The Kitchen Gardener: Anusuya Sharma – ‘Medicinal plants are all you need for good health’

Meet one of India’s most experienced kitchen gardeners – Anusuya Sharma, 70 – medicinal plant expert, author and winner of the Srishti Sanman award.


Meet one of India’s most experienced kitchen gardeners – Anusuya Sharma – renowned expert on medicinal plants, author of two books on terrace gardening (‘Tarasi Tota Ondu Inuku Nota’ in 2007 and ‘Hittilu Kaitotakkondu Kaipidi’ in 2010) and winner of the Srishti Sanman award by Honey Bee’s Network National Innovation Foundation.

Her home made remedies from plants for different ailments make her a guru in the area of health and medicine. Apart having her own garden of Eden she has tremendous knowledge on different plant species and how living with plants makes life healthy and beneficial.

Anusuya Sharma in her flourishing medicinal garden.

Anusuya Sharma in her flourishing medicinal garden.

In her house in Sanjay Nagar that is completely enveloped in green – every inch of available space filled with green plants and creepers, with the air inside is cooler atleast by 3 to 4 degrees, I sit down to ask her  more about her long and literally fruitful journey with growing green.

‘I really got into it when I started training others in growing their own gardens’

I grew up among plants through my growing years; this is a habit that was cultivated right from childhood. Training other interested individuals in organic terrace gardening was the turning point of my own garden – I started growing a lot more and a lot of diverse species.

‘Neem and Tulsi can cure almost every common illness’

What sparked off your interest in medicinal plants, I ask her. “Today, we have so many health problems and keep running to the doctor and visit hospitals regularly; our medical bills are only mounting. I realised through gardening that many of our illnesses can be dealt with in a much more natural manner and it has helped me greatly. I am 70 years old and rarely fall sick. My garden is responsible for this and I am very grateful.”

Anusuya  grows a mixed variety of medicinal, herbal, fruits and vegetables – from different turmeric varieties, ginger, jeera, hara dhaniya, pudina, gooseberry, lucky sopu, neem, tulsi to papaya, avocado, mango, coconut and chillies, brinjal, tomatoes and many kinds of greens. Anusuya can’t remember the last time she bought staples like garlic, ginger, turmeric etc has from the market –  they always arrive fresh from her own garden. “I have never bought turmeric for many years now. For festive occasions we make coconut oil at home and my neem oil is a great pest control for my plants and excellent for health” She also grows an abundant amount of spinach, coriander, leafy green varieties like Doddipatre.

Anusuya grows berries.

Anusuya grows pepper and long pepper, sanna rasme and doddi patre for colds and coughs.

Anusuya grows pepper, Long pepper, Sanna Rasme, Doddi patre for cold and coughs, Amrita Balli juice for fever, Tincture leaf juice for cuts and Aloe Vera for wounds.

There are lesser known ones too: Mangaravalli – used to set bones during injuries, Bhaje – black berries that are very rich in nutrients, Betel Leaves – containing lot of calcium, Ganike – lots of antioxidants and Rakta mitra – which increases haemoglobin count in blood.

I ask her about starting off a journey with medicinal plants – which ones are easy to grow for beginners? “Pudina and ginger can be used as medicine and also for stomach ailments this can be grown easily. All greens are nutritious and eaten daily,” she added.

The gunny bag garden

Most of her plants grow out of gunny bags, and like all other dedicated gardeners, Anusuya vermicomposts her kitchen waste. “Worms just land up in my compost. I just let them be and take out the soil once it is ready and add it to my plants”, she said showing me her fat wriggly red worms.

Anusuya grows most of her garden in recycled gunny bags.

Anusuya grows most of her garden in recycled gunny bags.

She also gets a lot of wildlife due to the thick green foliage, “Many kinds of birds keep visiting the terrace and monkeys love my fruit trees. My garden despite being so wild is perfect if one is feeling under the weather. I just come up here for a few minutes and I feel much better and lighter.”

Garden Secrets

 

All that grows on your terrace: Gooseberry and avocado trees which always bear fruit (I make my own gooseberry pickle at home). Both are both quite old now I planted the seeds over 10 years ago. Brinjal, chillies, many kinds of palak, pudina, tomatoes, limes, are the usual vegetables that I have. Among fruits, I grow avocado, gooseberry, papaya and passion fruit. I also grow berries which are commonly found in rural parts and can be eaten. I have a big curry leaf plant, lemongrass and pudina. Neem and Tulsi I have used for many years now and make oil out of them which I use in the house and also as a pest repellent.

How do you take care of all the 300 plants you have, everyday? “It takes me minimum one hour each day just to water my plants. Earlier, it took me a lot of time to de-weed my plants and harvest produce, but since my husband’s health problems I am unable to work for too long and my garden has hence become a bit wild.” On the positive side though she keeps noticing newer plants which keep growing, showing me wild rosemary “I still have no idea how this herb started growing, but I enjoy the scent and let it be”.

Handy garden tips

Duranta plant is excellent for keeping mosquitoes away.

Stevia is an excellent substitute for sugar – 1 spoon of its leaf powder is equal to 100 gms of sugar. Chakramuni plant is a multi vitamin plant and good for health.

Make your own herbal sprays so you can protect your plants and keep them healthy. “Recycling of Kitchen waste, improving soil health by adding humus, there by using less water. Rain water harvesting is essential to meet your garden needs.”

All pictures by Kavya Chandra.

The Kitchen Gardener is a fortnightly series on urban farmers who grow fresh produce in their backyards leading to growing people, community and a more sustainable earth. From journeys of starting to challenges along the way and practical wisdom, the kitchen gardening series helps you kickstart your own food patch wherever you live.

Also read:

Vishwanath Kadur: Bangalore’s First Farmer
Vani Murthy: Once you compost, you just HAVE to grow
S Laxminarayan: You have to eat, and hence have to grow

 


  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kavya is a student of sustainable development studies, interested in meeting, travelling, networking with individuals in the sustainable space and engaging people in environmental activities. more

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  ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kavya is a student of sustainable development studies, interested in meeting, travelling, networking with individuals in the sustainable space and engaging people in environmental activities. more

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  • Vasanti

    How do we get saplings/seeds for black pepper.to grow in containers in mumbai

  • Vasanti

    Where do I procure medicinal plants which can be grown in containers as I live in a flat in navi mumbai. Which medicinal plants can be grown in new BOMBAY climate .i tried to grow stevia n lemon grass from seeds but they did not germinate (not even one) .tried growing mooli it was too small . Tomatoes don’t fruit ,the plants get enough flowers though

  • tanuja rao

    Can I have Anasuya’s number as I am interested to buy her books

  • Jangaiah John

    I am jangaiah working in state medicinal plants board. Dear Anusuya Madam i want your contact details for small lecture at Hyderabad.