Wednesday, July 20, 2016


My new-found hobby, gardening, was on my bucket list when I retired. The timing was perfect because my gardener decided to throw in the towel as his health was deteriorating, so I stepped into his shoes. I soon found that gardening is highly recommended for seniors, especially retirees.

At the back of my house, on a small piece of land, is my garden of treasures.

At the far end of the garden sits a bush of pandan leaves or screw pine. The leaves are well used when I cook nasi lemak. At other times, I use them for my weekly barley drinks or home-made soya bean.

Recently, I learnt that if I tie a bundle of pandan leaves and put it in my kitchen cabinet, it keeps cockroaches at bay. I put some leaves in the car and the car always smells nice. I save on buying air fresheners. Oh, the wonders of the pandan plant.

Next to the pandan bush is my lemongrass plant. I use lemongrass for cooking but now I make a drink out of it after reading on the Internet that lemongrass has anti-cancer properties. So once a week, the family is treated to a few rounds of lemongrass drinks. I cut five stalks of lemongrass, wash them, and cut into smaller pieces or bruise the stalks and put them in a teapot. I pour boiling water and let it steep for a while. You can add honey to vary the taste. The drink is cheap and health-giving.

Serai pandan and banana

Sometimes I use two stalks of lemongrass, bruise them and add a small knob of ginger, five pandan leaves and a small piece of rock sugar. Boil this and voila, you get a very refreshing drink.

Being a chilli padi queen, I have two pots of chilli padi plants. I do not have to run to the market for my daily needs as I have an ample supply in my garden. Sometimes the harvest is bountiful and I distribute the organic chilli padi to friends.

Nearby stand my two banana plants. Recently, I harvested the pisang mas and they were the sweetest ever. The banana leaves come in handy for grilling fish or making nyonya kuih.

So far my papaya tree has not borne any fruit, but my Indonesian maid eats the leaves for detoxification. The other day, some friends came over to pluck some leaves because papaya leaf juice has been shown to increase blood platelet count and assist in the recovery of dengue patients.

Pineapple lime (limau purut) and banana

In another pot is my daun kesom (polygonum). This is so useful in making assam fish. I used to run to the market to buy this herb but now I have it at my doorstep. I grow my own spring onions, too. Just put a few small onions in the pot and you can get a constant supply. How convenient!

In the far corner of my garden of treasures is the lengkuas or galangal plant. This is also a very useful plant as it is used in cooking certain dishes. My curry leaf tree is a hot favourite with neighbours. Whenever they need curry leaves, they know where to get them.

The limau purut plant (kaffir lime) sits in a pot and this is an essential for cooking certain dishes like tom yam soup. The fragrant leaves also enhance the taste of other dishes.

But my favourite is the aloe vera plant. The leaves are thick and huge. It can be made into a healthful drink but I have not tried it myself. Instead, I use the gel from the leaves as a facial mask. Cheap and effective. The gel is also very effective for treating cuts and burns. When I accidentally cut myself, I apply the gel on the wound and it heals well.

Mint and mempedu

The latest addition to the garden is the mint. I bought one ringgit’s worth of mint from the market and planted it in a pot. Now I have a fresh supply of mint. It needs a lot of water, but it is easy to grow.

I tend to my garden daily. The plants need to be watered, the weeds pulled out, and the snails removed. I do not use any pesticides so the herbs are organic.

Gardening is therapeutic; it is a pleasure to watch the plants grow. Nothing is more satisfying than being able to run to the garden for your supply of herbs instead of lamenting that you forgot to buy a particular item at the market.

I have made new friends along the way. My neighbours drop by to get their supply of herbs; in turn, they pass me their home-grown tapioca, four-angled beans, passion fruit, and a pineapple or two.

Not only do we exchange produce and gardening tips, we also swap notes on the health-giving properties of plants.

Gardening is cheap, non-strenuous, enjoyable and above all, eco-friendly.

Which reminds me, I must go to the nursery and get a misai kucing plant. This medicinal plant is said to be good for sore throat and diabetes. Yet another plant to add to my collection.

(The above article by Linda Lim was published in Star2 on July 15, 2016 as 'You can grow a herb garden in your backyard'. It is re-printed here with her permission. 

Footnote: You will also enjoy reading Linda Lim's earlier article in SeniorsAloud blog:


No comments: