We have had a lovely chat with Jalal. He has a small allotment at the Maxwell and another at Tayview community gardens. He has been growing a mix of vegetables in these for about 8 years after discovering his passion for gardening.
His prize sized produce always gets us all talking about how good he is at gardening and makes us very jealous!
“This is my favourite hobby. I enjoy the work and the exercise, I used to go to the gym, but I don’t need it anymore with all the digging I do! At the end of the day, I also get fresh vegetable. Even in the winter, under the rain, I like to go and see what is growing. It’s like my baby.”
Jalal highlighted the benefits of community gardens in the city: “In different communities in Dundee many people have plots now and this helps them to do something good for their health.”
He has shared a few of the edible plants he grows that are commonly used in Bangladesh, also in India and Pakistan, and that can be grown here in Dundee:
LAAL SHAK – Red amaranth leaves
The Laal shak red leaves are very common in Bangladesh, they grow quite tall and are very nutritious and tasty. They are similar to beets and swiss chard but are closer to their ancestors, so they are a better source of protein, vitamins and minerals. Jalal recommends making a stir fry with these, adding some garlic and onion into olive oil, chillis can go well too, and then the leaves. This goes well with chapatis or meat.
LAI SHAK– Mustard leaves
Also quite common and popular in stir fries, but also as mash (bhorta), fish curry or bhaja (fried). There is an interesting recipe from the area of Sylheti which combines these greens with smashed prawns, seasoned with shallot, turmeric, red chillies and coriander.
DHANE – Coriander
This is Jalal’s favourite as “it adds a very good flavour to most of the curries, it makes it more tasty”. It is also used as a main ingredient for some dishes, for example for Mughlai Parata, stuffed flatbread, a favourite evening snack. The filling consists of chopped fresh coriander with egg, onion and green chillies. It can be served with cucumber, onion and green chilli salad by the side.
An interesting fact, Bangladeshi coriander seeds have, just this month, been sent into space for astronauts to research!
LAU or BANGLA KODU – Bottle gourd looks similar to marrow but it’s a climber that does very well in a polytunnel. Jalal says it goes very well with fish and prawn dishes. Lau Ghonto is also very popular in Bengali cuisine, cooked with dry yellow lentils and spices.
SHALGAM – Turnip – Can be used to make delicious bhajis, curries and a spicy mash. Jalal recommends combining with tender lamb.
SPICES – nigella, fenugreek and fennel seeds can all be grown in Scotland outdoors (They can all be found in the Maxwell garden when in season). Together with black pepper and cumin they make the Bengali “five spices” mix, Paanch Phoron.
Jalal also grows other vegetables used in Bangladesh such as potato (aloo), tomato, onion, garlic, marrows and Chinese pumpkin. As you can see from his photos, he has very green fingers and we are all very jealous of his prize sized and quality vegetables.
Thank you Jalal for sharing this with us!
Interview and article by Manuela de los Rios