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Getting fresh herbs for your kitchens

By Laila Karim

I am writing this piece in response to a Star Lifestyle reader who is keen on this particularly important area of gardening. Although use of herbs in Bengali cuisine is not a new issue, the importance of using fresh herbs is gaining popularity day by day in the kitchens around the world. Nowadays herbs rule the Western, European and East Asian cuisines. Besides their usage in food, herbs are used in drinks too. For example, having tea with dried mint leaves (popular in middle eastern countries) or using fresh mint in hot water to make 'fresh mint tea' during cold winter mornings is not only fashionable, but it also has health benefits. Herbs not only have special roles in making Italian dishes like pizza, salad or pasta, or in roasting chicken/beef etc., or in popular Chinese dishes in Bangladeshi traditional food and drink, herb pastes are used in abundance (for example, in making borhani). From the days of our great grand dadimas/nanimas , herbs have been used as home-remedies for the common cold and cuts.

The word herb comes from the Latin word 'herba' meaning grass and refers to the plants “with leaves, seeds or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume or parts of such a plant as used in cooking' ( The new Oxford American Dictionary). While herb garden planters are more interested in culinary uses (spices provide flavour and taste rather than nutritional substance , e.g. thyme, parsley, bay, coriander, mustered, mint, pepper, onion, garlic, etc.), spices are also used for medicinal and beauty treatment/products such as aloe vera, ginger, basil, spinach, barley, etc. Spiritual or sacred herbs are used in many religious rituals (holy basil or tulsi ) from ancient times.

Herbs can be grown in kitchen gardens or in simple pots, plastic containers/packing boxes, or even in dish-like-pots. Positioning your plants for maximum effect and utilisation of sunlight is important -- maximum sunlight can be utilised by placing the plants according to size, i.e. bigger/taller plants at the back and the smaller ones in the front. Many plants like cilantro, parsley, mint, can be grown in hanging pots too. Look at some popular herbs that can be grown happily in your garden in different seasons.

Cilantro/coriander of the parsley family are grown for it's aromatic leaves (dhone pata) and dried seeds (shukna dhonia) which are used commonly in Bengali cooking. They can grow about two feet high, are cultivated in rows about 18 inches apart, generally from seeds sown in early spring. The seed heads which ripen about midsummer are gathered and dried. Then the dry coriander seeds are preserved for sowing or used to prepare curry.

There are few varieties of coriander/cilantro now available in the markets, (like Vietnamese Cilantro or 'Bilati dhone pata') which have straight long sharp leaves, with a stronger aroma/flavour. You can grow these by using the leftover roots/stalks in any planting pot and have a supply of fresh herbs.

The Bengali name of mint is 'pudina', very common in food recipes, especially for its strong, fresh smell and taste. There is always a need for a supply of fresh mint in the kitchen, specially during Ramadan and while preparing 'borhani'. For both cilantro and mint, after using the leaves, the small branches with roots can be saved for replanting. Carefully pruned stalks and roots will grow successfully in your kitchen garden pots or even from the hanging pots of your apartment balcony.

(Holy) Basil:
Basil is a very common herb used in Mediterranean and Western cuisines, but in south Asia, the common variety of basil is 'Tulshi', which has religious significance and is used widely for its medicinal properties. Dried basil leaves can sustain for more than one year. In early days, almost every Bengali households had basil plants in their backyards, but now basil seedlings can easily be obtained from seeds, available in all nurseries.

Onion / garlic/ginger:
This trio forms the basis of almost all Bengali/Bangladeshi cuisines, and can be grown for home consumption as well as for fun in your own small kitchen garden. Onions, or more excitingly, spring onions (Peyaj koli) will grow happily on a sunny window. Use small onions from your kitchen, plant 4-6 in one pot and then observe the beauty of its leaf and flower -- mature plant leaves can be cut regularly for use in omelets, potatoes, salads, etc.

The same is true of ginger. This essential herb used both fresh and dried can be planted in a pot using with the almost dried part in the soil, which will gradually pop up straight with long green leaves.

Another common Bengali herb is 'Thankuni pata' or centella, which is widely used in South and South-east Asia, mainly for medicinal purpose. The herb is mostly used as a digestive element, cooked as light gravy curry or mashed (bhorta) to cure an upset stomach. Centella is now available in supermarkets.

Now get ready for a herb garden and have a pleasant time.

Herbs like basil, oregano, tarragon, dill, rosemary, thyme, sage, etc. are commonly grown and used in Western countries, but some of these can be found in dried form in Bangladeshi supermarkets too. Basil, oregano, tarragon are used in pizzas, while rosemary, thyme, sage are used for roasting chicken, etc. These herbs grow in Mediterranean climates, so they can be grown in Bangladesh too.

Please feel free to send me emails to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the issues of gardening. Email: lifestyleds@yahoo.com.


Introduction to 'manconceptions'

Men are easily one of the most misunderstood bunch in the entire world, second only to aliens. Today we turn this misunderstanding into man-understanding to get you more comfortable with your masculinity. Let's turn our attention to some of the misconceptions and clear the air with the first lesson in Manconceptions 101.

Direct line to the grapevine
You always hear that men don't gossip but only women do. Knowing this keeps us men from lending an ear to the rumour mill and hence we miss out on the biggest news of the year.

Well, you can rest assured; men do gossip. The idea that men don't is probably a conspiracy to keep us from learning the truth and always finding ourselves at the receiving end of every accusation because we just didn't check out the armoury.

Now, you are more than free to gossip. Men gossip, if not as much, then almost the same as women, except our gossip is more humourous and banter-like. Men don't slander, unless we really have to. Indulging in gossip isn't feminine but rather an excellent way to strengthen bonds and remain in the loop. Men start the gossip fire and women add the fuel; no wonder we don't get burned often.

No woman, no cry
Bob Marley summed it up best using the above lines. He also made another important revelation; men do cry. They don't cry as frequently and without reason as the fairer sex, but they do cry. When men cry, it's always something that's a big deal and believe it or not, men cry quite frequently.

We will not shed tears about what someone said about us or when you did not notice our haircut but we will cry when we are very hurt. Men are sensitive like that. Even the hardest and most vicious men cry; consider 2pac, Hitler or even the little cry-baby Tolstoy.

Men are much more sensitive but we don't keep our emotions right on the surface. If it was acceptable for us to cry in society, we'd be bawling our eyes out over everything. Therefore, if you cried during the Pursuit of Happiness or whilst watching 7 Pounds or even Lion King, trust us, you aren't alone. It's ok to let go sometimes.

The cuddle muddle
We always say we hate cuddling, being romantic or even affectionate. We say it every chance we get. But we lie. Men do love cuddling, being romantic and showering affection on their significant others.

Sure, it can be quite difficult and awkward for us and our idea of romance may not be the same as others, but we always do try. Men are notorious for running away from intimacy but that's just propaganda really; men demand intimacy. There is no shame in revelling in the feeling of being held or holding onto someone you love.

Of course, there is a time and place for everything and we tend to remember that far too often. Apart from that, having found the right person, even Batman will give in and cuddle. There is nothing wrong with that.

Not sick of chick-flicks
All the serious traits aside, let's look at this one a little bit. A man's list of favourite movies reads like a who's who of action, gangster flicks. What they always sidestep is admitting to have partaken and enjoyed watching a romantic comedy.

Men don't like admitting, but that doesn't mean we don't do it. Come on guys, level with me on this one. Most men have watched movies like Made of Honour, A Walk to Remember, A Lot like Love, etc. And even our most adrenaline-fuelled movies have a little love tossed in and it isn't just to draw the fairer sex. Rambo, Scarface, The Godfather, Donnie Brasco, Scent of a Woman, etc. all had a lot to do with love. Women in those films did not only serve as eye-candy; they made the men on the silver-screen appear more real. So, if you find yourself caught up in the intricate plotlines of Tangled or He's Just Not That Into You, don't question yourself because you are one of us.

What's on your mind?
A stupid made-up survey claims that the average man thinks about sex every few seconds. That is not true in the least bit. Men think of a lot more and if you feel less manly for not thinking about that exclusively, then stop worrying and join the club. The average man, and by average we mean one who is not a pervert, has a lot more on his plate.
Considering how we have to deal with a whole gender that always sees us as disgusting predators, it's no wonder that we have so much to deal with. History can testify to this. The male mind is a complicated labyrinth of thoughts and physical intimacy isn't the label on all the doors bar one; just like a female's mind.

Let these primary teasers tide you over. Get comfortable with your masculinity, don't overstate and don't even let someone tell you how your identity should be. Manconceptions is the real deal; get with it.

By Osama Rahman


Menopause: What you need to know about it

As a woman you have to go through a lot of physiological changes in life. First, it starts with the scare from your first period, where you feared that you had cancer and went crying to your mom; then you eventually get used to it being a part of life with the occasional hormonal splurge and moodiness and tantrums; then you grow older and eventually bear the immense pain of carrying another human being. And, despite all the blood and the mess and the pain, all of this is a central part of every woman's life but at one point it all ends. For some the ending process is short, not much of a big deal while for others it is a long, cumbersome process which is hard to deal with. It is different for each woman; good or bad, whichever it may be it is an inevitable part of being a woman.

Researching this topic I came across a quote by an American singer of yesteryears, Kate Smith, “I don't think a lot of people talk about it (menopause)”. This quote was made many decades ago but in this part of the world menopause is not given much importance even today. It is something that is bound to happen, much like your period or having a baby, and that is how people consider it and most do not appreciate the fact that this is a condition, has symptoms and consequences and that it can be difficult for many women.

Just like it is necessary to make a young girl heading towards the onset of menstruation understand the process and what comes with it and what can be done to deal with it, it is also necessary for that girl, when she becomes a woman heading towards the middle years of her life and towards menopause, to be aware of what is to be expected with the commencement or gradual progression towards it and what can be done to alleviate any distress.

Dr. Khaleda Yeasmin Mirza gives us some insight on the entire issue of menopause and the measures that can be taken to make it a part of life.

What is menopause?
Before talking about the symptoms of menopause it is essential to understand what menopause is. Menopause is a situation of menstruation; when a woman stops menstruating for one year it means that she has reached menopause and that her normal menstrual cycles have stopped. During menopause, a woman's ovaries stop making eggs and they produce less of the hormones estrogen and progesterone, thus putting an end to that woman's ability to conceive children. Changes in these hormones cause menopause symptoms. Menopause usually occurs between 45 years to 55 years of age. However, for some women it may occur before the age of 45 while for others it may occur after crossing the 55 year line, but these are rare occurrences. The age at which menopause occurs is also a factor of family history.

Menopause is not a sudden phenomenon; it arrives gradually through some changes in the bodily processes. There are various symptoms and consequences, the intensity, pattern or time length of which is unique to each individual. Symptoms for menopause in majority of cases lasts for 2-3years however, in some cases it can last for as long as up to 5years.

Irregular Menstruation
Women may experience irregular menstruation for example, with 2 to 3 months interval, excessive bleeding, two consecutive menstrual cycles in a month, or sparse bleeding. Irregular rhythm in menstrual pattern is a sign of impending menopause.

Hot flash
Hot flashes are both pre and post- menopausal symptoms which may be quite severe for some women for the first one to two years after menopause strikes. Hot flashes are periods episodes of excessive sweating which may occur anytime; a woman may find herself up at night due to an episode soaked in sweat all over.

Mood swings
Due to hormonal changes many women experience changes in mood without any obvious reasons. Due to lack of awareness of the fact that menopause can be a reason for random mood swings, the individual herself and the people around her may not realise what is causing her to act in an unreasonable way leading to underserved alienation and blame, which may further aggravate the individual's suffering. Mood swings include irritability, depression and anxiety.

Many women are plagued with sleeplessness as a symptom of menopause which may later in the day lead to fluctuations in mood and behaviour due to the general lack of rest.

This is one of the main concerns for a menopausal individual. It is one of the foremost complications posed by menopause.

Heart Disease
The incidence of heart disease in women increases after they reach menopause. For women less than 45 years of age the incidence of heart diseases is less than that for men, which, however, becomes almost equal once menopause is attained.

Dealing with menopause
For some women menopause is a normal process and does not need much coping, they can accept the entire package quite easily, but, for others the symptoms can be so frequent and intense that it becomes quite unbearable. One never knows whether one will be lucky enough to have an easy menopause or a difficult one. In order to manage the situation it is necessary to educate women and raise awareness among the women and their family members especially their husbands to ease the process.

To prevent the onset of osteoporosis women should start taking calcium supplements after 40 and increase exposure to sunlight. For those who smoke or consume alcohol, the habit should be let go of. Women should make the habit of doing light exercises to be healthy and normal after menopause. Intake of water, fruits, vegetables and vitamins should be increased once the symptoms of menopause hit.

Women, for whom the symptoms are very severe, doctors recommend hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Nowadays, HRTs are advised for shorter lengths of time such as the first 2 years after commencement after which the symptoms gradual tone down. HRT is only recommended for those who have excessive symptoms in order to assist them to adjust and cope with the situation. However, there are some prerequisites for being eligible for HRT. Those with heart disease, liver, disease or other complications are usually not allowed to take an HRT. These individuals have to take the general measures.

For a woman to get through menopause with minimum effort team work is required. Cooperation from family members is a must. Family members need to understand that these are the symptoms attributable to this condition and any irritability regarding petty matters or change in behaviour is a part of this. The biggest support that is necessary during this time is the husband's support. A husband needs to be extremely cooperative about the fact that the woman will be going through physical changes both in terms of appearance and sexual desire. General measures and awareness regarding solving consequential sexual crises and dialogue between the couple can help keep problems and disappointment at bay.

If you are dealing with menopause or fearing its onset, a visit to your gynecologist will help you understand and face it a lot better and with much more confidence. It is a part of life and it does not necessarily have to be as unpleasant as it sounds. It only requires a bit of effort and preparation from your side and from your loved ones.

By Karishma Ameen
Special thanks to Dr. Khaleda Yeasmin Mirza, Consultant, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Square Hospital, for sharing her knowledge and insight.


What the stars have in store

The Aries horoscope for 2013 says that the year could be powerful for you in all spheres of life. Your relations in society and with family members shall get strengthened for the better. You shall endeavor to assist those close to you. You will be robust equally mentally and physically, though dissatisfied with whatever you have accomplished so far in life. You will be satisfied in your daily life but will seek out your inner peace and liberty.

The Taurus zodiac sign can easily control virtually any situation with minimum efforts. You feel responsible for everyone around you. You must always be prepared to take on the duty of your family and older people with honesty along with perseverance. Typically peace and harmony will be there for most part of the year. Your standing in life will improve and you shall be able to get all the benefits in life that you have worked hard for.

You may be less rigid in your behaviour. You are tough by nature and don't get scared of hard work. You may also be interested in spirituality. The Gemini Horoscope 2013 predicts that you will be in a position to merge your plans and initiatives this year. New methods look to open up and it shall enable you to get closer to attaining your set ideals for life. Some tensions may come your way, but have faith in yourself.

The Scorpio horoscope for 2013 predicts that this current period would be full of challenges and temptations. Towards the end of 2013, your goals may well work out as planned. Your innovative side shall come to the forefront. You love to work individually and disturbances caused by other people may annoy you. Your innovative side shall come to the forefront. You love to work individually and disturbances caused by other people may annoy you.

Your Horoscope for the year predicts that there could be a general development in all parts of your life. There will be numerous possibilities for you personally to show your intellect to everyone. You might also have arguments with individuals in authoritative positions. You might face some surprising circumstances, so it is much better to deal with them wisely. You might also turn out to be conscious of your secret strengths and abilities.

For the Sagittarius sun sign, horoscope for 2013 predicts that it will bring both beneficial and detrimental situations. This year 2013 will be the new beginning for you. All the limitations and obstacles of the previous years will be replaced by the success of this year 2013. Some kind of stability for yourself and these around you is required. Private and joint ventures are most likely to develop. Nonetheless, you'll face difficulties too this year and you could feel that all your efforts are useless.

Friendships shall turn into new opportunities and also you shall have the ability to reap the fruits of your prior year's tasks. Let your inventiveness soar to a brand new level and let the entire world notice it. Comply with your ideologies and ambitions. A greater degree of fascination in religion and spiritual techniques will come to the forefront this year. Practices like meditation and yoga will be extremely profitable for you.

Capricorn 2013 horoscope forecasts a simple lifestyle for the coming year. Those born in the Capricorn zodiac sign will be fortunate to experience many expansions in all spheres of life. The year 2013 shall help you to look at life from a new angle thus decide on the importance of different issues. You will lead a materialistic life in 2013 and it is time to make some important alterations to your way of living. You will also focus on fulfilling your goals and thus progress towards achieving your targets.

You realize the difference amongst excellent and undesirable, but still not hesitant to put your views forward. 2013 could be a significant year for career too as well as family matters. Challenges in household matters will remain. There could be health troubles for close family or unnecessary concerns. You are likely to shed your worldly nature and go in for some sort of devout or charity related activities.

For the Aquarius sign, this year is very good for personal undertakings or salaried jobs. You may change jobs or get a promotion in your current organization. You'll not be distracted from your goals and certainly achieve your targets. You may be reluctant to show your abilities till you feel comfortable. You need to be accommodating and accept the changes in life. The year 2013 is filled with good opportunities in all spheres of life.

People of the Libra zodiac sign may look ahead to a positive and fulfilling year in 2013. It will be a right mix of growth in financial, profession and domestic aspects of one's life. You should be ready for major adjustments in your home atmosphere. This is also a good time to move. By nature, you are stable and have no bias towards people. Libra horoscope for 2013 predicts that all your needs, be it financial, work related or personal, will be accomplished in 2013.

Pisces Horoscope 2013 predictions show a gradual growth for Pisceans. People of Pisces sign can look forward to a lot of good transformations in 2013. You'll come out of your spontaneous moods and fight over all problems. You will be very sure of your abilities and live up to your ideologies. This would be the right time for you to be active.


Toothpaste remedy

The use of toothpaste does not end with dental care, toothpaste use can also prove to be a great beauty solution. Pimples: The first toothpaste use for beauty is for pimple cure. Toothpaste has a substance called triclosan.

The triclosan substance in toothpaste has antibacterial properties which help in treating the pimples. Apply a small amount of toothpaste on the pimple at bed time. The cure is expected within few days.

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