It has been a tumultuous week, dear readers, not just for America and the world, but on a personal level as well. Yesterday I finally put to bed my latest labour of love. It's a book that I hope will inspire you to embark on an edible garden journey of your own, and to eventually turn your produce into delicious dishes with which to delight your loved ones.
Titled Grow, Cook, and Eat: Cultivating Asian Herbs and Cooking Them with Flair, the book is a collaboration with gifted horticulturalist and the lady behind the Garden to Table restaurant pop up CY Phang. I first met CY when she was a guest on Feeding Time, and when we discovered, serendipitously, that we shared a dream to educate our fellow human beings about the joy and myriad benefits to be gleaned from growing—and cooking—our own produce, we embarked on this project together. We knew, from the outset, that for time- and attention-poor urbanites, we had to make their gardening journey as easy and as painless as possible. So we made it a priority to choose herbs like cekur, lemongrass, and turmeric, that are resilient, a breeze to cultivate, and amazingly versatile to cook with. And then we included instructions on how to use the herbs to create such delicious desserts as a pandan pavlova with kaffir lime cream, or even an Asian beetroot soup (sounds gross I know, but—with a melange of taste profiles that include salty and sweet—I assure you it is rather heavenly.
But this week's missive isn't (just) a shameless touting of my book (although of course you can, if you want, order a copy or four from me at email@example.com!). More importantly, it's about what I've learned during the course of the journey. When I wrote the Eco Kids series about the environment, I learned that children can be amazing ambassadors to help reduce our footprint in a way that adults—jaded, set in their ways, stubborn—could not. Similarly, this book has taught me many things about myself. Despite hiccups when I first embarked on my gardening journey, I discovered that I am not, contrary to my initial misgivings, a hopeless gardener. From a tiny balcony garden, I've graduated to now also being the proud owner of a garden plot from which virtually all my herbs are sourced, and increasingly, my vegetables too. I have a worm compost farm that is thriving, with so many worms that I'll be adding a new floor to their 'condominium' when I get back to Sydney. I've also started a communal composting bin for the residents in my block, and have cannily situated it right next to my plant plot so fertilising the soil will require no effort on my part.
As a result, my kitchen waste now fits into an A5 plastic bag and I need only throw it out once every five days, because all my plant and vegetable scraps go into the compost bin and worm farm, if not back into my plant plot to directly fertilise the plants. In this fashion, I bear witness to the cycle of life quietly humming along in my home, and over and above all my achievements in life, this—and harvesting my produce from the garden—has been the most gratifying thus far.
In this day and age, where uncertainty prevails, and life is unpredictable at best, there is nothing more assuring than having control over at least one aspect of your life. More than just being a valuable, and trusted source of my daily consumables, a garden at home provides me with an oasis to which I can escape after the chaos of life has taken its toll on me, and tending to my plants is a therapy that no RM300 an hour shrink can supplant. Try it, dear readers. Many of you have the luxury of gardens. Rather than paving it over with concrete, give this edible garden adventure a go. I promise you it will be infinitely rewarding. Won't you join me on this journey?