhouse, this may help you with your garden.

Over the years, in my gardening journey, I saw most gardeners being clueless about using this ultra sour citrus fruit and hence just brush it off. All over the world sweet orange varieties are probably the most popular to be grown, though citrus and orange fruits were originally sour.

With two of these trees in my garden patch, harvest seemed to increase every year and I always ended up just making one or two batch of marmalade or at the most sweet and sour pickle.

Since it tasted almost as juicy and sour as their big brother, off and on, I plucked one or two and replace them for lemons in salads or soups. They virtually became handy for almost all dishes in the kitchen when ever lemons were not around.

So naturally came lemon cakes, lemon tarts or even lemon curd, all with these baby oranges rather than regular lemons.

With each passing year, abundance of this fruit made me explore a little more to look for innovative ways to consume its bounty. From sour and tangy orange sauce for stir fries and a variety of pickles, I found several ways to conserve them. Soon it was time go exotic with orange pulao or orange pilaf to enjoy this tiny citrus bomb.

And how could I forget the healthy teas and brews. One can simply squeeze some juice or merely brew dry peels to enjoy different flavours of orange tea

This is super digestive, an immunity booster and a spring of vitamin C. The strong flavours of orange tea releases saliva, stomach acids and hence aids in absorbtion of nutrients.

The citrus goodness does not end here. According to Ayurveda, narangi is known to be helpful in asthama, liver disorders and managing cholestrol. A quick ubtan or scrub and home made cream is great for a glowing skin. Used for over 3000 years in chinese medicine, its peels are effective in delaying skin ageing and hence popular in cosmetics. The orange zest or peels can also be dried for culinary experiments or even bottled as the best bio enzyme.

So today, as I sip my orange brew and fondly look at my ten year old, I’m in complete awe and gratitude. For it has given me so much, surely more than I ever expected from this under rated garden beauty.

A Few Pennies for your Health

A Few Pennies for your Health

A strong aroma brewing in the kettle rejuvenated my breath while I stretched my hamstrings. So today was ginger and pennywort tea that I plucked from my little pot. One is so charged up with green energy when you start your day in the garden.

Pennywort is a specie that has twenty or more types with little variations of leaf shape. Dollor weed, Moneywort, Asiatic pennywort, Coinwort, many names many varieties. Not all but some of these are edible too.  The Indian pennywort is a leafy water plant that looks almost like a baby lotus with its shiny round leaves that look like green pennies floating in water. This precious green has been on my wish list and difficult to find in nurseries but finally received it as a gift from a generous green friend.

Little did I know then that this beauty is far more worthy than the pennies in its name.
It is a perennial from the wet lands of Southeast Asia and has been a part of Asian cuisine as tea, juice, salad and leafy vegetable. It has also been traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine. Its antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant and memory-enhancing properties make it a favourite for natural healing. It is recommended as a detox for immune system, helpful in high blood pressure, urinary tract infections and healing of wounds. I love to add a few leaves to my morning cuppa, salads and stews.

Pennyworts are easy growing plants that are happy in water and good light conditions. In soil, you need to maintain moisture all the time or else it droops too quickly. It multiplies and fills up its pot more quickly than you can imagine. And remember if you are too liberal it will actually invade your patch all over. Overall it’s a great deal to own this easy to keep treasure both for its beauty and benefits.



Give Me a Breath of Fresh Air!

Give Me a Breath of Fresh Air!

“Rohan! Stop watching this crap on T.V. It’s time to go for some play outside.” How many of us can dare to make such a statement today? Playing in fresh air was probably the best thing that could happen to kids, some time ago. And today’s announcement directs schools to withdraw all outdoor activities for children as the National Capital Region woke up to a thick haze blanket of hazardous air. Isn’t it sad? 

Human activity and existence has brought us to such a miserable condition. I was pain stricken to see little children and adults walk down the streets wearing air masks, last evening. The scene threw me almost 25 years back, to a project I did as a student of advertising to show off my farsighted creative instincts. Something that was creative imagination then is dark reality of today.

So where do we go from here? Either we run away to remote natural surroundings and live in the woods or own it and do our best to rejuvenate the air around and make it breathable again.

What’s the issue with our ‘Air’?

Human body can live without food for three weeks and live without water for three days but not even three minutes without air. The air that is so basic for our survival is polluted in more than one ways and call for attention.

  • The rising level of toxic gases and chemicals
  • Reduced Level of Oxygen
  • High Carbon and dust particles
  • Rising size of Particulate Matter or PM

>All the issues have taken alarming stands and need corrective actions. Further stagnant indoor environments allow pollutants to build up and stick around in greater amounts than we humans should breathe. Lack of ventilation in air conditioned indoors further reduces the level of oxygen.

Green Rescue:

Believe it or not, plants can contribute a great deal to reduce our carbon foot print, increase oxygen level in air, minimize toxic gases and chemicals as well as trap particulate matter. All plants naturally release Oxygen and absorb Carbon dioxide during photosynthesis and in that capacity they are our natural support system to provide us balanced fresh air. Also there are some intelligent choices which go an extra mile to handle the current levels of pollution in the air. So next time you go plant shopping to the nearby nursery, remember to pick up some of them that appeal you with their looks, suit your space, light conditions and ease of maintenance.

Trees Top the List


Due to their size and height, canopy, high emission of moisture and maximum surface area as trunk, leaves or stems, trees top the list in purifying the environment. A research team from Delhi University has zeroed down five trees that are most effective to fight pollution-Peepal, Saptaparni, Jamun, Devdar and Plumeria.

  • A single mature tree can absorb carbon dioxide at a rate of 48 lbs. per year
  • On average, one tree produces nearly 260 pounds of oxygen each year, sufficient for two persons.
  • Remove gaseous pollutants by absorbing them through the pores in the leaf surface. Particulates are trapped and filtered by leaves, stems and twigs, and washed to the ground by rainfall.
  • Some trees like Neem and Peepal release oxygen even at night and become real oxygen boosters

So let’s try and accommodate at least two trees in your homes and you shall enough oxygen for a family of four. A generous green cover around city roads and highways can balance the huge amounts of pollutants generated by urban living.


House Plants can make you Breathe Easy

For those of us who lives in small spaces or apartments and cannot accommodate trees, a NASA study suggests several common house plants that can neutralize common toxins as well act as our natural oxygen cylinders.  Luckily when I turn and look around the house, I find most of n plenty. Hmm! I take a deep breath! So let’s make some space for them as vertical arrangements, pots around the patios, balcony trails, hanging baskets or creepers up the boundary walls. They shall promise to make your living spaces come alive as well as give you a puff of fresh air.


Boston Ferns

Ferns are champions and remove more formaldehyde than any other plant and are highly efficient at removing other indoor air pollutants, such as benzene and xylene that can migrate indoors if you live in heavy traffic areas. They love shady verandas and like to be watered regularly. Thrive during wet months and need regular watering during dry summers.



Palm trees seem particularly good at removing indoor air pollutants, specifically formaldehyde, and they’re relatively easy to care for. Dwarf Date Palm, Bamboo Palm or Areca Palm all are superstars of filtering toxins. Dwarf Date Palm thrive in full sun so select a sunny spot in and give an arabian touch to your front yard. They filter good amounts of air as they can grow to be pretty big, as tall as four to 10 feet high, making them exciting indoor additions. Other palms generally love indirect light and give a dense foliage indoors as well as outdoors.



Mums are a gardener’s favourite and the first among winter blooms. They have a perfect timing with Diwali when quality of air is expected to worsen. Chrysanthemums are perfect air-purifiers for removing ammonia, benzene, formaldehyde, and xylene and bring a touch of colour to home gardens and balconies.


Peace lily

This is probably the easiest lily and plants are relatively small compared to many other plants on this list, but they still pack some major air-cleaning abilities with their flat and broad leaf surface. They remove toxins from the air and are proven to remove formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. They do their job as air purifiers even in a shady spot. You shall adore its flowers that stand like a hood of a snake and its solitary look radiates peace true to its name.


Sansevieria or Snake plant

Sansevieria or Snake Plant is also called ‘The Bedroom Plant’ as it produces oxygen even at night when most of the plants release Carbon dioxide and is this sense a great booster of Oxygen. It also removes benzene from the air. This easy growing is the best choice for non gardeners to balance their air at home. Grows well and performs photosynthesis both in bright and dim light and even if neglected. Six to eight waist high plants give sufficient Oxygen to one person. So it’s a good idea to plant this in the most unused side of your garden or patio so as to accommodate plenty of them. They are an excellent choice for non maintained roadsides or wastelands as they hardly ask for much care or water and ideal for bedrooms too to provide Oxygen at night too.

Aloe Vera

One plant, known for more than one reasons of health is a great oxygen bomb too as it releases oxygen during the night. It absorbs Carbon dioxide and Carbon monoxide. You can match one aloe plant doing the job of 9 air purifiers. Grows wild in all conditions and spreads quickly and needs very little water or nourishment. It’s another perfect preference for non gardeners who can hardly give time and care to house plants.


Tulsi or Holy Basil

The sacred Indian super herb, tulsi or the holy basil as it’s called in the west harmonizes the mind, body and soul. It has been legendary part of our lives for over 5000 years now and is virtually found in the center of every Indian courtyard or verandah. Apart from its miraculous medicinal powers, this holy plant is an excellent air purifier and releases a special kind of essential oil which frees the air from bacteria and substances that cause diseases.  It also releases ozone that produces three atoms of oxygen per molecule. In 2009, it was decided to plant a million Tulsi saplings near the Taj Mahal in an effort to protect it from this environmental pollution. Its property to release high amounts of oxygen can minimizes the adverse impact of industrial emissions. Further it has the capacity to absorb harmful gases like Sulphur dioxide.

Spider Plant

Spider Plant is one of the easily propagated plants and a very giving source of oxygen as it can perform photosynthesis in bright as well as dim light. It absorbs toxins like carbon mono oxide, gasoline, styrene and formaldehyde. So grow it in baskets beds or pots and place them in any kind of light conditions, they will simply multiply on their own and be at your service to clean up the toxins from the air.




Money Plant

This common indoor vine in anything from whisky bottles to ceramic containers occupies the kitchen windows or heads up on the fridge in many homes for its obvious belief in feng shui. The easy growing money plant is an absolute friendly soul that is happy even in just a water arrangement and grows all over if in a pot or basket. Cannot say if it will brings you greater wealth and prosperity but Money plant surely is a powerful air purifying plant that will clean the air in your house very effectively. It has a particular affinity for formaldehydes and other volatile organic compounds most commonly in the form of off-gassing from synthetic paint or carpets.


English Ivy

Is an easy growing perfect air-filtering plant for every home. English ivy has the incredible ability to remove a wide range of contaminants from the air. It is effective at removing xylene, formaldehyde, and benzene. Additionally, English ivy can remove airborne fecal matter and mold. While it can be grown as a great ground cover, looks awesome in baskets too. Moderate temperature and medium sunlight is great to grow Ivy.


There are many others in the list. Dracena, Anthuriums, Ficus, Rubber plant, and Golden Pothos also act as air purifiers in their own unique way. So before you run out to buy an electric air purifier, consider these houseplants for a natural fix and give your children a breath of fresh air.

Passionately Green

Passionately Green

“Yipee!” I call out loud when I manage to pull a perfect grown mooli from my little green patch. Now that’s what I call true happiness. Indeed, enjoying a bowl of crisp lettuce for salad from the backyard or sizzling gobhi paranthas from the freshly plucked cauliflower on a Sunday morning for breakfast is simply divine. What can be more of a delicacy than to relish a few freshly spotted mangoes from the mango tree that stands in your verandah or to squeeze in a few home grown lemons for a quick nimboo pani to quench your thirst in summers.

All this may seem to be a like a dream or an exclusive farm holiday for many, but for me has been a way of life ever since I shifted to Gurgaon in 2000. The so called millennium city was more like countryside then. The open skies, the far off greens, the air so fresh, life in Gurgaon was indeed bliss. The nodding sarson fields, the cauliflower blooms and endless spinach gardens all around my residence inspired me to start my own kitchen garden. Gardening was always a passion but growing veggies was something that I had never done except for a patch of Pudina in my dad’s garden.

Keen observations, my first love, Botany and a seeking mind inspired me and got me going. I observed the farms around my area and all that they grow.  My habit of going to roots of everything I do drove me again. Researching and learning from text books tells me what propagates how. When something goes wrong or right…I reason it out. As you grow, so you learn. No rules. Experiment, explore and know.

“Now if you are growing, why not grow healthy, why not grow Organic,” I said to myself.  Three years back I switched to Organic realizing that the food we pick up from the market is hardly worth eating. Being commercially produced with use of genetically modified varieties and petro chemical fertilizers the food lacks nutrition due to the absence of vitamins and minerals. And that’s not all. Toxic chemicals as pesticides are added that makes your food poisonous leading to several health problems like skin allergies to deadly diseases like Cancer.  Also we are losing on the traditional taste and sweetness of our fruits and vegetables as new hybrid varieties may excel physical appearance or crop yield but matchless in tastes.

If you grow your own food, grow it with love. Grow it without chemicals. All that come home from your own garden is fresh and tasty, full of nourishment and minus the toxicity that others swallow every day. And believe me when I say, “It’s no rocket science.” Just SOW – WATER – NURTURE – HARVEST – ENJOY.”

The 5 Qs of Kitchen Gardening

Where to Grow

Space: Look for space in your back yard, terrace, verandah, balcony, ledge or even abandoned land outside your home. Just about anything is good space for an urban farmer.

Container: Select Pet bottles, old cans or drums, buckets, pots, crates to grow-bags to raised beds, just about anything will make a container 

What to grow and when:

All fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and pulses can be grown as per their seasons. I generally guess is from the consuming season. Leafy Fenugreek or methi as we call it is available November onwards so must be sown Sept-Oct..Similarly Gourds are sown in March to be harvested in May-June 

What to Sow:

Seeds: Cauliflower, cabbage, beans, spinach, fenugreek, mustard, jalapeno, pumpkin, cucumber, gourds, melon, water melon, tomatoes and so many more are easily available at garden shops. Take a seedling tray and plant your seeds and transplant after two to three weeks.

Sapling: Saps for most of the veggies like tomatoes, cauliflower, cabbage, turnip, broccoli, capsicum, brinjals, onions, lettuce, parsley, sage, mint, basil, chilies are also easily available at gardening shops.

Bulbs: Bulbs for onions, ginger, turmeric, arbi and other tubers etc are easily available at garden shops.

Fruits trees: Fruit trees like mango, guava, banana, papaya, pomegranate, kinoo, chikoo, lemon, lime are easy to grow in tropical areas with very little effort.

Soil Mix & Nutrition: Regular soil compost or cow dung manure in the ratio 2:1 is  a perfect soil mix for growing vegetables and fruits. You could also convert your everyday kitchen waste into rich and healthy compost within two-three months without much effort. And this way you shall reduce garbage waste that is becoming a menace to handle. Now this is your way to dream of a Swatchh Bharat! 

How to protect:

Fungicides and pesticides: Doing the organic way means to use natural home remedies for plants too. Chhaas is a perfect fungicide and Neem the most general pesticide. Apart from this, chilies, garlic, turmeric and Asafoetida are a farmer’s friend. Common blooms like marigolds planted alongside veggies are pest repellants. 

Don’t wait to be an expert. Don’t think how. Just get started. Select a few leafy veggies or herbs to begin with. Ready your soil mix, sow a few saps or seeds and watch them grow. Soon the magic will rub on to you like an addiction. You will beam with the first curl of the leaf and jump at the sight of tiny mangoes on your tree. Your status updates on Facebook and WhatsApp will no longer be pics from last night party but clicks of your little surprises in the garden. You will not even know when you shall become a part of this large family of urban farmers who are always spotted with a khurpi in faded jeans and muddy crocks on a weekend. The jumping squirrel squad, fluttering butterflies and perching birds shall be an extra delight.



Article first published at on Feb 17, 2015.

5 Reasons Why Gardening is Good for Kids

5 Reasons Why Gardening is Good for Kids

Gardening makes children fall in love with nature.
Getting them out in the garden, when they are young will make a connect with the environment. They will learn to appreciate and care for their surroundings.

Best place for Sciences
Being outdoors, they are exposed to lifeforms like plants, insects, worms and also how natural phenomenons affect life forms. They’ll learn fall lesssons of science from their surroundings. From species and features of birds to season to spot fungi to how earthworms enrich the soil..they see it all.

Lots of Action
Gardening isn’t always a walk in the park. There’s lots of action. Walking around, bending, digging and all sorts of other movements involved. It’s also a chance to learn about teamwork, a good way to realise how many hands can make work light

Healthy Kids
Gardening is good for their health and well being. Connecting with nature is good for kids’ mental health. In fact, research has shown positive impacts development and emotional well being. And while it’s important to be sun smart, soaking up some sun is a good way to stock up on Vitamin D, which is crucial for healthy bones.

Unlocks Creativity
Picking veggies may sparks ideas about what to cook for dinner or using an egg carton into seedling tray. Being in the garden gives your children an opportunity to think out-of-the-box. It’s a feast for the senses too. Close to plants, children observe interesting colours, shapes, textures, tastes and smells.

Article first published at