Making room for edibles

  • Metro News
  • Saturday, 19 Sep 2020

Kangkung is a perennial plant which can thrive come rain or shine in water or in soil. — Filepic

WHEN the movement control order was enforced on March 18, thereby forcing most Malaysians to stay home, many aspiring chefs channelled their inner Jamie Oliver or Nigella Lawson and dazzled our social media feeds with endless dishes.

Some home cooks also took the opportunity to showcase their pots of home- grown herbs and vegetables which provided much-needed produce for cooking.

Many people have used the enforced period of isolation to take up gardening as a hobby and plant patches of vegetables.

Those who live in apartments and townhouses, however, may feel this is not an option for them.

But in reality, there are plenty of edibles that can be grown in small spaces, such as a balcony or window sill.

All you need are some planter boxes, pots, containers or even poly bags, potting soil and seeds.

Here are 10 easy and popular edibles that you can get started with.

1) Spring onion

One of the easiest edibles to grow, you can nurture these in containers from the few inches of roots cut from spring onions. Some people grow the stem with roots in water or potting soil. Another way to grow them is from cutting off and replanting the bottom part of any onion (just try both big and small ones). Bury this into the potting soil, about an inch deep. Wait a few weeks and enjoy watching your spring onion grow.

2) Basil

Whether it’s Thai or sweet basil, these are another type of easy edibles you can try to cultivate. Regrow them from cut off basil stems bought from the supermarket by placing them suspended in water so that the roots can grow. This could take up to a week to let the roots grow before you put it into soil. Another easy way is to grow them from seeds.

3) Lemongrass

These are always great in curries, Vietnamese-inspired dishes or even as a refreshing drink. You can grow these by placing the stems of cut lemongrass with roots in water. Re-pot them in soil once they look sturdy and harvest them once they have grown to about an arm’s length.

4) Bird's eye cili

Put some spice in your life and grow these from the seeds or from packets. These are easy to grow, and you will never have to run out to buy cili padi again. The seeds take about two to three months to bear fruit and they really love sunlight.

5) Pandan

Did you know you could grow pandan indoors and even in water? All you need is some sunlight and a deep vase. Just be careful of mosquitoes breeding in the water and prevent that by changing it frequently. Submerge its roots in good, clean filtered water to help your water-based pandan grow well.

6) Kangkung (water spinach)

Imagine stir-fried kangkung (water spinach) or adding kangkung to your nasi lemak, plucked right from your balcony. Kangkung is grown from seeds. They are hardy plants which can grow both in water (in pails or containers) and also in soil in a planter’s box.

7) Bayam

Spinach, an amaranth, is a nutritious vegetable you can grow easily on your balcony from seeds. There are red and green varieties. This vegetable usually only lasts one harvest, so if you plant a few batches and space it out about a week or week-and-a-half, you should be able to enjoy Popeye’s favourite greens a few times a month.

8) Choy sum

A Malaysian staple, choy sum can be grown in planter boxes and it loves sunlight. Try not to crowd the plant, so use a wide pot where possible. They can be harvested once you see yellow flowers growing on them.

9) Tomato

Can tomatoes grow in Malaysia? Yes, they can. Grow them from seeds either saved from your tomatoes or from store-bought packets. They love lots of sunlight, a wide pot and a stick to climb up on. Baby tomatoes need lots of water and less when they are matured.

10) Lettuce

You can grow these from the cuttings of your lettuce bought from the supermarket. Try getting the cutting or an organic lettuce to start off, if you like. This plant doesn’t like too much direct sunlight, though.

If you think you do not have a green thumb, many gardening gurus will tell you – the secret is in constantly trying, learning and never giving up.

There are plenty of videos on gardening, how to get good soil mixes and care tips for each edible variety.

Most of all, it is a fun, worthwhile endeavour you can attempt yourself or as a family activity, and enjoy reaping the fruits of your labour.

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