Mark Twain famously described the peninsular Indian weather thus: “The summer is hot enough to melt brass doorknobs while the winter makes them just a little mushy” or words to that effect. Still, the “winter” in Goa and the rest of the Konkan is good enough to grow a few vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, carrot, radish, lettuce and knol-kohl from the temperate region. Herbs like coriander, mint, basil and thyme also do well this season. The traditional winter vegetables of Goa are onions and chillies, which have naturalised in India since they were introduced during the Arab and Portuguese trading or colonial eras. The onion or ‘kanda’ definitely came to Goa before Ibn Battuta briefly wiped out its history and geography. The chillies [Capsicum species] perhaps came from Chile and were earlier known as green pepper or bell pepper as they were used as a substitute for the expensive Indian black pepper [Piper nigrum]. It is also possible to grown a number of peas and beans with cowpea or alsanddo occupying the place of pride in Goa both in the fields and on the table.
Once upon a time, the field or the ground was the only place one could grow food crops including vegetables. Pot cultivation and soil-less culture systems hydroponics and aquaponics have now made, balcony and terrace gardening possible while multi-level, vertical gardening and greenhouses have opened opportunities to intensify cropping. The increasing incidence of cancer, tumours, ulcers or simply migraine headaches has made the educated urban people conscious of the adverse effects of chemical insecticides and herbicides that are actually products of spin-off technology from the manufacture of war chemicals. Almost the whole world is uniting against Genetically Modified [GM] plants as source of food. The good old methods of farming with scientifically validated innovations for healthier food in appropriate quantities is what organic agriculture is all about. It is quite simple once one bothers to find out how and why it is done.
- Natural seed is dull in colour: buff, straw yellow, grey, maroon, brown or black
- Pesticide treated seeds often comes in bright green, orange or red colours. Avoid them
- The Rolled Tissue Test is a simple way of testing the germination percentage. Moisten a paper napkin or a section of a toilet roll, place five seeds in a line and partly roll it. Repeat with another five seed and roll it all. Put the tissue roll in a transparent plastic packet and keep away from heat. Open the roll after 4 days and check how many seeds have germinated. Roll back, moisten if dry and check again after another four days. If less than seven out of ten seeds have germinated, you can get a replacement or refund from the seed vendor as per the Seed Act, 1966.
- Sow seeds with more than 70 per cent germination
- Direct sowing of seeds for ladyfingers, corn and all beans, peas, root crops like radish, carrot, beet
- Raise seedlings in nursery and transplant in four to six leaf stage for Cole crops (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, knol-kohl), onions, and Solanaceous crops (chilli, capsicum, tomato and brinjal) after three to four weeks of sowing.
- Amaranthus (tambddi bhaji) can be grown by direct seeding or transplanting
- Sow two seeds per spot in a slotted seedling tray filled with a mixture of soil or coco peat and compost in equal quantities. Add a little of the mixture to cover the seeds. Water lightly and cover with a thick transparent polythene sheet or glass pane. No need to water till seeds germinate. If not covered, water lightly every afternoon when the surface soil is dry.
- Make a raised bed 20 cm above ground level, about one metre wide and of desired length. Use a toothed rake to remove stone and stubble before adding a little compost on the surface. Mark lines across the bed with a stick or a finger at every 10 cm [4 inches]. Sow the seeds in these lines and lightly cover with sand or soil mixture. Cover the raised bed with paddy straw to keep the soil moist and cool in the afternoons and warm during the cool nights. Reduce the mulch after a week and remove entirely when the seedlings get new leaves. Water the bed lightly every afternoon, preferably with a shower attachment or a watering can.
- Transplant when the seedlings have four to six leaves or about three to four weeks old.
- Transplant in the cool evening or late afternoon to minimise transplanting shock and withering of seedlings
- Reduce watering one week prior to transplanting and do not water on the day of transplanting till about one hour before uprooting. This reduces the transplanting shock.
- Water immediately after transplanting.
- Mulching with straw or dry leaves on the soil surface between plants reduces mortality and water requirement
- Two parts of coco peat and one part of compost is an ideal and light mixture
- Two parts soil, one part coco peat and one part compost is better for plants like ladyfinger, cluster beans, brinjal, chilli and tomato to prevent toppling over when the plants grow tall.
- Over-watering kills or leads to yellowing of plants.
Chillies and Capsicum
Capsicum annuum is a species of the plant genus Capsicum native to southern North America and northern South America. This species is the most common and extensively cultivated of the five domesticated capsicums.
Who Was Ibn Battuta?
Born in 1304 in Morocco’s northern port of Tangier, Ibn Battuta was the greatest traveller to ever walk the earth. In an era when precious few possessed the means, the time, or the courage to submit to curiosity and venture off the map’s edge, Ibn Battuta set out to complete Islam’s traditional pilgrimage to Mecca, and ultimately spent the better part of his life wandering.
In nearly 30 years on the road, Ibn Battuta traversed North Africa, Egypt, and the Swahili coast; reached Mecca on the Arabian Peninsula, passing through Palestine and Greater Syria en route; swung through Anatolia and Persia to Afghanistan; crossed the Himalayas to India, then Sri Lanka and the Maldives; and reached the eastern coast of China before turning around and zigzagging all the way back to Morocco.
A trained qadi, or judge, Ibn Battuta was also proficient in geography, botany, Islamic theology, and possessed a social scientist’s shrewd capacities of observation. But the primary reason Ibn Battuta lives on today is his writing.
For several years Ibn Battuta enjoyed the patronage of Sultan Mohammad Tughlaq, and was later sent as Sultan’s envoy to China.