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    With French recipes and Indian ingredients, a group of priests make conserves to support an NGO

    We don’t know what you do when life gives you lemons. But if it’s mangoes you’ve got, call on Denis Chane and Peter Tiberghien, the missionaries who will teach you how to make preservative-free French conserves. It’s 14 years since the French Catholic priests left their country to join Irudaya Niketan, a Bangalore-based NGO that works with the poor and excluded, and they, along with other priests and volunteers, run the Irudaya Niketan Trust near Nenmeli Village in Chengalpet. Their home is a 24 acre farm at the foot of a hill, where they grow around 500 mango trees. “This place was originally a mango grove when Irudaya Niketan bought it. We decided to develop it into a farm,” says Tiberghien, who hails from Lille in the North of France.
    Mangoes & more
    With vegetables, fruits (guava, banana, sapota and recently, figs) and a few cattle to tend to, the community of around 20 people have their hands full. But despite growing several varieties of mangos, they still didn’t make much from their sale and decided to try jams instead. “A few French chefs who were here for a month made about 20-25 jams and gave us the recipes,” smiles Chane. The native of Reunion island, who makes frequent trips to Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry to sell their Garden Delight jams, adds that they finally narrowed it down to seven flavours. Of these, five are combinations of mango with other ingredients including ginger, guava, green lemon, kiwi and vanilla, while the others are Pineapple Banana and their best seller — Fig Honey. With fruits like kiwi sourced from the Koyambedu market and vanilla from a French lady who grows it at a farm near Bangalore, Chane shares that their jams use zero preservatives and last weeks if stored in a fridge. “Unopened, they last a whole year,” he beams.
    Lend a hand
    Retailing in Chennai (at Tryst, Ginger Bread), Bangalore, Mahabalipuram and Pondicherry (they supply to hotels like La Villa Shanti, Mango Hill and Maison Perumal), Garden Delight invites anyone interested in being a part of harvesting the mangoes and making these jams during the season. “We get volunteers from Europe, on mission work throughout the year,” Tiberghien shares. But going by the number of monkeys (close to 100) that descend on the trees during June-July (mango season), they could certainly use all the help they can get to continue making these delicious, natural jams (even the paper bags that the jam bottles are sold in, are handmade by Elsa, a member of the community). But since there are no mangoes to pick on our visit this breezy weekend, we grab a few bottles of jam, neatly wrapped with colour-coded bows and labels proclaiming ‘Made In India’.
    From RS 140 onwards for 190gms. Details: 9943776511, gardendelight.in
    Ryan Peppin

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