orphanic gardening – some notes

06/08/2014

(OR) the story of ‘maan dhonia!’

Oh well.

And so, in one of our trips to the hills, Sonati gave us a nice looking plant whose leaves smelt much like our own Coriander (Kothamalli in Tamil, Coriander sativum, Kannada – Kothambari, Kashmiri – Daaniwal, Malayalam – Kothambalari, Marathi – Dhane, Telegu – Dhaniyalu), but had a very stronger odour and tasted as nicely pungent as any self-respecting Coriander would, that is – till may be a couple of decades back.

… Back to our dear Lady. In the ‘middle’ of cooking, she would suddenly walk out with a purposeful look (but with a knife in hand, so I dared not crack any joke, which was sad) and gait (starting with a quick demi plié), and bring just a couple of raspy leaves from her garden patch and mince them and garnish her tasty preparations; of course, decorated thusly, aha, the dishes would delightfully be fragrant and appetite inducing.

… So, when I asked a couple of questions about the plant, she rather alacritously packed a plantling — very beautifully so, in a dried banana leaf with just a little  soil to hold the moisture in the roots, when we were leaving the hills.

It seems she got it from Assam (from her mother) where it is called Maan Dhonia – of which Dhonia makes sense – as Dhania/Dhonia is the name of the seed of Coriander plant, in Hindi and in most of the other Indic languages.

But this Maan  business apparently comes from a reference to anything relating to folks who come from Burma and thereabouts – in the general area of Assam. She said it is possible that this plant came with those folks who migrated from Burma or Thailand and hence the name.

Anyway, I brought it back and promptly murdered  it in my ‘urban’ Bangalore garden patch. At this point, I must admit to my general gardening Credo:

‘let ’em eat sun/soil/air/water’ (and leave me alone!)

– so I eminently qualify as a trueblood Orphanic Gardener as I practice the philosophy that – everything should be left to the intelligence, survival skills and hardwork of the poor orphaned plants and that my responsibility ends when I merely plant something and then-after, the plant/seed has to enjoy and thrive  in a state of complete  abandonment.

But then, I was quite curious about the plant.

During our next visit to the hills, once again Sonati lovingly packed a plantling for me. And this time, I took sufficient care (just sufficient, not much more, which please note; definitely, I don’t want my orphanic gardening certification and credentials cruelly snatched away from me!) – moved it frantically from place to place – from shade to sunnyside and then to semisunnywards and then to the terrace and then to a greenhouse (makeshift) and all that – till it survived.

Finally. Survived. It really did! *phew*

And then there was this question of its babies – and as to how to propagate the plant. This again took a struggle and finally I have a few seedlings now.

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It is really sad that, the Kothamalli  as I used to know does not seem to be available at all these days. Chronically planted as HYVs and saturated with diammonium phosphates, the lush and unbelievably long stemmed green Corianders of these days are neither fragrant not pungent. Quite  sad.

And the seeds that we get off the grocers (these seeds are used heavily for seasoning of Indian food items) or the seedsellers are so sterile that the germination rates are so low. I tried these hybrid seeds twice in the recent past – but both times I got ZERO germination; may be I should get seeds of some ‘naatti’ (indigenous, OP – Open Pollinated seed) variety from somewhere, but am digressing…

Of course there is an urgent need to preserve our wealth of OP, indigenous seeds as well as to grow edible/non-edible plants/trees from all over the world rather systematically – so that we have a lot of non GM alternatives to choose from – whether they are originally native to our terrains or transplanted from some other geographical area – it does not matter. :-)

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Now, on to the details of the plant: After a bit of research, I found out that it is actually – Long Coriander (Eryngium foetidum, belonging to the Apiaceae (parsley) family – which actually is the same family of our good ol’ Dhania – Coriander sativum! But the leaves of Maan Dhonia and Dhania are highly unlike each other. And it looks like our Maan Dhonia is from Caribbean islands – and seems to have reached India via  Far East.

But, I could not figure out as to how it reached Thailand (where it is called pak chi farang – farang once again seems to be a variant of our own firangi which in turn has originated from the Arabic name (faranj) for Franks who were the main feedstock for those ghastly Crusaders and all!

Farang is something similar to ‘Maan’ and is used in the context of outside/outsiders and other places. Apparently.

Anyway, am happy that Maan Dhonia has reached my plate and palate. Yum.

Etymology (thanks to Sri Gernot Katzer) of our Little Green Pal from the hills,  seems to be fascinating.

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Now, for some pics: This is the top view of my precious  Eryngium foetidum plant… where you can see the mulching made of shredded Newspapers  – I love my trashy ‘The Hindu!’ – I use it extensively in my Garden. Yeah. It composts nicely. ;-)

This is another pic:

These other  pictures are actually from Srimaan Katzer and it gives a much better view of the closeup of the leaves of Maan Dhonia. :-)

Maan Dhonia ki Jai. ;-)

JournalEntry# August 14, 2008

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