Author: Georgie Legg
There’s something special and rewarding about cooking and eating what you have grown in your own back garden.
Our Organic Herb and Vegetable Garden at Sher Bagh is space of sprouting delectables which contains two dozen freshly grown fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, (including five kinds of lettuce alone). We use these ingredients on a daily basis in all our dishes; salads, pastas, curries, teas and not to mention, the bar as well.
There are innumerable reasons why growing your own food is valuable, ranging from health benefits to the inimitable flavour that these produce. It is also remarkably easier to maintain than you may think – all you need to do is recognise a plant’s needs. For example, mint is generally quite a thirsty plant and so needs more water while a herb like basil has a relatively fragile leaf and therefore needs a lighter sprinkling of hydration.
Here are some of Sher Bagh’s favourite vegetable, herbs and spices that we cannot stop using, not only in our food menus but some of our cocktails which have been inspired by this very garden.
GINGER, zingiber officinale
Ginger, native to Southeast Asia, has such a remarkable, strong, particular flavour, and is best enjoyed fresh from the ground. Ginger was traditionally used to warm the stomach and dispel chills and is rich in Vitamin C. It’s easy to see why, at Sher Bagh, we go through around half a kilogram of ginger every single day! This constant use of ginger is mainly appreciated by our guests returning from their game drives with a cool bite in the air and are met with our warming ginger tea straight off from the jeep. Other than tea, we use it to flavour our curries, sauces, pickles and confections.
AUBERGINE, solanum melongena
The aubergine, or if you live in the US, eggplant, originates from India and Sri Lanka, and is a nutrient-dense food. It is a plant in the same genus (solanum) as tomato (s. lycopersicum) but is also surprisingly related to the potato (s. tuberosum). From its inception the aubergine will produce approximately 60-65 aubergine fruits before the plant dies.
A favourite Sher Bagh recipe that use aubergines is Baingan Ka Bharta, a dish where we roast our aubergines in a tandoor oven, mince them with tomatoes, onions and spices and finally smoke it all over charcoal. This dish is a perfect addition to anyone’s thali.
FENUGREEK, trigonella foenum graecum
Fenugreek is an annual plant of the legume family indigenous to Western Asia that grows 2–3 feet tall, with a strong odour and small pale yellow flowers. The seed of the fenugreek plant contains plenty of active compounds including iron and many other vitamins and minerals. Due to the raw, bitter taste, we tend to roast and grind the seeds before use, to mellow the bitterness. Besides, from seasoning and flavouring, we mix our fenugreek with potato in our heavenly aloo methi.
YELLOW CARROT, daucus carota
The yellow carrot was first cultivated in the Afghanistan region and then spread to Central and North Asia. It is grown specifically to yield sweeter flavour at maturity while also retaining a firm and crunchy texture. They are easy to grow and maintain as they are resistant to heat, drought, salinity, pests and diseases. Although great to eat raw, they are also fantastic to use in gajar ki sabji. A dish where you firstly gently boil the carrots in water before cooking them in ghee with a host of complimentary herbs and spices including cumin, coriander and turmeric to give the whole dish a delicious rounded flavour.
MINT, mentha spicata
Mint is grown all year round and is most abundant in summer time, making it highly accessible and attainable in a climate that Sher Bagh is in. Mint has many soothing and refreshing qualities, and is frequently used in our menu such as our green pea and mint soup which just as refreshing cold as it is hot. But our bar team have also used this organic mint as their inspiration to some of our cocktails: we highly recommend trying the green sapphire which our own mint and ginger is used to titillate the taste buds!