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A taste of India comes to Elm Grove


August 3, 2008

Indian eggplant

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 Grove garden.

"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.

Anjani and Vinod Shidham hold a French pumpkin which they grew in their garden.

"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 now."

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."



This article was featured in the May 2008 issue of