Bringing the mountains to Mumbai
Coolers and jams from a farm in the mountains make their way to one of the busiest bylanes in Girgaon
Divya Chowfin with husband Stephen
Growing up in Marora, a farm in the Pauri Garhwal district of Uttarakhand, Divya Chowfin was quite literally raised in the lap of nature. Her father, a passionate farmer and a forest conservationist had been growing herbs and medicinal plants since the 60s. Her mother, Indira, a school teacher, has always enjoyed whipping up jams and sauces using the farm produce. In the summer of 2014, she happened to make an excess quantity of pear and cinnamon jam. So, she sent some to Divya, who was living in Delhi at that time. When her friends couldn't get enough of it, that's when it struck Divya to take it beyond her home farm. She thought of a brand name, designed a logo and created a Facebook page. Her Himalayan Haat was up and running. In August this year, she tied up with Green Sattva, a Girgaon-based retailer of eco-friendly lifestyle products. "I'm glad that my father saw me take some interest in his life's work. It's a big deal for me, because he passed away two months later," says 30-year-old Chowfin.
Farm fresh produce
A handsome produce of strawberries, plums, pears, apples, peaches, lemons, maltas, grapefruit and other citrus fruits grown in the farm, feeds the venture. "We also have walnuts, rosemary, basil, lemongrass, chamomile, peppermint, cinnamon and other seasonal veggies," Chowfin says. While her mum Indu dons the chef's hat, she looks into the marketing and sales. The third helping hand comes from her South African web-developer husband, Stephen Diederichs. "We met in Delhi and turns out, he always wanted to live in the mountains in India," Chowfin says. with a smile. The trio operates from their home kitchen on the farm where things are made in small batches. Women from nearby villages are hired to harvest, peel, chop, juice or grind the ingredients as needed. "It takes a few hours to prep the fruits and a few more hours to cook the jams and sauces. Some recipes call for an overnight maceration, where we soak the fruit with sugar and spices through the night," explains Chowfin.
Hetal Shah of Green Sattva made a trip to Chowfin's farm before including the products in her folio. She was convinced that they were a perfect fit to her product range — which is organic, handcrafted, and free of preservatives and additives. "The strawberry cooler by far is their most popular product, along with the pear and ginger preserve," says Shah.
We drop a few cubes of ice into a glass and pour three to four tablespoons of the pulpy Chunky Strawberry Cooler (Rs 350), add water and take a sip of the refreshing drink. The cooler comprises sugar, lemon juice and fresh strawberry pulp. The subtle hint of lemon gives it a tangy jolt, offsetting the pulpy sweetness. However, too much of the syrup can make your drink extra sweet, so we recommend you pour to taste.
Local women are hired as helping hands on the farm Pics/Atul Sarsidharan
Next in line is the Tangy Plum and Cinnamon Preserve (Rs 320) waiting to be tried. We untie the coarse string, remove the printed cloth cover and put in all our might to open the jar. Once the stubborn seal gives way, we dunk a spoon into the maroon mush. Sour, wrapped in cinnamon and cajoled by the sweetness of the fruit, if you like your jam as sweet as the synthetic options in the market, this one is not for you. We think, its tartness will surely make our toasts blush.
A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli