From paper come plants

A TALL MINARET OVERLOOKS Ebrahim Saheb Street in Bangalore’s busy Commercial Street bazaar district. Not far from the lofty structure stands the premises of a printing firm called Sundaram. It is here at this efficient enterprise that I have often had visiting (business) cards printed.

Recently, I went to Sundaram’s to collect my latest batch of cards. While I was waiting to have them packed, I noticed a man in the shop, folding what looked like A3 sized sheets of plain white paper. He folded them in half lengthwise. I asked him what he was doing, and he replied:
“Seed papers”
I must have looked puzzled because the owner of the business added:
“You put them in the ground and plants will come. You leave them in the ground after plants have come. The papers have seeds in them.”
He told me that these seed papers were made in Coimbatore, a town south of Bangalore. Then, he went to the rear of his shop and brought me a few offcuts of the seed paper.

The paper is quite thick and rather stiff. It has a slightly rough surface. When you examine it you can see well spaced, small darkish thickenings. These spots are the seeds, which have been incorporated into the biodegradable paper.

Not being a gardener, I had not come across seed paper before. It has been around for many centuries. Until 1941, it used to be handmade in small batches, but after that year it began to be made on an industrial scale.

The paper can incorporate a variety of seeds from flowers to edible plants. I suppose that the advantages of seed papers include appropriate spacing of seeds and protection from consumption by birds etc.

When I entered Sundaram’s to pick up my cards, little did I expect to learn about seed paper, or to discover horticultural material being processed in a printing shop. It is surprises such as these that make visiting India so much fun.

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