Meet: Indira Naidoo, passionate balcony gardener
Former ABC and SBS newsreader Indira Naidoo followed her passion for food all the way to a balcony garden - and a book, ‘The Edible Balcony’. Linda Ross spoke with her about the value of gardening skills, and how she hopes to inspire visitors to the Australian Garden Show Sydney to turn their gardens into places for play.
When did your love affair with growing food begin?
I come from an Indian background and was born in South Africa. I travelled a lot through Zimbabwe, was schooled in Tasmania and South Australia, and now I reside in Sydney. My mother and father grew the traditional herbs and spices you couldn’t buy at that time in Australia. I have always been obsessed with food and I think food’s a great motivation for new gardeners. Your struggles are rewarded by a harvest of something delicious.
Do you have a favourite ingredient you like to grow?
My curry tree touches the roof of my city balcony and I prune it like an umbrella, it has beautiful shade and abundant branches. Whenever I brush past it releases its volatile oils. It loves growing by the coast. I cook with it a lot. I add it to the onions braising for a curry, or place a few leaves on top of cooking rice and let the flavour steam through. Deep fried curry leaves are delicious on top of a fish curry. I sometimes put some leaves in a zip lock bag and send them to friends and family – they adore it.
Has your cooking changed since you started your balcony garden?
I look to my garden and see what’s ripe then find a recipe to match it instead of the other way around. I also think vegetables taste better when they are in season.
What does your role as sustainability ambassador for Australian Garden Show Sydney mean?
I am showcasing the edible and sustainable angle at the show with a 1000 square metre farm/kitchen garden with a twist. So we’ll have all the citrus, strawberries, vegetables, worm farms, chicken runs and bees. We’ll have lots of interesting breeds of chickens, a beautiful chicken house with a built-in herb roof, aquaponics, indigenous fruits and spices, and an urban forest. The twist? An interactive component with a pedal-powered sprinkler, a DIY edible strawberry wall and a merry-go-round in the middle. For me gardens are spaces for play. We’ll have lots of fun over the five days!
Australian Garden Show Sydney, Centennial Park. Photo - Chris Gleisman
You have another inspiring project at the Wayside chapel. Tell us a little about it.
Wayside Chapel has a sustainable building extension with solar panels, water tanks, and a rooftop kitchen garden where we have classes and grow food for the Wayside Cafe. The community garden is a green relaxing space. It gives our visitors a sense of security and sanctuary away from the hustle of the street, and our gardening classes build their confidence. We have trained and skilled our visitors so they can find gardening jobs in the outside world.
Wayside Chapel roof garden.