In many ways, Vinod and Anjani Shidham
are just like any other gardeners in the area. They grow flowers,
fruits and vegetables as well as perennials and annuals in their Elm
"Our garden is designed in such a
way that it is very low maintenance," admits Vinod Shidham.
"We do a spring cleaning and a fall cleaning of the garden, and
just a little bit of work beyond that."
But what makes the Shidham garden a
little different is the variety of plantings found in it. "We do
have a lot of things that most other people have, but then we also
have incorporated a number of ethnic items that are used in Indian
cooking," says Vinod, who sources his seeds and plants from a
variety of catalogs.
Alongside the neat bushes of tomatoes,
the leafy spinach and the onions are more exotic items like fenugreek,
which is grown as both an herb and a spice. In Indian cooking,
fenugreek is used in dahls and in the spice mixture panch phoron.
"We also grow lemongrass, which I
overwinter in our home and bring out in the spring," says Vinod.
While the Shidham garden includes bell
peppers, Vinod says his rule of thumb in selecting potential plants is
that the peppers must be "hot, hot, hot."
"Hot peppers are an important part
of Indian cooking," he says.
Each year, he also includes select
Chinese and Holland varieties of eggplant along with a special
cucumber, known in India as bitter gourd.
Vinod Shidham hold a French pumpkin which they grew in their
"Itís a cucumber with a very
spiky surface, and itís something you either like or donít
like," he explains. "I didnít like it as a child, but I do
Growing the produce is only one part of
the process. Once it is ready, the next step is to turn it into a
delicious meal for the family.
Anjani Shidham says that like most
Indian cooks, she draws her inspiration from whatever can be freshly
picked in the garden. She likes to cook simple ó sautťing bell
peppers with salt and spices ó and freshness is important. One of
her favorite things to do is to combine finely-grated daikon radish
with onions, green chilis, homemade yogurt, salt and pepper, which she
serves with Indian bread.
"Most of us cook very
spontaneously," she says. "We enjoy cooking and eating all
different kinds of fruits and vegetables, and each day brings
something new when you have a garden."