The Chir Pine: Pinus roxburghii

I’ve been fascinated by the chir pine Pinus roxburghii (Pinus longifolia) for quite some time and realised that I haven’t yet put down a post on it. I’ve marvelled at its beauty both at Sattal and also Mussoorie in Uttarakhand, India.  Unfortunately it is sad to see villagers set whole slopes of the forest on fire which is taken up by the layer of dry pine needles covering the mountain slopes. The villagers do it so that grass would grow again on the ground between the trees for them to take home back to their cattle. It is also suspected that the land mafia does this to deliberately deforest areas in connivance with the authorities which they can then encroach upon and sell. This is easy to do as the pine is rich in resin and catches fire easily even when wet. Continue reading The Chir Pine: Pinus roxburghii

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The quest for natural hair dye

To dye, or not to dye. Most people have to deal with this question sooner or later. Although I am quite comfortable with my greying hair, it can sometimes get awkward when everyone around you colors their hair. It probably depends on your culture, but honestly, hanging out with friends who are your age or older but who look younger than you with respect to hair color is a bit difficult -especially if you are still single. Your friends too wouldn’t like to look like they are hanging out with the uncle. Continue reading The quest for natural hair dye

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Making your own own coffee powder

Coffee has been one of my all time favorites since childhood. I can vaguely remember begging for coffee from my grandma and pestering my cousin sisters’ back home for coffee all through the day. The only difference was while my grandmother used filter coffee, my cousin sisters’ had made the move to instant coffee. I never realized that one day I’d come full circle and go back to filter coffee! Continue reading Making your own own coffee powder

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Harvesting and processing Arrowroot

Arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea) is a familiar name. As kids it was a kind of a sister to castor oil which mum sometimes spooned into our mouths. It was bland and insipid and that was the beginning of my childhood hatred for any kind of porridge and of Arrowroot biscuits which has thankfully now passed. Arrowroot derives its name from its past medicinal use in which it was used as a poultice to treat wounds inflicted by poisoned arrows. Continue reading Harvesting and processing Arrowroot

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Harvesting and processing Turmeric

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a spice which is very familiar in Asia. It is usually used powdered and is one of the easiest to identify due to its bright orange-yellow color. However it is often adulterated and then colored with artificial colors. If you have a small garden patch, it is very easy to grow turmeric on your own. It is almost maintenance free and takes care of itself provided the weather is not too cold and there is good rainfall.  Continue reading Harvesting and processing Turmeric

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The coconut palm: Cocos nucifera

My posts on coastal South Karnataka or on botany wouldn’t be complete without a post on the almost revered (here in India) coconut palm. It must have been among my first few sights after I was conscious enough to explore outside my grandmothers house. I remember woven fronds of the coconut palm acting as rain shields in the open sitting area called the jagali in Tulu. Coconut was part of every meal and coconut oil was involved in many of the folk medicines and hair oils and also used for massage. Continue reading The coconut palm: Cocos nucifera

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Mexican Poppy: Argemone Mexicana

I first noticed this plant next to a friend’s house in Faridabad, Haryana. It had leaves with sharp spines, yellow cup shaped flowers with overlapping petals with a white film covering the green parts. I asked the watch man who is from the Siwan district of Bihar in India what kind of plant it was and he told me that it  was called Bhajkatiya. I asked the boy who does odds and ends in our office who is also from Bihar, he told me that it was called Bhadbhadiya back home.


Continue reading Mexican Poppy: Argemone Mexicana

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