IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE
As we trek deeper into the jungle, we find more peperomia, and this time, without the marks that suggest a canine in the vicinity. So we pluck a few shrubs to bring back to the restaurant. However, there are still no cucumbers in sight, although we do stumble across a swarm of bees building a hive. Perhaps people could forage honey straight from the source, but we decide it’s best to leave the insects alone and stick to storebought jars. One semi-deathdefying moment is enough for me.
As small bushes make way for taller trees, we encounter a banana plant and the largest banana flower this city girl has ever seen.
Beside the plant lies a cassava shrub, whose starchy tuberous roots are used to make tapioca powder, as well as a budding coconut fruit that Ridder decides to re-plant in his garden. But, like buried treasure, the cucumbers seem the stuff of myth.
While we walk back to the church, dripping in sweat and defeat, Ridder notices a deep well that’s been overgrown with weeds, and immediately surveys the area. Lo and behold, he spots it – a lone baby cucumber barely a centimetre in length. ‘In Europe, a kilo of this would sell for hundreds; it’s extremely rare there,’ he tells me. And here, too, it seems, if our foraging journey is anything to go by. I ask if he wants to bring it back to The Summerhouse and he, surprisingly, flat- out refuses. ‘ This might be the last of the Dempsey cucumbers,’ Ridder says. ‘I’m not going to mess with nature like that.’
The Summerhouse Dining Room is at 3 Park Ln (6262 1063, thesummerhouse.sg). Sengkang. Wed-Fri 6-10pm; Sat & Sun noon-3pm, 6-10pm.
Lo and behold, he spots a lone baby cucumber barely a centimetre in length
Sampling sweet leaf (no, not that herb)