Urban harvest 2019 Food

Where to shop for exotic organic greens in India

Genovese basil, Kisano, Mumbai: Mumbai-based brothers, Brian (29) and Benjamin Zehr (25), started operations at Kisano in 2018 after spending a year building the in-house technology for their vertical farming facility. Located across 7,000 sq ft in two locations (one in South Mumbai and the other outside the city), Kisano uses hydroponic technology to grow crops such as Tuscan kale, heirloom lettuce and snack tomatoes in areas that do not have the space for a traditional farm. Kisano’s Genovese basil (available in purple and green) is a “sensory experience”, says Brian. And to enjoy the leaves at its best, it has to be consumed soon after harvest. “There’s a big difference between the aromas of the basil on day one versus day five, post-harvest. We see it in pesto, pastas, salads, sandwiches and on burrata dishes. Chef Rishim Sachdeva at Olive Bar & Kitchen has done some amazingly creative things with it.”
The motivation to start, says Benjamin, who studied Agriculture and International Development at Cornell, was two-pronged. “How do we feed the next billion people (annually, $9 billion of produce is wasted in Idia because of supply chain inefficiency)?” The second factor was one of delivery: how do you provide city dwellers with fresh crops within hours of harvest, when they taste the best? The first trial crop was lettuce, and now Kisano has over 50 types of produce. “Temperature, humidity, day length — these are all things that impact flavour and shelf life,” explains Benjamin. Hydroponic technology, says Brian, who studied plant biology at the University of Illinois, works efficiently. “We use 95% less water than field agriculture, and depending on the crop, we are able to produce 100 times more from the same land footprint.” And data collection is a big part of the process. “We’re collecting thousands of data points daily.” That information, he hopes, will be useful not just to Kisano, but also to farmers who practise more traditional methods of agriculture. Details: kisano.in (By Sindhuri Nandhakumar)
Biodynamic herbs, Yarroway Farm, Mysore: Kabir Cariappa set set up the farm with his wife, Anjali Rudraraju, as a tribute to their favourite herb, the yarrow. “We aspire for our farms to be resilient and curative like the yarrow plant,” says Rudraraju who gave up a corporate job in New York and enrolled in an organic farming course, where she met Cariappa. New plants are added at the flagship farm in Mysore every season. And this season, it’s all about biodynamic herbs: yarrow, nettle, chamomile, dandelion and valerian. “We call them ‘biodynamic’ because they are an integral part of our farming. They are used in our compost preparations and also grown all around the farm to balance the energies,” says Rudraraju. On the 50-acre farm, you will also notice rows of culinary and medicinal trees such as Arjuna, Indian Laurel, Mahagony, Saraca Indica, Sarsaparilla, Chakramani, Aegle Marmelos, Flame of The Forest, Cannon Ball, Soapnut and Kokum. At present, the duo is growing these variants for personal consumption as they need to thrive in special conditions (sufficient shade, regular irrigation) to survive the summer heat. This includes herbs such as nettle, chamomile and dandelion, among a host of others that fall under the farm’s larger ‘organic’ label. But what you can buy off their online store at yarrowayfarm.com are Bergamot-Mint and Roselle-Hibiscus teas (₹200 for 40 gms), dried calendula flowers (₹250 for 40 gms), stinging nettle leaf (₹200 for 20 gms). (By Lavanya Narayanan)
New plants are added at the flagship farm in Mysore every season. And this season, it’s all about biodynamic herbs: yarrow, nettle, chamomile, dandelion and valerian. On the 50-acre farm, you will also notice rows of culinary and medicinal herbs such as Arjuna, Indian Laurel, Mahagony, Saraca Indica, Sarsaparilla, Chakramani, Aegle Marmelos, Flame of The Forest, Cannon Ball, Soapnut and Kokum. “We call them ‘biodynamic’ because they are an integral part of our farming. They are used in our compost preparations and also grown all around the farm to balance the energies,” says Rudraraju.
At present, the duo is growing these variants for personal consumption as they need to thrive in special conditions (sufficient shade, regular irrigation) to survive the summer heat. This includes herbs such as nettle, chamomile and dandelion, among a host of others that fall under the farm’s larger ‘organic’ label. But what you can buy off their online store at yarrowayfarm.com are Bergamot-Mint and Roselle-Hibiscus teas (₹200 for 40 gms), dried calendula flowers (₹250 for 40 gms), stinging nettle leaf (₹200 for 20 gms), and a wide range of vegetables and organic grains. (By Lavanya Narayanan)
Mesclun, French Farm, New Delhi: A quarter of a century ago, French national Roger Langbour decided to turn farmer after a busy career in his country’s Air Force and working in the Embassy of France in New Delhi. A farm on the Delhi-Jaipur highway, off Manesar, captured his heart and he began raising quality livestock, before moving on to organic farming. Today, Langbour, 76, raises 12 varieties of lettuce such as mesclun and lolarosa, carrots, asparagus, broccoli, watercress, and herbs such as parsley and chives on his three-acre farm. What catches the eye is the mesclun. The French approach to salad greens, traditional mesclun is foraged from the wild and comprises early sweet lettuces and tangy, tender greens. This gives it a balance of colour, texture and flavours that range from sweet and tender to bitter and pungent.
In the summer, Langbour cultivates okra, cucumber and other native vegetables. Most of this produce is pre-booked and delivered to the 100 regular customers who keep the farm going. Italian ristorante Artusi, with branches in Gurgaon and Greater Kailash II, is a regular buyer. Says owner Oscar Balcon, “We’ve been sourcing our vegetables and meat from Roger for over five years. The carrots in particular are tasty and juicy.” Helping Langbour on the farm are thousands of ladybirds, which attack common insects. On a regular day, he’s up by 5 am and heads to the fields, because “a farmer has no fixed working time”. In the weekends, he shifts to his Gurgaon home, before heading back to begin the week afresh on the farm. 09810166196 (by Subha J Rao)
Oakleaf lettuce, Madhavi Farms, Bengaluru: When Krishnamoorthy Vijayakumar began producing red and green oakleaf lettuce, the demand was negligible at best. “No one really knew what it was,” he admits. Now, his 20-year-old venture, Madhavi Farms, produces approximately 100 kg a month and the demand is still growing. Gaurav Anand, the newly-appointed executive chef at Bengaluru’s Sheraton Grand, loves incorporating the oakleaf into his exotic organic salads like the Tomato and Bocconcini. “It’s popular among gated communities, members of the Bangalore Club, chef Anirudh Amin at the Marriott Group of Hotels, and chef Anthony at Goldman Sachs Kitchen, largely because they’ve now been exposed to the oakleaf,” says Vijayakumar.
Take a tour of the 20-acre bio hotspot, however, and there’s much more than lettuce that catches the eye. “There’s glass gem corn, parsley, Thai basil, Swiss chard and butterhead lettuce. But this is the real star,” he points out as he picks up a stalk of kale. The superfood has a myriad health benefits and its anti-cancer properties have customers flocking. “We produce about 1.25 tons of a variety of kale per month,” says Vijayakumar. With recent additions like a 60,000 sq ft aquaponics unit, the challenges are endless. “We use almost 80% solar power. Even though we’re only 15 kilometres from the city, power supply is a definite issue.” And yet, he hasn’t let that impede high-stakes production. ₹250 to ₹300 per kilo, on madhavifarms.com, bigbasket.com and healthybuddha.in. (By Lavanya Narayanan)
Mizuna, Living Food Company, Bengaluru: It was the summer of 2017 when Akash Sajith’s life changed forever. His mother was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. A year later, his father discovered he had stage four peritoneal cancer. The news shook Sajith, prompting a revelation that set his life’s course: we truly are what we eat. “It birthed Living Foods Company, an enterprise dedicated to growing microgreens, or baby plants that contain up to 40 times the nutrition found in their mature counterparts,” he says.
The small, passionate venture blossomed into an enterprise, now serving top hotel chains such as Shangri-La, The Hilton, ITC Hotels and over 2,000 households in the city. Offering fermented kombucha alongside 22 different microgreens, their mizuna, or Japanese mustard, has been one of the most coveted since they began growing it a year ago. “We use non-GMO, USDA-approved premium seeds from Japan, and we grow them in our climate-controlled farms hydroponically on coir mats and hemp fibres,” says Sajith. He points out that they don’t harvest any of their greens. “We deliver them with the roots intact and our customers cut it and put it in their food. Technically, they harvest our products.”
The mizuna has even made its way to chef and food blogger Monika Manchanda’s menu. Last December, the Bengaluru-based culinary expert paired the microgreen with duck for a special Christmas feast, calling the result a ‘revelation unto its own’. Her Zucchini Corn Fritters use a generous portion of it, too. It’s a common ingredient used in nabe or Japanese hot-pot, and when sautéed, mizuna retains its moisture and sops up any cooking liquid you use. Meal subscription plans (₹1,000 onwards) are available at livingfood.co. (By Lavanya Narayanan)