Stay at home and grow more food | Daily News
Saubhagya: The National Home Gardening/Food Production Drive:

Stay at home and grow more food

You are stuck at home due to the deadly COVID-19 threat! What can you do other than watching television, listening to music, cooking, eating and sleeping? The routine seems to be the same.

Renowned British Gardener Monty Don writing a piece in the British newspaper Daily Mail says “There’s never been a better time to grow your own produce.” Giving tips to grow vegetables, fruits in a series of articles he says for the cost of a packet of seeds, you can raise hundreds of plants.

We in Sri Lanka too can follow Monty Don’s advice and start our own back garden. The Government has also introduced a programme to encourage people to start home gardens called, “Saubhagya” National Program On Harvesting and Cultivation. The Ministry of Irrigation, Mahaweli Development and Agriculture is offering packets of seeds at Rs.20 per pack to encourage people to cultivate foods of their choice.

We will start with Karapincha or curry leaves which is an essential ingredient linked to the taste of your food.


The curry tree (Murrayakoenigii) or curry leaf tree is a tropical to sub-tropical tree. Karapincha leaf adds a special flavor to every dish. It is also packed with carbohydrates, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, irons and vitamins such as vitamin A, B and E. Karapincha leaves help your heart function better, fights infection and can enlivenyour hair and skin with vitality. Some of the other health benefits are: Helps keep anaemia at bay, fights diabetes, improves digestion, lowers cholesterol and also prevents greying of hair.

Karapincha leaf sambol is another method of consuming this healthy and nutritious leaf. Karapincha congee (porridge) is a mixture of a cup or two of finely shredded leaves, grated coconut, chopped garlic and ginger, a teaspoon of mustard powder and pepper and salt to taste.


Gotukola (Centella asiatica) is a herb in the parsley family. It is commonly used in Traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine.

It is also said Gotukola is used for burns, poor circulation that can lead to varicose veins (venous insufficiency), scars, stretch marks, and many other conditions. Among alternative practitioners, Gotukola is attributed with many health benefits, ranging from the treatment of infections (such as the common cold, shingles, swine flu, and cholera) to the prevention of Alzheimer's disease, blood clots, and even pregnancy. Others assert that Gotukola can treat or prevent anxiety, asthma, depression, diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, indigestion, and stomach ulcers.

Gotukola contains Vitamins A, G, and K and is also high in magnesium and also contains certain chemicals that seem to decrease inflammation and also decrease blood pressure in veins. Gotukola also seems to increase collagen production, which is important for wound healing. Gotukola can be an aphrodisiac and treats high blood pressure. Recent studies show that the herb has positive effects on the circulatory system. It seems to improve the flow of blood throughout the body by strengthening the veins and capillaries.

Gotukola grows in two ways – Bush and Creepers.

Dambala (winged bean)

Dambala or winged bean is one of the very important legumes that should be given priority in the home garden as it is considered as one of the most versatile edible vegetable of tropical origin. The plant is a climber in the Fabaceae family and closely related to the pole beans. Its scientific name is Psophocarpus tetragonolobus ascribing to its fleshy four-angled fruit pod. Dambala is one of its own kind of plants since almost all the parts of the plant including immature pods, mature seeds, tender leaves and shoots, flowers and tubers can be used in cuisine.

Known to be one of the lowest calorie vegetables carrying only 49 calories per 100g, the winged bean contains a very high protein content similar to that of the soybean. The tender young winged bean is the most delicious. Not only is it high in flavour, 100 g of such beans provide 66g (16.5%) of daily requirement of folates, 18.3 mg (31%) of vitamin C and is also endowed with abundant minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, manganese, magnesium and phosphorus.

Green chillies

Can we think of a meal without a dash of green chillies ? Slit, sliced, chopped or diced, we just have to add a few green chillies to add that tang to our food. A green chilli is an important star in our cooking and hence in the home garden too. Green chillies contain water and have no cholesterol content, making them a healthier alternative to many spices.

Some of you can't eat food with it while the other half relish almost everything with a little bit of this vitamin C agent. In fact, a lot of you out there like to munch it raw. Green chilli is rich in vitamin B6, vitamin A, iron, copper, potassium and a small amount of protein and carbohydrates.

Loaded with capsaicin--a chemical compound that makes chilli peppers taste hot, you can eat it raw, fried or in a roasted form along with salads and as a side dish in your main meals.

Green chilli is a rich source of vitamin C and eating it helps in keeping your skin healthy and glowing.

Consuming green chillies can help in the digestion process since it is very high in vitamin C. Also, foods that release saliva while chewing help in proper digestion of the food; thus eating green chillies aids in digestion. In addition as green chilli helps in burning the excess fats of the body, it helps in weight loss and thus increases the metabolism of your body.

People suffering from diabetes must include green chillies in their diet because it can take care of the increased sugar level and can further help in creating a balance in the body. Green chillies are also loaded with antioxidants that protect the body against free radicals by acting as natural scavengers. Green chillies can also keep prostate problems at bay.

Ma or Long bean

Another interesting vegetable which can be planted in your home garden is Ma or Long bean. "Ma Karal" is a common vegetable in Sri Lanka, native to Asian countries and widely cultivated in Dry Zone and wet zone. It is closely related to the Green Bean and also has many varieties subspecies, and many hybrids.

Long Beans, like other beans, belong to the family of plants known as legumes (Leguminosae or Fabaceae).

Long beans are good source of protein, vitamin A, thiamin, riboflavin, iron, phosphorus, and potassium, and a very good source of vitamin C, folate, magnesium, and manganese.

Long beans work best briefly steamed, stir-fried, or braised, but also hold up well when added to stews. If you want them to be more juicy, blanch before stir frying. Long beans should be cut into 1-2 inch lengths for cooking. They should be stir fried or boiled, rather than steamed, which tends to make them too soft.

Vatakolu or Luffa

Vatakolu or Luffa is a genus of tropical and subtropical vines in the cucumber Family. Luffaa cutangula is commercially grown for its unripe fruits as a vegetable. Mature fruits are used as natural cleaning sponges. Its fruit slightly resembles a cucumber or zucchini with ridges. It ranges from central and eastern Asia to southeastern Asia.

Vatakolu offers many health benefits. Women use it to restore absent menstrual periods. Nursing mothers use it to increase milk flow. It contains insulin-like peptides, alkaloids and charantin, all of which act together to lower blood and urine sugar levels without increasing blood insulin levels and is also beneficial for weight loss.

It is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, high in dietary fibre, vitamin C, riboflavin, zinc, thiamin, iron, magnesium and manganese.

Karawila or Bitter gourd

Despite the bitter taste Karawila or Bitter gourd is popular due to its medicinal properties and should be a must in your home garden. The origin of the crop is unknown, but it is widely spread throughout the tropics. The fruit is a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B. In Sri Lanka Bitter gourd is consumed as a vegetable. It can be successfully grown on elevations from sea level to about 1200m. It can be cultivated in low country and mid country during both seasons. The fruit can be used as a vegetable as well as a medicine for diabetics and vermifuge. While we’ve been so busy condemning its bitter taste, we’ve not only overlooked this fact but also the wide range of benefits that drinking bitter gourd juice offers. Bitter gourd juice contains a train of important nutrients ranging from iron, magnesium and vitamin to potassium and vitamin C. An excellent source of dietary fiber, it also contains twice the calcium of spinach, beta-carotene of broccoli, and the potassium of a banana.

A quick tip to reduce the bitterness of the drink is to add some honey or jaggery to it or pair it with sweet fruits like apple or pears. You can even add lemon juice to lessen the harsh taste of the bitter juice. A pinch of black pepper and ginger can also decrease the tartness. The taste however, needs to be developed because contrary to its name bitter gourd is in fact sweet for your health.

Bitter gourd contains an insulin-like compound called Polypeptide-p or p-insulin which has been shown to control diabetes naturally.

Got too much of Bacchus in your system after a crazy night of partying? You can get rid of it quite swiftly by sipping some bitter gourd juice which wipes out the intoxication settled in your liver. The juice cleanses your bowel as well as heals many liver problems.

Bitter gourd fights viruses and bacteria and strengthens your immunity. It prevents allergies and indigestion. The antioxidants work as powerful defense mechanisms against illness and also help fight free-radical damage that can cause various types of cancer. If you dislike it cooked, stir frying is a very popular option that magically takes the bitterness away.


Kangkung which is scientifically identified as Ipomoea aquatica grows in water or on moist soil. Its stems are 2–3 metres (7–10 ft) or longer, rooting at the nodes, and they are hollow and can float. It flourishes naturally in waterways, and requires little if any care. It is used extensively in Indonesian, Burmese, Thai, Lao, Cambodian, Malay, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Chinese cuisine.

Water spinach or Kang kung is a very famous plant all over Asia. In Sri Lanka we find it everywhere there is enough water for it to grow.

In restaurants this dish is a very famous & an expensive dish. You can all ways adjust the amount of garlic that you like and also the spices. If you can find a place where water is found you can plant Kangkung there.

If you can plan out a home garden with these plants during this period of compulsory home stay you won’t regret your efforts in the future.

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