Most cooks worry about the quality of ground spices available in the market as they could be adulterated; whole spices too are often grown with chemical additives. Everyday spices like coriander, chilli and turmeric are easy to grow in the kitchen garden organically, and require minimal attention. They thrive in terrace gardens, and also out in a garden bed.
As both leaves and seeds of the aromatic herb are used daily in the Indian kitchen, plan to grow three batches of this fragrant plant, a month apart. This will ensure a steady supply of both fresh coriander and seed.
Use only fresh ‘sowing’ coriander seeds to raise the plants — seeds that are dried and processed for cooking will not germinate. Place the seeds on a newspaper and lightly crush with a rolling pin till they split in two. Coriander grows well in pots or in raised beds in the garden. Prepare the soil with crumbled manure and loamy soil, and drench with dilute neem solution. Loosen the soil and scatter seeds, cover lightly with a mix of sand and soil.
Care: Water every day and protect the plants from harsh sunlight to prevent flowers forming too soon. Periodic spraying of neem or chilli solution will keep most pests away. Aphids can be tackled with a high-pressure hosing of water.
The leaves will be ready for harvest in 45 days; start the next batch of coriander within 3 weeks of sowing the first batch. Trim the leaves with stalk as needed. Allow some plants to develop flowers and then seeds. When they turn brown, the seeds can be plucked and dried for culinary use; remember to save some for your next crop.
Coriander can be sown with the new moon, as it encourages the seeds to swell and germinate with the increasing moonlight at this phase.
Choose a mix of favoured chilli seeds from the range of chilli across India varying in flavours, colour and heat. Sow the seeds directly in rich loamy soil in the garden, or in a nursery tray. Water lightly and let it germinate. The plants should be around five centimetres tall when you transplant. Chilli plants thrive in pots on sunny terraces and even make good indoor plants.
Care: Minimal watering and good sunlight are all that is needed once the plants are rooted in the soil. Panchagavya or other organic fertiliser will be beneficial once the flowers appear.
Chillies can be plucked when green, or ripened on the plant till deep red. After drying in the sun, they can then be stored away. Most chilli varieties are perennial and need to be lightly pruned and fertilized periodically to continue producing for years. Save your favourite annual seeds for replanting.
This kitchen essential is used for culinary and medicinal purposes and it is vital that the aromatic roots are grown without chemical products. The curcuma plant also acts as a pest deterrent when grown alongside other plants.
Choose superior organic rhizomes from a local nursery. Divide them into small pieces, each with a few buds on them. Plant each with buds facing upwards in moist organic soil. Press them in and cover with two inches of loamy soil. Water lightly.
Plant with a waning moon, as moisture is pulled down into the soil at this time, creating ideal conditions for root crops.
Turmeric can be harvested in 10 months when the leaves turn yellow and dry. Gently dig up the roots and keep a few for replanting. After washing, fresh turmeric can be prepared as a seasonal vegetable or processed for storage. Boil the rhizomes, peel the skin and leave to dry in the sun. When completely dried, the roots can be stored away for future use.