The windowsill above the sink in web designer Surbhi Agarwal’s kitchen always manages to bring a smile to her face. It’s a spot of green in her otherwise drab apartment that smells and looks good. This 29-year-old web designer grows her own oregano, thyme and peppermint; uses them to cook and basks in their fresh fragrance.
Surbhi isn’t the only one. As more and more potted herbs are finding their way into supermarkets, herb-lovers across the National Capital Region (NCR) are quickly moving these pots off the shelves. Thanks to them, the seeds for fresh herbs like rosemary, oregano, sage and basil needn’t be brought from European countries. They are available at your neighbourhood nurseries and grocery stores.
Tarun Mal (24) has just begun cultivating herbs such as chives, parsley and many varieties of basil. “I love using herbs in food and wanted to do something that could promote my hobby into a business,” says this filmmaker-turned-horticulturist, who runs his company under the name Naturewise Herbs and sells them at Modern Bazaar. “Initially I was only potting in small batches, now I’ve converted my entire roof into a green house.”
Priced between Rs 200 and Rs 500, most of these herbs are inexpensive buys since they have a lifespan of about three years. Anju Srivastava, who owns Wingreen, a herb company that retails out of malls such as Spencers and Reliance Fresh, says that there are annual and perennial plants — those that have to be re-sown every year and those which last for three to five years. “Thyme, majoram, lemongrass and oregano will last you year after year. They have a rest period but they grow back on the same plant. But plants like lettuce, celery, parsley, rocket and pok choy have to be sown every year and only in winters,” says Anju. However it’s mostly the expat crowd and the upper middle class who're buying these plants.
As a former advertising and marketing executive, Anju has a definite strategy planned. She supplies these herbs to restaurants such as Turquoise Cottage in Delhi and also does consultancy for hotels. “You weren’t getting fresh herbs for love or for money in India. Now we are teaching the farmers around Manesar how beneficial and profitable these herbs can be.”
Thanks to local sourcing, plants such as stevia — the only known natural sweetener and a cure for diabetes — is now easily available. Bringing it closer is Pallavi Jain of greensomethings.in who stocks plants at her nursery and ships them across NCR. “People have suddenly woken up to the novel idea of gifting a plant. During the festive season the demand for certain herbs like basil and oregano shoots up and we just can’t keep up with the demand,” says Pallavi.