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Saturday, March 6, 2021

Goan green thumb

Reading Time: 4 minutesThe vegetable garden is making these hobby gardeners happy, healthy and wise

They may have left their beloved Goa behind, but for these Goan-Aussies, some old habits die hard.

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Especially those backyard ones.

We’re talking of course about kitchen gardens.

Very health conscious and with a love for home-grown veggies and fruit, many Goans in Australia waste no time in rolling up their sleeves and delving into the mud to enhance their hobby.

Cultivating the land seems to be in their very DNA, coming as they do from a land abundant with fertile soil and good waters.

Donna Assumption D’ Souza from Adelaide shares the green habit with her husband Canute John D’Souza.

The D’ Souzas moved here 28 years ago from the watermelon growing belt of Parra, North Goa.

The retired couple grow fruits such as apples, apricots, pears, almonds, mandarins and grapes, and vegetables such as chillies, gherkins, capsicums, lemons, snow peas, green peas and garlic.

You will find every possible kind of herb in their garden – coriander, curry leaves, oregano, mint, rosemary – which complete their veggie patch nicely.

If the harvest is abundant and bountiful, they turn their backyard produce into delicious jams and marmalades which are mostly shared with many delighted friends.

In between, Canute takes his man time off to go angling and many times romps home to a surprised Donna with a prized catch.

Canute says, “I think gardening is a healthy living practice which also keeps a tab on the weight scale and provides a great from of relaxation. Plus, it’s a fantastic stress buster!”

Meanwhile in Sydney, Debra D’Cunha manages her tidy 12x4m long vegetable patch with ample backing from family members who add an extra pair of hands in planting new plants and even mowing the green lawns.

Hailing from the sleepy Goan hamlet of Curca (Bambolim), Deb treasures her fruit trees that include mango, guava, fig, mandarin, pomegranate, tahitian lime and kaffir lime. And wait for this, there’s also chickoo, payaya, banana, jackfruit, custard apple, cashew and coconut trees, and it goes without saying, the absolutely mandatory curry pattha plant.

In the veggie section, her bounty lies in virvil (snake beans), Kashmiri chillies, capsicum, okra, cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum and marshmallow (chibood) to name a few. She’s quite literally brought her ancestral garden in Goa to Oz!

Having a full time job at hand, Deb says she spends most of her free time, especially at the weekends, tinkering in her garden. Her hobby is best supported during those long summer evenings although she feels that her veggies and fruits thrive during spring/summer (September to April) as the weather warms up.

“The best source for seeds,” she reveals, “are the nurseries that sell quality garden essentials.”

And just as she did back home, Deb uses her produce to make pickles, mango and mixed vegetable pickles being her favourites. Many of her fresh veggies such as snake beans and okra are snap frozen to be used in winter.

Peter Lobo, who hails from Moira, Goa – a village known for lengthy and tasty Moida bananas – has raised garden beds of around 12 square metres plus a fence raised bed of some 10 square metres, in his Adelaide home. Lobo is a diehard ‘Moidakar’ and takes farming very seriously.

He grows bitter melons, bottle gourd (louki/kokno doodi), snake gourd (podovim), chillies, snake beans (vaal), eggplant, cluster beans (tidki), okra, red spinach (tambdi bhaji), green spinach, capsicum, valchi bhaji, papdi, leek, white raddish, bok choy, carrots, coriander, spring onions, potatoes, mint and oregano. The fruit trees includes figs, lemons, banana, custard apples, cheery, apricot, nectarine, pomegranate and mandarin.

His seeds are sourced from Asian groceries or from well-wishers with who he shares his vegetables and fruits.

Peter considers gardening as a stress reliever, and spends time in his garden after work and on the weekends.

“Of course the family shares in the passion,” he says. “The kids water the veggies when I am busy and my wife is ever so happy to harvest them!”

And how is the produce used?

“Pickles – our eggplant pickle is to die for!”

So what’s the secret to a thriving veggie patch?

Donna D’Souza has the last word, “Choose your vegetables and plants wisely and keep a tab on the weather patterns. With this strategy you can yield much to beat the budget as far as grocery purchases are concerned.”

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