Children learn about food from growing their own vegetables
These vegetables grow so well that keeping up with the pruning can be a struggle. Photos: Eats, Shoots & Roots


This month’s gardening column continues the mission to inspire more Malaysians to grow their own food with the green journey of parents Ng Ping Ho and Cheryl Samad who want their kids to learn as well as eat healthily.

When Ng Ping Ho and Cheryl Samad moved into their new home in Kuala Lumpur last year, they wanted to have a garden in which their two children – Stella, three, and Kate, one – would be able to play in and learn from.

The couple runs a cafe in KL called LOKL (pronounced “local”) while also working in other fields; Cheryl is a TV personality and event emcee and Ng – who was in TV production for 10 years and created, among other shows, the long-running sitcom Kopitiam – is in the hospitality business.

Ng, 43, explains that attending a few events and markets organised by social enterprise Eats, Shoots & Roots got him thinking about gardening; he also noticed restaurants selling food made with produce from their own gardens – “and I liked that idea”.

Cheryl, 36, adds that she began with zero gardening experience, having only grown some herbs on a balcony in the apartment they lived in before.

Here, Ng and Cheryl share their gardening journey.

Why did you want an edible garden?

Ng: For me, it was simply being able to eat food from our garden. But also, we wanted the kids to understand their food. A lot of kids only know about nuggets and fried chicken; they don’t know what an eggplant looks like, they don’t understand what carrots are. We wanted her (Stella) to have a grounding in what food really is.

urban gardening
In the front garden, the plants live in neat raised beds.

Cheryl: She really enjoys herself when she harvests kangkung and comes in with her basket, all excited because she saw it growing.

She notices things, she has a better understanding of how things grow now and the work that needs to be put into growing food. Even if she’s just using her little watering can in the garden, she thinks she’s responsible for the plants growing.

And when I fry the kangkung she harvested, she gets really excited because she knows it came from our garden, so it’s fun and it’s a nice process.

Tell us about your garden.

Cheryl: We thought it would just be in the front, a small thing. The way it has grown has taken us by surprise! We always have an oversupply of kangkung and bendi (ladies’ fingers) so we’re always telling our families to help themselves, we have too much.

What makes it special is that it really is what we consume daily now. Every day, we have something from our garden in our diets. Recently it has been eggplants, a few weeks before that it was kangkung, and bendi before that. We have also been boiling the roselle regularly – it’s a big hit with our guests. I didn’t even get to drink any at the last party because everyone went for the roselle!

(From left) Ng, Stella, Cheryl and Kate enjoying their edible garden.

It’s interesting that the garden has become a conversation piece as well: when people come over they’re, like, “Wah! You have sayur in your garden. This doesn’t happen very much in KL.” It’s something that gets everyone excited, and they want to be a part of it.

Ng: For me, it’s part of my routine now because the cafe uses stuff from the garden, like the ulam raja, Asian fennel, and rosemary. So once or twice a week, early in the morning, I’ll do some harvesting and send the produce to the cafe. It helps improve the food there because everything’s fresher.

What’s surprising is that the Indonesian workers understand the plants better than us – they take one look and straight away know what they are.

Cheryl: They know what’s in our garden!…