Trikaya Agriculture Pvt. Ltd supplies 15 tonnes of iceberg lettuce to McDonalds each month and 10 tonnes to Subway. At the 210-acre farms in Talegaon, outside Pune, the company also grows herbs such as basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, sweet marjoram and mint. Samar Gupta, whose father Ravi Gupta started the company 22
years ago, shares his expertise on growing herbs at home:
Tough cookies: Herbs thrive in harsh growing conditions.
• Growing basil and chives in our climate is a no-brainer. They are suited to a tropical climate and can be grown everywhere.
• Herbs such as rosemary, sage, thyme and sweet marjoram need distinct seasons, which Mumbai does not have. They grow much better in Pune. But that does not mean they will not grow in Mumbai or similar climates. You will get an average, healthy plant, but with less yield.
• Sage, basil and chives can be propagated by seeds; you will need cuttings for rosemary, thyme, sweet marjoram and mint.
• There’s no rule for what kind of soil you need, but we use cocoa peat at the farm. This way, the plants are not affected by diseases which are sometimes present in soil.
• Sow the seeds in small pots and protect them for the first two months by keeping them away from direct sunlight. Then transplant them into the pot you want them to grow in. The best season to do the planting is in the monsoon.
• One important tip to keep in mind while growing herbs is that they don’t need pampering. They flourish wild in the harsh, rocky, infertile terrain in Greece. Hard growth increases the aromatic oils in the herbs and makes them more flavourful.
• Herbs need a minimum of 4 hours of direct sunlight, the more the better.
• Do not water them every day. Water basil once in two days and other herbs once in three days. The most common mistake new gardeners make is over-watering plants. Wait till the first one inch of soil is dry. Water the plants only then.
• You can pick the leaves when you feel the plant is healthy enough. But never pick more than one-fourth of the leaves on the plant. To be even more cautious, pick only 20%.
• You can fertilize the plants once in three months. Ask a gardening store or nursery for directions. A water-soluble fertilizer can be added to the irrigation water.
• If you find you have more herbs than you can use, dry and store them. Put them in the oven at the lowest temperature. If your oven gets very hot, leave the door open by a few inches.