Grow­ing your own food is the rage, and se­ri­ous lo­cal food­ies are grow­ing their veg­eta­bles and herbs in coun­try­side farms, high­rise rooftops, and even in sliv­ers of bal­cony space


Check out the herbs and veg grown in our own back­yard

It seems that ev­ery­where we turn in the city, some­one’s grow­ing food. Ed­i­ble Gar­den City’s Cit­i­zen Farm in Queen­stown pro­duces around 50kg a week of mi­cro­greens, leafy greens, herbs, mush­rooms and ed­i­ble flow­ers. At Kin Yan Agrotech in Kranji, beau­ti­ful pink and yel­low mush­rooms are lov­ingly cul­ti­vated. Home en­thu­si­asts are also getting in the act. Jay Vana, sales man­ager of Seeds Mas­ter says, “We es­ti­mate that gar­den­ing for food has picked up by around 50 per cent over the last two to three years. Un­der our ‘hot and hu­mid se­lec­tion’, we have over 200 types of ed­i­ble plant seeds. Among them, va­ri­eties like Straw­berry Spinach and Dwarf Greek Basil have been getting very pop­u­lar in the last 18 months.”

We didn’t need much con­vinc­ing that ur­ban farm­ing is alive and well. Vis­it­ing a few ur­ban farm­ers-at-work on their farms or in their homes, we spied mag­nif­i­cent ed­i­ble spec­i­mens not only grow­ing, but thriv­ing in our im­mensely built-up is­land. Here are some in­ter­est­ing va­ri­eties that caught our at­ten­tion.

1. Pink and Yel­low Oys­ter Mush­rooms

Oys­ter mush­room is so named be­cause of its shape, and can range from light grey to pink, yel­low, and blue. It is high in Vi­ta­min D and an­tiox­i­dants, and has an abalone-like aroma. The spores are in­jected into spawn bags filled with wood soda, rice ker­nels and other com­post el­e­ments, and take over three months to grow. Marc Wee, chef-owner of Ar­bite, uses it in a mix of sautéed mush­rooms in his break­fast and pasta dishes. “Pickle it with a lit­tle gar­lic, chilli and white wine vine­gar to re­tain tex­ture and en­hance its taste,” he says

2. Roselle

Roselle, part of the Hi­bis­cus fam­ily, is na­tive to West Africa but par­tial to trop­i­cal cli­mates. Its juicy, bright red ca­lyxes (the fleshy whorl that en­closes the seed pod) can be made into roselle jams or jel­lies; dried ca­lyxes can be used to make roselle tea. With a flavour that’s sim­i­lar to Ribena, roselle is rich in Vi­ta­min C; it helps in di­ges­tion and pre­vents in­flam­ma­tion of the uri­nary tract and kid­neys.

3. Pur­ple Wood Sor­rel

The pur­ple wood sor­rel boasts bur­gundy-coloured, clover shaped leaves and petite pale pur­ple flow­ers, The leaves are high in Vi­ta­min C, B and cal­cium, but they con­tain ox­alic acid, so use spar­ingly. Award-win­ning bar 28 HongKong Street uses it in their cock­tail In­stant Star, made up of En­canto Grand & No­ble Pisco, dill, pineap­ple, aperol, lemon and East Im­pe­rial Tonic.

4. Basil Flower

The Basil herb is com­monly used for its aro­matic leaves, but its tiny flow­ers can also make a del­i­cate gar­nish over sal­ads or pas­tas. Chef Enoch Teo of Garçons has used them in his black miso tuna dish.

5. Ulam Ra­jah

Ulam ra­jah, which lit­er­ally means ‘King of Sal­ads’ in Malay, is com­monly used as a herb across the Cause­way. It helps to lower blood pres­sure and aids di­a­betes treat­ments. In chef Han Li Guang’s menu at Labyrinth, ulam ra­jah makes a wor­thy ad­di­tion to his dish of Nip­pon Koi Farm sil­ver perch with black gar­lic and herbal pep­per broth.

6. But­ter­fly Pea

Con­sid­ered na­tive to South­east Asia, the but­ter­fly pea plant is a vine or creeper with strik­ing blue flow­ers that are used as a nat­u­ral food colour­ing, es­pe­cially in Malay and Per­anakan kueh. The blue dye is ex­tracted from the flow­ers by steep­ing in boil­ing wa­ter. Ad­just­ing the PH level of the dye changes its colour. For in­stance, adding cit­rus el­e­ments turns it pur­plish. The seeds and roots of the plant have some medic­i­nal prop­er­ties as well.

7. Tonkin Jas­mine

The flower of a com­mon creeper com­monly grown in China, In­dia and South­east Asia, tonkin jas­mine flow­ers have a very strong and sweet scent that is strangely rem­i­nis­cent of Skit­tles candy. In Viet­namese cui­sine, they are com­monly stir-fried with shrimp or used in soups such as tonkin jas­mine soup with pork paste.

8. Nas­tur­tium

The small webbed leaves of the nas­tur­tium plant are a great ad­di­tion to sal­ads for a dash of pep­pery taste, Vi­ta­min C and an­tiox­i­dants. Chef Stephan Zoisl of Chef’s Table likes to throw th­ese leaves into mains like his sig­na­ture duck and foie gras dish for a lit­tle kick. He would have liked to use their flow­ers too, as their bright red, orange or yel­low petals brighten up any plat­ter, but suc­cess­fully grow­ing them here is quite a chal­lenge due to our warm cli­mate.

9. Mi­cro­green Red Cab­bage

Mi­cro­greens are the shoots of salad leaves picked just af­ter the first leaves have de­vel­oped. Smaller than baby greens and more de­vel­oped than sprouts, they grow fairly fast and eas­ily all year round, and have about five times the amount of vi­ta­mins and carotenoid­s than their ma­ture equiv­a­lents. Red cab­bage, for in­stance, is

high in fi­bre, pro­tein, and Vi­ta­mins A, C and K.

10. Mi­cro­green Amaranth

A ‘pseudo grain’ that looks like ce­real grain but ac­tu­ally be­longs to the plant fam­ily, this su­per­food was widely used by the an­cient Aztecs, and is cher­ished mainly for its seeds and leaves. It can be har­vested as a mi­cro­green just six to 10 days af­ter ger­mi­na­tion, and is rich in fi­bre, cal­cium, iron, Vi­ta­min C and pro­tein, in­clud­ing the amino acid Ly­sine.

Pink and yel­low oys­ter mush­rooms 1

Basil flower 4

Pur­ple wood sor­rel 3

Ulam ra­jah flower 5

Roselle 2

Mi­cro­green amaranth 10

Nas­tur­tium 8

Tonkin Jas­mine 7

Mi­cro­green red cab­bage 9

But­ter­fly pea 6

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