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Why not grow your proteins at home?

Motley garden
Last Updated 24 February 2024, 21:24 IST

Every year, I find something new to grow in our vegetable patch. This year, it is the popular channa aka chickpeas. Last December, I found some fresh green channa being sold in carts. These raw green channa are nutty and crunchy and usually consumed right from the pods. They can also be added raw to salads, cooked and added to gravies. I had missed these delectable pods during the Covid years and was thrilled to find them. Also, an unexpected health issue popped up at the end of last year, and I was advised to consume more proteins. Looking at the bag full of chickpeas I was holding, the gardener in me asked, why not grow your proteins at home?

In my quest for home-grown protein, I settled on a few other candidates as well: Avarekaalu (hyacinth bean), Avarekayi (broad bean), and Thugarikayi (pigeon peas). With peas and beans in hand, I was particularly excited about the prospect of a year-round supply from these pods, although it’s important to note that while pigeon peas can indeed produce crops over multiple seasons in tropical climates, making them more perennial, hyacinth beans are typically grown as annuals in our region.

Despite this, their vibrant yield during the growing season more than compensates for their annual cycle. Both broad beans and chickpeas, being true annuals, complete their life cycle in one year, offering a bounty of nutritious pods.

Chickpeas stand out for their protein and fibre. Hyacinth beans offer vitamins A and C, while broad beans provide a boost of protein and vitamin B9, vital for heart health. Pigeon peas round out this nutritious quartet with protein and dietary fibre, underscoring the garden’s role not only as a source of beauty but as a cornerstone of dietary well-being.

Here’s my approach to getting the seeds started. For pigeon peas, select seeds from a dry pod. The skin of broad beans remains green as they mature, though the pods themselves turn brown when ripe — these are the ones to plant. For hyacinth beans, opt for seeds that are firm, well-shaped, and glossy. A small quantity of chickpea seeds — just a handful — is sufficient for starting.

When it comes to sprouting, broad beans require a bit of patience: they need to be soaked in water for 2 to 4 days to encourage germination. The other seeds, however, simply need a moist environment. I achieve this by laying them out on a kitchen napkin, covering them with another and lightly moistening them.

This setup is placed in a well-ventilated spot but out of direct sunlight. I make sure the napkin stays damp by misting it with water over the next three to four days. Within a week, I’m greeted by the sight of sprouting seeds. Even the broad beans, after their soak, begin to show signs of life. Following this, I transfer them to seedling pots for the next stage of their growth.

After transferring the sprouted seeds to pots with light, fluffy potting soil, I enrich them with homemade compost for nutrients.

One common challenge in growing beans and peas is dealing with aphids and beetles. Regular inspection of plants, applying neem oil as a safe organic pest control method, and removing any pests by hand, are all effective ways to keep your crops healthy.

In addition to these techniques, I’ve embraced the practice of companion planting to bolster the garden naturally. Companion planting is the strategic placement of certain plants near each other to deter pests and enhance growth.

My favourites are, marigolds and basil. Marigolds repel nematodes and other pests, while basil with its strong scent, can ward off thrips and flies. This not only helps in reducing the reliance on chemical pesticides but also contributes to a more vibrant and biodiverse garden ecosystem.

Moreover, the bright hues of marigolds and the lush green of basil not only add a splash of colour to the vegetable patch but also attract beneficial pollinators. Until next time then, may peas be with you!

Motley Garden is your monthly kaleidoscopic view into a sustainable garden ecosystem.

The author believes that gardening is not just about plants and how to nurture them. It is also about bees, butterflies, insects, flies, and bugs that make it their home. She is on social media as @neelavanam

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(Published 24 February 2024, 21:24 IST)

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