Interview With the Founder: Himkaar Singh
How old are you, where did you grow up, what did you study?
I was born in 1992 making me 27 years old. I grew up in Cape Town and Johannesburg but I like to say I’ve grown up all over the world because I’ve visited many countries. I have three degrees; Bsc Engineering (Civil) from Wits, Postgraduate Diploma in Engineering from Wits, and an Msc Integrated Water Resource Management which I did in Germany, Vietnam and Jordan.
When did you become eco-aware?
My earliest eco-awareness memory is from primary school where we had weekly recycling competitions.
When did you start The Compost Kitchen and where did you get the idea for a composting business?
I started the business in May 2019 after living abroad for 2 years where I learnt about the seriousness of food waste and what other countries are doing about it. Most importantly I recognized the importance of organic matter in the soil and how it is affecting the water cycle, so I tried to develop a model to improve this.
Who do you share your garden with?
My farm is on the curbside of my home where anybody walking past is free to take what they need. It’s called a curbside farm.
Do you have childhood memories about gardening and cooking. Eg?
Oh yes since I can remember I have been playing with soil and growing things. My favorite part was pouring water on the soil and watching how it behaves.
When did you become interested in gardening, specifically organic home gardening?
In recent years when I was living overseas I was feeling deeply unsatisfied with the fruit and vegetables from the supermarket because I felt they lacked taste and nutrition, mainly because of being imported. When I grew my own mushrooms for the first time while living in an apartment, I could not believe the intense flavor of the mushrooms, which I actually realized was how mushrooms used to taste many years ago. I realized how flavorful homegrown is compared to mass produced so I set out to grow a lot more at home.
What are you growing at home right now?
Tomatoes, lemons, avocado, beetroot, spinach, curry lead, bay leaf, coriander, basil, delicious fig, pomegranate, spring onion, lemon grass, mango (yes mango), granadilla, pumpkin, butternut, potato and many more
What should I be planting right now? Easy to seed or where to get seedlings during shutdown, probably can’t.
You only really need to look at planting times when you are buying seeds because you don’t want your money to go to waste…I don’t really think about what to plant – I just take all the seeds/cuttings from my meal preparation and burry it in the soil daily. What wants to grow, will grow. What doesn’t grow, will feed the soil. Make it as easy as possible. I get about 1 kg of tomatoes from the garden per week and I didn’t even plant any of them!
What should I plant at the end of April?
I heard lettuce, spinach and peas and similar plants do well in April. But I don’t trouble myself with that because I’m not a farmer yet. I just burry everything in the soil when I get it.
What do I need apart from seeds? What’s the best way to grow from seed eg. Indoors, on a
I find that seed trays or similar are too much work and I rarely get around to transplanting them…So I just prefer to put seeds directly in the ground. If one wants to get a head start on the season and use trays, that’s fine, but one should use vermicompost in the seedling tray which acts like a ‘vaccine’ to disease (ask me more).
What is your favourite homegrown recipe – savoury or sweet – ie veggies/fruit
Pesto sauce – basil, mint, pine nuts, blended with olive oil.
What are you working on now with the Compost Kitchen? Update in terms of the lockdown please: You mentioned that customers are going to keep collecting their grass cuttings etc (on social media)
Graciously our customers have offered to continue paying during lockdown even though we won’t be able to collect their food waste. In return for this, we have given them seedlings and vermicompost so that they can grow their own food during lockdown. During this time, we are also trying to make biodegradable liquid soap from lemon peels, as well as testing worm tea, and making worm boxes.
Thank you to our amazing customers for enabling us to continue our mission to repair soil.