I brought my mother to the Singapore Garden Festival 2010 a few weeks ago. After exploring the grandeur of the landscape gardens, and the whimsy of the fantasy gardens, we walked two storeys down to look at the orchids and visit the Community in Bloom. This is one of my favourite sections of the show - I love looking at the herbs, and looking at the ingenuity of the wall gardens and vertical gardens, the floral art and so on. This year, amongst the gardens developed by communities around Singapore, I spotted the "Peranakan Garden".
There were not enough, she felt, of the plants for the Peranakan kitchen. Nonyas use a fair amount of herbs in their cooking, and most of the time, they source the plants from their very own backyards. She was a little happier when I showed her the chilli plant, and the bunga telang creeper (or the butterfly pea flower - used as a natural food colouring to stain food blue), and some ginger flowers. But there were others, she felt which were missing. (I'm sure we must have missed quite a few) But when we went to the "Supermarket Garden" she found some "suitable" plants - for example, the banana tree and sugar cane plant, curry pulai and lemongrass. I remember munching on sugar cane during the mid-autumn festival, cut from my grandfather's garden, just as I remember the pots of mint at the back. My mother still maintains a few pots of herbs in the garden, but herbs are fragile things and may die quickly. Still, our pandan has been going strong for many years.
So I ask you, gentle reader. What herbs do you grow in your garden?