The best, exotic marigolds
We picked our way through stems of marigolds with their puff-ball flowers of tangerine, ochre and vermillion. The air was alive with the wings of butterflies which fluttered leisurely from bloom to bloom. A lady wrapped in a dappled fuschia sari darted away from seiving grain from chaff and took refuge in a hut made of sticks. A young Mother and her daughter strolled, not so casually, through the flowers knowing full well how photogenic they were. Adil caught a little black bee by the wings to show to the group. Rashed pulled the seeds from a dried flower head and displayed the spiky treasure in the palm of his hand.
In rural Rajasthan we saw many marigolds; they are used in abundance in religious ceremonies, but here they were planted as a companion crop to deter pests.
Calendula Officianalis or ‘pot marigold’ attracts beneficial insects and has natural antimicrobial properties.
It’s not a practice used widely by the visiting U.A.E. organic farmers at present, but Rashed explained that when he uses the petals in his chicken feed they lay eggs with yolks as golden as the marigolds. This small trade of knowledge between an Emirati farmer who has decades of experience with an Indian farmer who is drawing on a legacy of centuries of toil, trial and error on the land, encapsulates what this whole trip was about.
The sun warmed our backs and we wandered back past cows, haystacks, down a lane which looked like it could have been plucked from the English countryside, to drink tea with the farmer and his family.
I traveled from the U.A.E. to Rajasthan, India in November 2014 with four organic farmers on a knowledge-exchange trip with Indian organic farmers, organised by Baker and Spice and Down to Earth. This is the first in a series of short stories about a weekend full of fascinating experiences.