Of Bananas and Mangoes and other Foods in Between

The heat wave is really something this year (that’s how it feels every summer). There have been storms and a few weeks ago strong winds broke a branch of the banana tree that was already weighed down by a huge bunch.

Two of us adults had to lift it and carry it inside. We speculated on how long it would take to ripen them. We googled ways to ripen bananas naturally. I picked a few and packed them away in a brown paper bag with a couple of ripe tomatoes (it’s best if you have apples but I didn’t have them at this time of the year). Oh, that reminds me of the deliciously juicy green apples you can get in the hills by June end.

In the meanwhile I got to making as many things as possible with raw Bananas. Banana chips were a favourite with the kids. Then came raw banana fritters and veggie made from it. As the bunch ripened, we got to distributing them, graduating to making milkshakes and lastly many, many batches of banana bread.

The storms also brought down mangoes from the trees in the house. There were a few rounds of mango pickle, then sour chutneys and the sweet version, some dishes that neighbours and relatives suggested and finally mango shakes and ice cream.

It’s quite exciting to be getting fresh fruit and last year I realised (after a bounty of mangoes and home grown veggies) that the taste is really different from the produce we buy from the market.

While we started a small vegetable patch we also made sure to scout out more local vegetables. As it is, because of the strict lockdown last year, there was a glut of fresh vegetables in the market since the nearby villagers could not go very far to sell them.

Talking to the vegetable vendors I also realised that buying local means fresher vegetables, with their nutrients intact because they haven’t been lost in transit and lesser pesticides and other chemicals used to preserve their freshness.

I know I am also supporting the local farmers even if in a small way. It can understand that it makes some difference  because I talk to the people who get the vegetables from their own small farms or landholdings in the villages. And this connection with people I wouldn’t know otherwise enriches me with a knowledge of their lives.

In a way it’s thrilling to not choose what you are going to eat today but depend on which vegetables your vendor is going to get, all of which is guaranteed to be fresh and seasonal. It’s also making me more resourceful.

I know that buying local has a positive impact in the environment. There are fewer pesticides involved. Fewer transportation means a lower carbon footprint. In fact there’s something called food miles, the distance our food travels when it reaches us. The greater the miles, the more adverse impact on the environment. Local foods are mostly organic, if used for local markets and there aren’t many artificial ripening processes involved.

We really enjoy buying the litchis, mangoes and jamuns right from outside the orchards. Sometimes they even pluck the fruit right in front of us. Frankly, now that we can connect with the food we are eating, we can appreciate the hard work that goes into growing it and the people who are dependent on them for their livelihood.

It is said that buying local can help protect genetic diversity. Some fruits like the loquat and shehtoot and bel are not available commercially very readily. We are fortunate that we can source them here, if not very often, atleast once in a while.

Hopefully, when we buy these veggies and fruits we encourage the green spaces people have in their backyards and large vacant plots. My vegetable vendor frequently gets vegetables that he says have been dropped in by someone or the other who just had a lot of vegetables in his garden and couldn’t use it all.

Going local can make a difference on an individual level that becomes a movement when more of us practice it.

This post is part of CauseAChatter, and I am talking about Environment.

Also posted for Blogchatter Half Marathon.

Make Friends with a Tree

My morning ritual involves spending time with plants and trees. I pull up a chair and sit close to a bush I love or next to the hardy aloe vera cluster whom I have never really attended to as much as I should have. Sometimes I put my arms around the jasmine bush, now pruned and skinny. The mighty mango trees; mighty because the thick trunks speak of many years on this earth have me intimidated. I put out a hand on the trunk so that I feel connected. I stand underneath the spreading canopy of the guava tree that had white flowers a few weeks back and that’s now bearing tiny fruit. I ruffle through the curry leaves tree. There’s a tree that’s suspected to be Amaltas (why hasn’t it borne any flowers?). There’s another one with tiny red flowers, which look more like thin strips of colour. There’s a tree of indeterminate name and lineage. It’s thorny and looks hardy. There’s peepal in the vacant lot next door, the heart shaped, fresh green leaves showing up above the boundary wall. And the little flowers growing from a green clump of what looks like grass open when the sun is out and close at sunset. 

When I read an article in Wall Street Journal on how a woman and her children made friends with a tree and felt happier and calmer I immediately thought of my tree gang. Just the thought of spending time quietly near a tree made me feel happier.

Years ago, I read a book on emotional quotient. It talked of the benefits of being connected with nature. At a workplace, even a single live plant can bring peace. No wonder, little potted desk plants are so popular.

All of us do not have the luxury of huge gardens or even easy access to green spaces. So balcony gardens, hanging plants, planters in corners can bring in the much needed greenery into our homes. The simple act of watering the plants, nurturing them, watching them grow can be soothing. If you are mindful in the time you spend with your plants, it can bring much peace.

For most of us, there’s a lot of anxiety bubbling inside us, as we navigate the pandemic. Distractions help only for a short while but something as simple as nurturing a plant can lead to a mindset shift. From trying to subdue the stress, you are actively managing it through your green friends. Being surrounded by plants also boosts creativity. I wasn’t aware of this but that might be the reason I like to think and do my writing sitting under a tree.

Having some green plants even if you live in a small flat is doable and has plenty of emotional benefits. And of course, along with our own emotional well-being, we are contributing to the well-being of our environment.

This post is part of CauseAChatter and Blogchatter Half Marathon, and I am talking about Environment.