Kitchen gardens are what is trending these days, especially in towns and cities. But growing indigenous vegetables and fruits has been a norm long past in Goan villages. In Goa, a kitchen garden is locally known as porsu in Konkani, and they serve well in making one self-sufficient in vegetables and fruit to a certain degree.
Marivic Soares uses part of her home garden area to cultivate a variety of vegetables for her family’s use. She proposes the growth of organic vegetables, meaning no chemical fertilisers or pesticides are used. Her organic manure is mainly her kitchen compost, bone meal, vermicompost, cow dung, neem powder, etc.
Having a kitchen garden is very useful because eighty-five per cent of the vegetables produced are consumed by her family and they are able to share the rest with their neighbours.
Marivic says, “The main requirement to make a kitchen garden is the patience and willpower to do it. It's not necessary that you should have ample land, because you can also make a kitchen garden with the use of pots. For beginners, we need basic garden tools to start a kitchen garden.”
To start with her kitchen garden, Marivic invested a lot of time and energy, researching things like where she could buy cheaper organic fertiliser and so on. She admits that it was a process of trial and error that ended in success and self-subsistence.
The pandemic did not pose a threat where food stock was concerned for Marivic. Although the shops were closed, the family had enough and the surplus was distributed to others. She believes quite firmly that children should be taught kitchen gardening at a young age as an entertaining and educative endeavour.
Taking the time to care for your kitchen garden regularly is essential. “Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening is all you need to put it into your kitchen garden.
Space is not an issue,” says Marivic, who has vegetables of all sorts in her garden, such as okra, ash gourd, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, cluster beans, pak choi, lettuce, amaranth greens, brinjal, broad beans, chillies, winged beans, pumpkin, Italian basil, lemon, passion fruit, pomelo, mangoes, mulberry, papaya and many more.
Another environment enthusiast and expert on kitchen gardening Miguel Braganza shares his knowledge and experience on the subject. According to him, a kitchen garden is what we traditionally grow near the house and call porsum or porsu in Konkani. It is a piece of land where vegetables, chillies, karipatta (curry leaves), herbs, spices and fruits are grown.
Traditionally, the fence was made of adulsa (Adhatoda vasica), which has medicinal uses and provided a slender stick to beat mischievous children in the past, when it was considered normal or even desirable. Now, people live in apartment buildings, and so, the kitchen gardens include vegetables and herbs grown in pots or even through hydroponics (without soil).
A thoughtful Miguel says, “I started this kitchen garden in earnest during the pandemic. We decided to practice what we preached to others affected by poor vegetable supplies through the Belghavi Wholesale Market, due to movement restrictions enforced to control the novel coronavirus.”
For Miguel, since 2010, growing food has been organic and chemical free. With more time at home due to restrictions, composting at home could also be stepped up. His kitchen garden has been grown with seeds available at the Zonal Agriculture Office (ZAO) at the start of the season.
Organic farming received a boost during this time with biological insect and disease management formulations becoming available in 100 ml packs, thanks to the quick response by Mahesh Patil and Multiplex, the producer of the biological agents.
Miguel points out that kitchen gardening has been a tradition in Goa that his generation largely ignored in the era of women being employed in various institutions and industries, and the full-time housewife becoming a rarity rather than the norm.
He says, “The pandemic brought us back to the ground reality. We can live without money, but not without food. We use karipatta, allspice and green chillies sparingly and not by the kilo. It makes sense to have them in the kitchen garden, even as potted plants.
Tomatoes, brinjals, ladyfinger (bhendde or okra), cluster beans (gawar or tiddki), amaranth (tambddi bhaji), methi, radish, knol kohl (nab or god'de) can be grown easily. Fresh organically grown vegetables are tastier besides being healthier. One can also grow ridge gourd (gonsallim), snake gourd (poddolim), bottle gourd (Konkan dudhi), pumpkin (dudhi), cucumber, etc, if there is space and the facility to trail the creepers.”
In addition to books, now there are videos on YouTube on almost every aspect of growing a kitchen garden. The next thing one needs is the growing medium, that is, ground soil or soil in pots.
Manure to encourage growth; insect, pest and disease control formulations; sunlight and LED lighting in case sunlight is not sufficient and water for irrigation are all that is needed to grow a flourishing kitchen garden.
Miguel says, “Kitchen gardens reduce one's dependence on the market. If properly planned, one can limit purchases to potatoes and garlic. But even these can be grown.
There are alternatives like coleus potatoes and Mexican coriander that are routinely used in some wards of Netravali and now are catching on elsewhere in Goa.