As British Asians, we need to reclaim our heritage, by gardening. Yes, gardening is an excellent way to connect with our cultural roots. We can do this by incorporating traditional plants, herbs, and vegetables from our countries of origin. Additional designs and aesthetic features, such as fountains, ponds, statues, sculptures, or other decorative features that depict symbols of cultural significance can be a fantastic way to showcase one's heritage. Most Asian garden designs are characterised by symmetry, simplicity, and a lot of vegetation.
You can start hosting home parties, events, or celebrations in the garden using some of the homegrown herbs, fruits, and vegetables for making traditional dishes or holding religious ceremonies. This can bring the community and family together to celebrate our culture.
Gardening is not only beneficial for the environment, it can also have beneficial effects on physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Some of the benefits can include physical exercise, improved air quality, relaxation, and mindfulness, which in turn can improve mood and reduce the risk of depression, not to mention expressing your fun and creative side. Incorporating these elements can make it feel like a space that reflects the gardener's heritage while also being an enjoyable space for all to enjoy.
When we think of crops and vegetables we tend to think of those we are used to seeing in the supermarkets such as carrots, cabbages, potatoes, peas, sweetcorn, and cucumbers. But there is so much more we could grow relatively easily that is used in Asian cooking. Traditional crops such as okra, bitter melon, eggplant, and Indian mustard are easy to grow are not widely available in British supermarkets, and can serve as a source of fresh produce.
Growing crops in a home garden can provide access to fresh produce that is culturally significant. Gardening can grant individuals access to fresh, healthy produce which can improve overall nutrition, in turn leading to better physical health outcomes. Here are a couple of crops that are relatively easy to grow in the UK climate and are commonly used in traditional Asian cooking:
- Cereals: Rice is a staple in Asian cuisine and can be grown in the UK, although it requires a lot of water and warm temperatures. However, other cereals like sorghum and millet can be more easily grown in the UK.
- Leaf crops: Coriander, mint, basil, and curry leaves are commonly used in Asian cooking and can be grown in containers or in the ground. Spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are also popular choices.
- Stem crops: Lemongrass is commonly used in Asian cooking and is a hardy plant that can be grown in the UK. Ginger and turmeric are also stem crops used in Asian cooking.
- Roots and tubers: Garlic, onion, and shallots are commonly used in Asian cooking and can be grown in the UK. Taros, sweet potatoes, and yams are root crops that are used in many Asian cultures.
- Fruits: Mangoes, guavas, and papayas are popular fruits in Asian cuisine but may not grow well in the UK climate. However, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries are fruits that can be easily grown in the UK and are commonly used in desserts.
- Leguminous crops: Mung beans and soybeans are commonly used in Asian cuisine and can be grown in the UK. Peas, lentils, and chickpeas are also legumes used in Asian cooking.
- Gardening can be a meditative and relaxing activity, and for British Asians. Taking these steps allows us British Asians to feel connected to our roots, while also keeping the heritage alive for future generations to appreciate.