See that pic above? It may look like any bowl of Choi Sum to you, but it’s a very special bowl of Choi Sum to me. You see, when I was a kid, I remember the Mothership growing and tending to all the various Chinese vegetables she would grow in the back garden. I remember being told the difference between different vegetables like Gai Lan (which I liked, especially the stems) and Tong Hau (which had scary-looking flowers and I didn’t like so much unless it was doused in liberal amounts of oyster sauce, but the Mothership loved). Even after we moved house which resulted in a smaller garden, the Mothership still fashioned some parts of the garden so she could grow her beloved veg. I never really understood how every morning, she would tend to the vegetables with great love and dedication, even if it did mean she would constantly complain about her aching bones and joints as she got older. However, in recent years, it had just gotten too much for her to cope with and as a result, the garden was neglected. Right to her last years, she still wanted to do something about the garden but never had the strength and was too timid to try and get me to do anything about it, especially as she would see how tired I was when not in work.
So after the Mothership passed away earlier this year, one of the first things I decided to do to preserve her legacy was to get the garden sorted out and start growing vegetables in it again. By now, it was an overgrown jungle full of weeds and even had a rogue tree which had taken root in one of the beds. I suffer from back problems so after making an attempt to clear the garden and immediately putting my back out in the process, it became clear that I needed to get someone in to help. Fortunately, a work colleague’s boyfriend is a gardener and so it was arranged for him to come round and survey the wreckage. We agreed that some raised beds would be built and the rest of the garden (front and back) cleared down of the overgrown weeds. The inclement weather didn’t help but eventually, the garden was cleared and a few raised beds were built and filled with compost. It was more a matter of what to grow;
I’m not really a great gardener, I’ve been known to kill plants that are notoriously hard to kill. I don’t do it deliberately, but I usually forget to water plants for weeks (months) at a time so I had to be absolutely sure that I could maintain the new garden if I was to spend all this money on doing it up. W, who is a very keen gardener and has a huge allotment gave me plenty of seeds and seedlings to plant. Q bought some propagated herbs which were ready to be planted, but what I really wanted was some Chinese veg of some sort – And so I got a small amount of seeds from M, my eldest sister. Trying to remember bits of what the Mothership used to do, I scattered the seeds into the soil and hoped for the best. After a couple of weeks, the veg started sprouting and I became obsessed with making sure that no slugs would feast themselves on *MY* veg! And for the record, copper wiring does NOT work in deterring slugs.
Of course, I could actually harvest the veg now – I have very fond memories of how enthusiastic the Mothership was when she saw/ate young baby Chinese veg; she would always comment on how much sweeter veg you grew yourself was to eat (and she wasn’t wrong). However, I’ve been a bit busy so after a weekend away, came home to find the veg was now monsters and beginning to flower which meant they were a bit past the tender stage. Still, I gathered my first harvest
Admittedly, there were a few tears as I harvested the veg for the first time and cooked them, it even took me a while to settle down before I could bring myself to taste them. There is nicer, better quality veg that I could buy from an Asian supermarket but this bowl of veg was something that I grew and nurtured myself. This bowl of veg was the Mothership’s legacy and one which I am absolutely determined to keep going now that I have the house. I am now planning what other veg I can grow – I’ve recently sown some gai lan seeds and am keen on growing some beetroot and chard. I need to remember to apply Pathclear every few weeks to keep the weeds at bay between the paving slabs, but I’m quite enjoying coming home from work and going into the garden to check on things. The herbs which Q bought me are really blooming and the celeriac has really taken root into the beds, although I’m a bit worried that they’ve been planted too close to each other but in a strange way, it means that I am also looking forward to some comedy odd/rude-shaped veg. I know that there will be some veg that won’t turn out, there will be some veg which are casualties of bugs and slugs, but there will (hopefully) be a bounty of goods at the end of it all and I can’t wait to get stuck in. After all these years, I finally understand why the Mothership spent so much time and pride at her tiny vegetable patch, I honour her memory by trying to grow veg in the same garden.