Monday, April 09, 2007

Green Blog Project: Methi and Basil

The Green Blog Project is a beautiful and meaningful event started by Inji Pennu of Ginger and Mango. The idea is to inspire food bloggers to grow produce in their own homes and cook with it. This time around, the Winter-Spring leg of the Green Blog Project is being hosted by Mandira of Ahaar.

I have been a silent admirer of the gardening skills of my fellow bloggers. I was awe-struck at the last round-up of the Green Blog Project. You see, I am sorely lacking a green thumb. A few years ago, my friend Revati gave me a trio of African violets as a birthday gift. Three weeks later, one succumbed to my poor care and I hastily relinquished the rest to V's care. In his hands, they thrived and grew and my poor gardening ego took a fall. Then, when I read the announcement for Winter-Spring round-up of this project, I was determined to participate in my own little way and give gardening a fresh start. In the company of bloggers who are far better gardeners, my two little herbs will look quite silly, and I was almost too embarrassed to write this post, but you have to start somewhere, so here I am. The following text is for gardening newbies like me and not meant for more experienced folks!

Methi (Fenugreek) Plant

I used a recycled plastic container as a pot. You need to drill quite a few holes in the bottom of the container for adequate drainage. I used "Scott's potting soil for seed starting". To give the plants a head start, I sprouted the methi seeds before planting them (take store-bought methi seeds, soak overnight in warm water, then drain and place in a damp cheesecloth for 2 days until you see sprouts emerging). Plant the sprouted methi seeds just below the surface of the potting soil, leaving some space between seeds. In my case, about a third of the seeds failed to emerge (a high infant mortality rate!) so plant a few more seeds than you think you need. Keep the plant by a window, keep the soil moist (without over-watering) and within a week or two, you will see saplings emerging! I watched the seeds grow with all the excitement and wonder of a 5-year old growing seeds in her kindergarten science project :)
Now, I find that as the methi stems are growing, they are keeling over from their own weight. Any solutions for that?

Fresh methi is one of my favorite herbs. I think it adds a wonderful pleasantly-bitter flavor when sprinkled on Northern Indian dishes. Baby methi, the kind I have, is hardly bitter at all, but very aromatic. I used some of this methi for two dishes already: I used it as a herb in some Paneer Kati Rolls and added it to potato parathas that I made for brunch last week. My dish for the green blog project is...

Gajar Methi (Carrot-Fenugreek Stir-Fry)

The combination of carrots and fenugreek is a popular North-Indian dish. Sweet carrots and bitter-ish fenugreek complement each other perfectly, and the contrasting colors make for a pretty presentation.

Method: Heat 1 tsp oil in a skillet. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 tbsp finely minced onion. Stir for a few minutes until onions are transluscent. Add 2 cups carrots, cut in small dice and 1/2 cup finely minced fresh fenugreek. Add a touch of turmeric, red chili powder, garam masala and salt. Stir-fry for a minute, then cover and cook for a few minutes until carrots are just tender. Serve hot with rotis for a delicious and healthy meal!

Basil Plant

I also have a little basil plant that is growing quite well. This, I started with a conventional clay pot and a seed packet. I planted the seeds right away, without any sprouting, according to directions on the packet. Other than the fact that the plants are crowded, this one seems to be doing well.
I'm waiting for the leaves to get bigger before I start plucking and using this basil. Come summer, I know I'm going to use it a lot in omelets, pasta, pizzas and salads!

My next gardening ambitions: to have a chili pepper plant and a curry leaf plant. Since I live in a small apartment with limited space, I am realistic enough to know that I can't grow large quantities of produce. Instead, I would like to grow those herbs and condiments that I use in small quantities, where store-bought sizes are too big for my needs and I could just pluck a few leaves when the need arises. Would anyone care to answer my questions:
1) Can you grow a chili plant from the seeds of store-bought dried red chilies? Any tips on doing that?
2) How do you obtain a curry leaf plant? Any reliable sources out there? Or do you ask your local nursery to order one for you? Do you think a curry leaf plant would survive and thrive indoors in a place like Missouri?
Thanks for the inspiration, everyone, and thanks, Mandira, for hosting! This is a wonderful learning experience for me.


  1. hi nupur, i am really impressed .i too wish i cd sign this post with a green thumb...but alas. what wonderful looking plants .great ! luv, yoma.

  2. Beautiful!!!!! They look absolutely fresh and just out!!!! :) who says you dont have a green thumb????!!!!!

    I remember my days back home in bbay before my mrriage when I had a small little garden of my own on my window siil :) Its pure excitement when you see them grow every inch!!! :)

    Nice owrk there nupur!!!! For curry leaf..... back in bbay I had bought a small sapling from a nursery nearby..... you might want to see if others have any other idea for it :)

  3. hi Nupur,
    your methi and basil plant look beautiful! It sure is pure joy to watch the plants grow and fruit right before your eyes! I remember the first time we did "farming" we could not contain ourselves, it was so much fun and so very fulfilling.
    Good Luck for all your gardening projects.
    Wish I could help you with the curry leaf plant, we are quite spoilt here in NJ ;-)

  4. i have seen the pics of methi plants on mahanandis website.I think if you choose a larger container that will take care of the leaning of the plants. see

    and i am definitely interested in knwoing how to plant curry leaves/kadipatta.Last I heard is you need a sapling of the actual plant,roots and all.

  5. Hi Nurpur :) I love your stir fried carrots! I love frying carrots in dishes with spices I bet they are just delicious on their own with spices too :)

  6. Nupur: Look at the gorgeous plants, they looks so healthy and are thriving with your care! Thank you for participating in Green Blog Project. I live in an apartment and share your concern of not having a big space for gardening. I do most of my growing in pots and have grown tomatoes, chillies, carrots, garlic, basil and cilantro. You can definitely use chilli seeds for the plant. That's what I did and look what I got -

  7. U do have a green thumb! i tried growing methi but had no luck..should try again this spring once the frosty days are fully gone! ur basil plant is quite charming too...I like them when they have small leaves :)


  8. Hi Nupur,

    Congratulations on your first baby plants! That fresh methi looks so good. I really miss having green plants in the house (graduate student life is not suitable for plant well-being). Looking forward to more exciting recipes using all that basil and methi.


  9. Nupur, the Methi and Tulsi look so fresh, delightful and refreshing.....can almost inhale the green leafy fragrance. Love that idea of methi-carrot.

    Am yet to grow anything in my very tiny apartment with no balcony.....but this is inspring.....after all the pickles, its time for the window-sill to be occupied with some plants :).

  10. Hey Nupur, such a humble post!!
    Your methi plant reminded me of my 4th grade class in which I grew methi plants exactly this way but in a small coconut shell!!!It was so tiny and it fetched me the highest points in my class.
    I have seen my mom taking care of our plants including 'Hibiscus'. She used to make a hair oil out of it. Henna, coriander, rose and curry leaves. I think curry leaves can be plotted using a small sapling that you can get from any of your neigbors (Indian) if you are lucky.
    And yes, they can thrive in the indoors of St.Louis, since they survive cold conditions of Omaha.
    Recently, my cousin who is moving out from Omaha presented me with few plants asking em to take care of them. One being a small fern and a small bamboo plant.
    I kept them in the balcony and they look wilted, due to the cold temperatures that we experienced today..I dont know..but am wondering if anyone can provide me with some info about those plants:(
    I can very well kill growing plants:((
    Anyways,hope my little info was helpful:)

  11. Hi Nupur, your garden is positively luxurious! Next time I do methi indoors, I am going to try your way in a larger container. I used peat pots and I think they dried out too easily.

    The carrots with methi looks fantastic -- I love the color! Looks like you've found your green thumb :)

  12. Nupur,
    Your plants look great. Growing chillies is easier. I have a question though. Since curry leaf plant grows bigger, Can you grow it in a pot?
    Your carrot - methi dish looks amazing. I had no idea about this combo. Thx for sharing.

  13. I must try planting methi ! I too love fresh methi.. in the Indian store we do get methi, but then it is not 'that' fresh! I only hope I can make it half as successful as ur's! I once tried cilantro.. in Mumbai.. to my delight and also that of the sparrows, I had a few stalks raising their heads, any guesses who got 'em first?? the early BIRD!! :D

  14. Nupur, thanks a ton for the info. Please, please always post your gardening trials. This post is a great help to a novice like me.

  15. nupur, in california, we grew chillies from dried chilli seeds from our pantry.

    re: curry plant, try this source.

    our state requires a special agricultural permit for all plants brought into the state, and has an add-on cost of 25 dollars. the nursery will charge you that extra if your state laws stipulate it.

    when did you plant your basil seeds? your plant looks so lush. our basil saplings are still very tiny.

  16. hey nupur!!
    what a sight? those plants so good and its such a wonderful sight right to see them growing!!
    I always had probs growing herbs on my window sill so left the idea of trying my own!!
    U'r dish looks so tasty!!!

  17. Yoma, you and kimu could grow some plants on your windowsill! I bet she would love that.

    Coffee, yes, it is exciting indeed :)

    Richa, actually, we do have international stores here where I buy curry leaves (not as many as NJ though!), but they see much more than I can use and the leaves dry up too fast. This is why I am trying to have a tree where I can use 5-6 fresh leaves each time I need them.

    Amisup, oh, Indira's plants are gorgeous! My problem is that I don't really have the space for larger containers, they have to fit on a window-sill.

    Jeena, yes, carrots are delicious every which way.

    MB, your post inviting entries to GBP were my impetus to get into this whole gardening business :) thanks so much for hosting!

    Mishmash, I love those tiny leaves too :) Do try growing methi again. I'm sure it will thrive now that the weather is better.

    Swati, I know...grad student life can be tough for things like about keeping a pot or two in your workplace? You will spend enough hours there so you will have time to water them and the green can be so soothing!

  18. Musical, yes, you should grow some plants...and I should make some pickles! Now it is time for me to move the plants aside and start a pickle or two.

    Rays, I can just see that tiny plant in a coconut shell! Cute! Thanks for the comment...I'm going to get hold of a curry leaf plant.

    Linda, yes, I actually had a few more shallower containers with methi, and they dry out right away. Can't wait to see your plants :)

    Suma, I know, curry leaf plants can grow into proper trees! But, you can keep it it indoors in a corner in a large pot (the kind that holds, say, rubber plants or those large varieties) as a kind of mini-tree.

    Manasi, the tiny amount of methi that I produce...I can only hope to use it as a herb, not a vegetable! But if you have a garden, it would be easy to grow it in large quantities.

    Poorni, I'll certainly be happy to share as I learn!

    Bee, thanks so much for the curry leaf info! I'll check the laws etc. and decide if I can afford it :) I planted my basil in mid-Feb (earlier than recommended, but I figured it would be warm and cozy indoors, so it was safe to plant it). I'm going to get started on the chili plants now.

    Paddukoti, do you have a window that gets a lot of sunlight? That would be a good bet. Good luck with your herbs!

  19. nupur, make sure the chilli plants get plenty of sun in june and july. they like it very hot. take them out of the house when you are sure the frost has passed.

    it's dicey, though. i take them out, and then there is unexpected frost that kills them. so beginning of june is safe, i think.

  20. Hi Nupur,
    your basil plant looks so good.even i have bought a plant and its almost a month and a half well it has not grown so good as urs.Well what else did you add to the soil ...Looks so good.

  21. My word Nupur!!! those plants look so nice...the thought of having grown them yourself must brig so much your simple dish...

  22. Nupur, they all look so lush. Love the basil. There's nothing like adding some fresh basil to pasta.
    We have a curry leaf plant that we got from a friend, and it stays indoors all through winter. The best way to get a curry plant is if you have any friendly Mallu families. They usually have a ton of curry leaf plants. We got ourselves at an auction at church.

    I am sprouting some spinach this time. Will see how it goes. I always buy a chili plant from the nursery. And tomato plants too.

  23. Hi Nupur,
    Your plants looks great.They are so healthy.Growing herbs is a great idea.My friend told me she got her curry leaf plant from a local temple.Thanks for sharing all the info.gajar methi looks great.Durga

  24. u can actually grow methi from methi seeds from ur pantry? thanks nupur. this shows how naive n limited knowledge i have about growing ur own plants. my mom has very green thumb and i was so ignorant all these years. last yrs growing vegetable graden was a big diassster. now i feel i am little bettwe euipped for this year. just keeping my fingers crossed.

  25. Nupur,
    Lovely post as always. But...I miss the news and photos of Dale!! Hope he is doing well. I wonder what he makes of all your veggie cooking efforts - might turn him into a hard-core vegetarian canine!

  26. Nupur, How is your basil lush green? Looks beautiful.

  27. Beautiful, gorgeous post. Wow- I love fenugreek, and never realized it would be possible (dare I say easy?) to grow it at home! Thanks for the information, Nupur.

  28. Hey Nupur,
    You have a wonderful blog. I don't like to spend too much time in the kitchen but your blog inspired me to try out a few of your receipes...they turned out great :)I also love the photos that go along with your posts and they are beautiful. You should definitely put a copyright sign with your name on the photos to avoid plagiarism.
    Blog on. :)

  29. Your plants are thriving !!! They both look so lush and green, touchwood. I want to plant methi too, since methi did well for you indoors let me try it this time. Thanks

  30. oye!

    kadipatta: find someone with a plant and ask for a baby. i know that most greenhouses in univs grow it, as part of intro to botany/tropical plants. caretakers are generally snooty about sharing but i would try to sweet talk them.

    chilly: best to start with sapling, seedlings follow same mortality as methi seeds and take a while to be strong. if growing indoors, you will have to pollinate them yourself.

  31. Hi Nupur,
    I've been looking at your blog for quite a while now, trying to catch up. Do you have a recipe for coconut chutney to accompany idli-sambar? I've checked your recipe archive and am unable to find one, unless I've missed it.

    Being a Maharashtrian, I loved, loved, loved your segment on that food. It brought back so many childhood memories. I encourage my kids to eat Indian food when I prepare it and it delights me when they oblige. A favorite is Dahi Baath and Varan Baath. The simple dishes are always the best, no?

    Thanks for your great website!

  32. OH Nupur, your plants look beautiful! Not silly at all! The gajar methi looks yummy!

  33. Some nurseries can order curry leaf plants, but mostly they don't have sources, and might end up getting the "curry plant" instead, which is not at all the same thing (NOT an edible herb, but an aromatic shrub that smells vaguely of curry). I ordered a plant from a nursery here in CA a few years ago, and it lasted a year or two, but ultimately there wasn't enough sun and it died. It didn't survive a move to the new house in the winter...But it was a struggle to find a source locally. On the other hand, I know someone in PA who has a HUGE indoor tree in a pot, so maybe it's just luck.

    I did find a link to an on-line nursery source when I was looking for a replacement, so you may want to check it out. I have not used it so I can't vouch for its quality, but they appear to have the real deal...

  34. Wow! Those plants look beautiful and healthy. What are you feeding them? :)

  35. Hi Nupur,
    I'm not sure if someone's already answered your questions on gardening..but here goes:
    To stop the methi from keeling over, try transplanting to a slightly bigger pot/container. Also, regular thinning helps.
    You can grow chillies from seeds (I haven't tried it, but know folks who have)
    The people I know with curry plants have bought them as saplings. It transplants pretty well.
    Good luck with the garden!

  36. Hello nupur,
    Your plants look very healthy. Gr8 entries for the GBP. Also regd the curry leaf plant, I bought mine abt 2 yrs ago and it has grown from 4 inches tall to more than 2 feet tall. You can find details here:
    I move my plant indoors for the winter and it seems to be fine.


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