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Ampara, Sri Lanka, Brooklyn, Geneva, Goat

Zehra, Zehra, quite contrary….how does YOUR garden grow?

I’m growing a herb garden.  I’ve always managed to kill plants however, I want to be a farmer one day so I thought I had better get my act together and figure out how to make things LIVE.  Also, given the transitory nature of my life, I’m really glad to be putting down roots….literally!

It all started with a basil plant I found in the Coop (a supermarket like…Sainsbury’s in London, Pathmark in the States, Nakumatt in Kampala) in Geneva.  The first time I ever had a basil plant was in Italy…yes, how fitting is that story?  Italy and basil.  Perfect.  It lived on the window sill in the kitchen on my little apartment that I had rented out for the summer and I LOVED it.  Fresh, deliscious basil.  In Brooklyn, I get my fresh basil from any number of fresh local stores but especially the farmer’s market that sets up outside the Fort Greene park every Saturday morning.  I eat handfuls of it straight.  Love the flavour.  When I lived in my hippy co-op (read: commune) with my friend K of the bombaytoqueens blog, I learned how to make fresh pesto.  Recipe forthcoming.  It’s SO easy and so yum.  Only expensive item in it:  pine nuts.

Hellbent on dying--the less loved basil plant---maybe if you just tasted better like your sisters?

Back to my garden here: The flavour of this basil plant sucks for some reason.  I’m not sure HOW basil can suck, but it does.  And it seems hellbent on DYING.  I am trying to love it but it’s annoying me.  Especially since it’s sisters, the rosemary and mint plant are SO good and so alive and so delicious.  I know the basil plant can feel my annoyance but I am trying hard to feel it some love.  I should not love one plant more over the others, but the newest addition to the herb family, the mint plant…OMG….it’s SO vibrant and really, so tasty that it is winning my heart.  I am sitting across from the plants right now as I type this and I feel guilty as I type this.  I might go over soon and give them kisses or stroke them or something.  I love you all…just some more than others.  I also have a new found appreciation for mint.   Ever since I figured out just HOW GOOD it is in biryani, it’s like a new found relationship.  When I was just in Pakistan, I ordered it in every drink at any place across the country.  It’s a pretty ubiquitous herb there in cooking and my assumption was if they had a kitchen, they had fresh mint.  If they had fresh mint, they could stick it in my drink.  Refreshing and I started a trend with all my friends to ask for mint in their drinks even if not on the menu.

Rosemary plant (like a middle child...neither here nor there...just...there)

I don’t have the luxury of a garden but that should not stop us from growing things.  I even bought an aerogarden once.  Well, it was bought for me for my birthday since I would not shut up about it.  It was….OK.  Not like what I thought it would be.  And actually, I want to get my hands dirty and soil-y and feel like something is organically alive in my house. And when you read the reviews about the aerogarden, believe them. The light is annoying. And the noise is annoying too. I only tried the herbs and they tasted good but not worth the effort or money.

Oh, and here’s the reason I want to be a farmer. It started with a goat. I do livelihoods work as my day job—the cash grants we gave people means they bought different things with them. This family bought a goat and here is a return on their investment. A Kid! SO CUTE. I figure I first get some plants to live before I look at something that can move and bleat at me….oh and I need a farm!

Tell me that does not make you go awwwwwwww....WANT!

He had me at baaaahhhhhh.

Any other apartment garden growers out there? What edibles are you growing and what’s your best tips for taking care of them? Would love to hear from you!

And since this is a food/cooking blog, here is a small recipe using mint*:

Ginger Mint Tea.

Ingredients
Ginger
Lemon (Two should be fine. Save some of it for garnish)
Honey
Mint!

Method:
Heat up four glasses of water in a water kettle.
Peel the piece of ginger. Now how much ginger you want to use is up to you. It’s good for you but don’t let me influence you into using LOADS because of that. It’s difficult to peel (my younger sister is a master ginger peeler and cutter…she does julienne of ginger…BY HAND…she has mad skillz). I would say if you have three finger fulls (a finger full is: hold your three fingers together in a bunch. Three finger fulls) you should be fine. Do not grate the ginger. It’s just going to get in the way of every sip and be very annoying. Rough cut it with the grain in long strips, as thin as you can but no need to get all julienne on it.

Put ginger, juice of two squeezed lemons and a handful of crushed mint in a jar (reserve some mint sprigs for garnish). Add the boiling water to it. Let sit for five minutes. Add honey to taste. Serve hot or chilled. Totally refreshing drink in any season and ginger is EXCELLENT for moving your blood around. I never looked that fact up; it was told to me in Indonesia…Jogjakarta, I think…in some cafe…in broken English. Ginger tea: Good for Blood. Make Movement.

I repeat that line to everyone I know. And it tastes so good, who cares. Enjoy!

*Confession time: I TOTALLY went ahead and published the blog with just photos of my herb garden and no recipe. OOPS. Rectified though. Better late then never!

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About Zehra

Zehra is a livelihoods and cash transfer specialist working in humanitarian contexts. She has also been a health and lifestyle coach for humanitarian aid workers. Loves food, bollywood and tweeting (@zehrarizvi).

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  1. Pingback: It’s getting hot in here, so…. « Zehra's Cookin! - July 25, 2011

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