Employed with the federal government of Australia, Sumita Sen took to cultivating vegetables to bring home a bit of Bengal, but discovered joy in the course of time
Why do you cultivate your vegetables, considering the fact that you have a full-time government job?
When we built our home some nine years ago the landscaper left me a patch and said I could grow vegetables there. This is the norm in Canberra. Every house has a vegetable patch. I hadn’t grown vegetables ever in my life. I was not sure if I even wanted to use the veggie patch. But then it struck me that I could grow pumpkins to make us the Bengali dish ‘kumro shaag’ which is a combination of stems and leaves of the pumpkin tree. That's how it started. Growing vegetables and maintaining my vegetable patch is now more than just a medium to feed myself and the family of 'kumro saag'. It is now a thing of joy. I find a sense of serenity looking at my garden.
Does your patch include any vegetable that is specific to Canberra?
Egg plants. During the pandemic, the price of egg plants inflated. Say what I got for $4 was now for $10. So, I thought I could cultivate them right in my garden.
What other vegetables do you grow?
Pumpkin, bottle gourd, tomatoes, lemons, green apple, peach, okra, broad beans. These are not available in the market regularly. In fact, broad beans (seam) are not found here in Canberra market. There are only thin beans.
“Broad beans are not found in Canberra market. Only thin beans are available"
Did you have to take tutorials in the beginning?
I took help from gardening books, YouTube, and lots of tips from people around. It isn’t a difficult art for somebody with a small patch as mine. It takes a few weeks of intense nurturing to establish a plant from seeds. There after the plant needs little care.
Do you find any difference in the taste of vegetables you grow and the ones you buy from the market?
Mine are fresh. You can taste the freshness. They also taste better. Could be because of the organic fertilizers that I use.