At Zoonimar locality in Srinagar, Ghulam Nabi is busy garnering a bunch of newly sprouted collards, spinach and cherry belle radish in a wicker basket, in his neatly trimmed rectangular kitchen garden.
After filling the basket to its brim with vegetables, he places it on the porch of his house and divides them equally in two proportions. “One is for my sister who lives nearby, and another for me. In these times, kitchen garden is really a blessing,” said Ghulam Nabi, sitting on a porch of his house.
Ghulam Nabi deals in furniture items and usually hires labourers to hoe his kitchen garden at his home, due to his busy schedule. However, with COVID-19 pandemic bringing every activity to grinding halt, he from past some weeks has taken up his “old hobby”.
From past many weeks, due to COVID-19 making it imperative for people to stay indoors and maintain social distancing, many are passing their time tending to their kitchen gardens. These days people, particularly on Srinagar outskirts, can be seen spending good time in tilling and growing vegetables in their kitchen gardens.
Sensing people’s penchant for kitchen-gardening amid COVID-19, Agriculture Department has also made a “timely intervention” under its new ‘Aayein Sabzi Ugayein’(let’s grow vegetables) program, under which the department is providing seasonal saplings of various vegetables to people.
“We are providing cucurbits including gourd, cucumber, tomato and collards. Besides, we are also providing exotic vegetable seeds of broccoli and lettuce to people,” said Joint Director Agriculture Kashmir, Chowdhary Mohammad Iqbal.
He said this season the department has increased the production of vegetable saplings considering that the dealers selling seeds and vegetable saplings are shut.
“There is a huge demand for vegetable saplings with almost every household having a kitchen garden. This is also the time, where we want to help people,” said Iqbal.
Until now, Iqbal estimates that around 50 lakh saplings have been provided to people across Kashmir, with the department’s Lal Mandi center alone selling around 13 lakh vegetable saplings to the people.
“We are producing more saplings under controlled conditions to meet the demand,” he added.
Doctors also welcome people’s interest in kitchen gardening particularly in these times. “This kind of activity is not only good for people with diabetes and other co-morbidities; it also helps people in stressful atmosphere to remain preoccupied. Besides, new research indicates that activities like these increases bone mass,” said Dr Afaq Jalali.
He said: “Remaining busy in kitchen garden activity also exposes you to sunlight, which is a source of vitamin-D. Kashmiris usually are deficient in vitamin-D due to habit of remaining indoors. It is also an opportunity to fill our bodies with vitamin-D”.
Dr Feroz Ahmad said tending to the kitchen garden brings down glycemic and lipid levels. “Though a person cannot be an immortal, but with activities like this, he lives a healthy life,” he said.
Back, at Zoonimar Ghulam Nabi says he has got “every delicacy” in the world at his lunch table, only possible through “sweating it out” in kitchen garden.
“In crisis, if your taste buds are satiated, what else you need. It is a blessing,” he says as he gets himself ready for a second round of hoeing in his kitchen garden after a nap.