Fatema Khanom – Full interview

My Story

I’ve been living here for 22 years. But four years ago I started gardening. Before then I didn’t know anything about gardening. Katherine (from the farm) helped us, how to make a garden, how to grow our own vegetables. Then we started gardening. Now, every year I grow my own vegetables. I grow the vegetables that I like, or my children like.

Why I grow my own food

The flavour is nice. A garden tomato is flavourful, tasty, smooth. It’s very nice, very yummy! That’s why I like gardening. The flavour is different from the shop. When you grow your own things you feel so proud of yourself. It looks nice. “I made that vegetable!” When I’ve been in the garden for one or two hours, it just goes, and I think, “Oh I’ve been gardening for two hours!” Before, I didn’t know my neighbour, Rosemary. We just said, “Hi, hello.” That’s it. “How are you?” But now we talk about gardening, what she’s been doing, sometimes she asks about me. And sometimes I give her some vegetables. We know each other more. Even with Halema, we are from the same Bengali community, but we didn’t know each other well. Now we know each other better. Sometimes I have some seeds that she doesn’t have, and I’ll give her. This women’s group has helped to build the community. I think gardening is the best idea. And it’s good for your health. When you’re sitting at home you don’t do that much. When you are gardening, pulling, picking, it’s like exercise. I feel good.

Why I save seeds

Sometimes when we buy seeds the quality is not good. Sometimes it’s rotten seed. But if you save your own seed, it’s 100% ok. That’s why I save the seed: the quality. You can also save money.

Connection between growing and my heritage

I remember back home they grew vegetables. Now I’m growing the same vegetables. Sometimes I send pictures to my cousin back home, “This year I grew that.” They ask me, “You are growing that in the UK?!” I say, “Yes! We are still Bengali, our roots are Bengali. That’s why I grew that!” I ask them, “What did you grow this year?” Even here I still ask my cousin, my sister, “What did you do with your gardening?”

How I feel when I work in the garden

I’m happy when I see flowers coming, or a plant growing. But when a plant is dying, I feel so sad, because it’s tiny, so little. Sometimes you see it’s dead and you feel so sad. And when the plant is growing vegetables I don’t want to pick them!! Because I feel like they are my children. How can I pick them? Everyone tells me, “Take it. It’s ripe.” I say, “No, not today, I’m going to take it tomorrow.” Chillies, tomatoes, potol, kodu, everything, I say, “No. Not today. I’ll take it tomorrow.” But I feel sad when you see it growing every day, how its shape comes. And at the end of the day, you’re going to cut the vegetable. It feels so sad. It’s living.

Fatema on Black Chili

Where the seeds came from

Someone gave to my Mum. She gave me the seed. I’ve been growing it for the last 2 years and saving the seed.

Why I grow black chili

Because I love chili. It smells so nice. Sometimes you feel like, “No I don’t want to eat green chili, I want to eat black chili.” I eat lots of chili.


Sometimes we just bite it, when we eat rice. Sometimes I put a whole chili in a curry I’m making. The fresh chili has a nice taste and smell. I don’t dry it unless I’m saving seed.

How to grow

It takes time, nearly 2 weeks to start growing. I put it in a hot dark place. When it has 2 leaves I take it out and put it somewhere sunny. After a couple of weeks I put in my garden. I feed banana to chilies. Yes, banana. I cut a piece of banana, and put it in the soil to help it grow quickly. Yes, chili plant needs banana. It is fertiliser. Every month I add banana to the soil.

Fatema on Potol

Where the seeds came from

I bought the plant, put it in my garden, and it grew well. I got lots of potol and gave to many people. Everyone say it’s very tasty. It’s easy to grow. Three or four plants will grow into a big bush. You need to give it something to climb on.


It tastes a little like beans. You can eat with fish, with other vegetables, or prawns. Clean it. Then fry onions, coriander, garlic, chili powder, turmeric and salt. Stir, then 3 or 4 minutes later add the potol. You don’t need to add water. It cooks in a few minutes.