Thursday, 3 January 2013

Plant your greens

Growing your own vegetables goes a long way in saving money, eating healthy and teaching children about food, writes Nadia Badarudin

RUNNING out of basic ingredients while cooking can be a turn-off, especially when getting to the nearest shop would mean a journey through heavy traffic.

It’s worse when the nearest shop is a hypermarket and items are pre-packed and you end up buying more than you need.
Now, wouldn’t it be nice if you can just get these from your garden?

Having a garden full of vegetables as well as herbs can be handy, especially for those living in the city.

For young mothers, Farah Ismail, Maslinda Abdullah and Lina Aisah Rahmat, planting their own greens not only saves time and money, but it also contributes to a healthier diet.

Financial advisor Farah, and her family live in a condominium in Wangsa Maju, Kuala Lumpur. She started planting edible plants and herbs in pots four years ago and has turned her balcony into a mini-garden where you can find curry leaves, kaffir lime, pandan, ginger and turmeric.

“These plants are common and not a big deal to many. However, running out of these essentials in the kitchen can be a big deal especially for people living in a condominium,” says the mother of four children aged between 1 and 10.

“Sometimes I pay RM2 for one or two turmeric leaves, which I find ridiculous. And a trip to the nearest shop may cost more than that. Also, any unused plant or herb spoils quickly and has to be thrown away.

“I grow my own herbs because it’s a convenient, money-saving thing to do. And I can always have fresh supplies in the quantity I need,” says Farah, who uses compost and organic fertiliser for her plants.

Growing vegetables in her backyard has helped Maslinda overcome a problem many mothers face: Getting the children to eat vegetables.

Maslinda, a technician, grows kailan (Chinese kale) as well as several other plants and fruit trees in pots in her house in Bandar Putra Permai, Selangor.

Tending to the plants has become a favourite pastime for Maslinda, her husband and their four children aged between 4 and 9.

She says: “Perhaps this is what makes the children feel excited about eating vegetables. I still remember the first homegrown kailan with salted fish dish that I cooked. The greens were soft and not bitter like the kailan that I get from the market.

“It used to be a challenge to get my children to eat vegetables. But it’s so much easier now,” says Maslinda, who also grows mustard green, curry leaves, kaffir lime and pandan.

Lina Aisah thinks growing vegetables is a natural therapy to maintaining a healthy mind and body.
The author and craft entrepreneur (she makes crochet arts and sells them online at begun her DIY green project in 2007 at her house in Johor Baru.

Lina, who looks to the Internet on how to grow greens, has been planting various types of vegetables, including sweetcorn, cucumber, okra and tapioca as well as culinary herbs in her garden.

It started as an attempt to get her eldest daughter, Dhia Aisyah Faried (who was 1 then) interested in nature and outdoor activities.

“I enjoy having her help me plant seedlings or water the plants. And now Zahra Safiyyah, 2, joins us in the garden. It’s always great to see them getting all excited when our little adventures turn fruitful,” she says.

“The activity not only relaxes the mind, but it can also strengthen family bond. It’s a simple and practical way to lure children away from spending too much time on computer games or watching TV.”



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