As we move to bigger urban centers, and into smaller and smaller lots and apartments, we are removed more and more from the food we eat, from the act of growing our own food. Much of what was once common in every home garden is gradually getting lost, at least to us city folk. My parents maintain a small garden patch in their urban lot and even in that tiny space my mom forages for amaranth. Yes, forage; they don’t grow it from seed, it just volunteers! When we were younger and had a large kitchen garden inside the IITD campus, kulfa (purslane) was another green found growing wild.
My father and his brothers are avid gardeners. Even in the constraints of their urban homes, you will find them pottering around. My uncle, in Pune, gardens out of huge planters on his rooftop growing runner beans, and Kashmiri favourites haak, sotchal (common mallow), and monjji (kohl rabi). I have been very lucky, despite an urban upbringing, to have grown up in a home with a garden, and knowing a little about how food makes it to the table. In my own typical city house I grow herbs in pots, I have a curry leaf tree and a lime tree, and grape vines that climb up the pergola on my first floor terrace.
Many wild greens used to be part of a regular Kashmiri diet – abuj, vopal haak, vasta haak, hund, to name just a few. Today, I would be hard pressed to even identify them.