Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Where the Grub Comes From

I grew up thinking that everyone had a jungle of fruits and vegetables in their yards where their parents would go and get bits and pieces to prepare meals. Then I got a little bit older, and I thought that all Asian families did this. Eventually I realized that the sheer volume of things my parents grow isn't very common at all, and that my parents are amazing (and a little crazy).

Some snapshots of a few of the wonderful things they grow in their backyard:


The stuff that ends up in the Khmer version of scallion pancakes. It's pronounce "kuh-chai" and is sort of green-onion esque, but has thicker leaves and is not as sharp in flavor.

Chinese kale. I think.

The tenderest lettuce leaves you'll ever wrap around a spring roll.

Lemongrass. These will eventually grow into a chaotic jungle.

Lonely sugarcane. I think my dad might have planted these for a lark since I showed envy at the multitude of sugarcane in my aunt's backyard. (Yes, my aunt has this kind of yard, too. The whole family trades their respective bounty.)

Kaffir lime tree. I don't recall actually seeing any fruit on this tree, ever, though the leaves are used often in my mother's cooking. Her delicious, delicious cooking.

Dessert: tangerines! Or whatever variation of small orange citrus these are. They're tangy, and more sour than sweet, which is why I like them. One of my friends suggests that this means I must have a sour disposition. I don't think that's true. Jerk.

Things I left out: banana trees, a lime tree, pomegranate trees, persimmon trees, a guava tree, mint, and many other things for which I don't know the English names.

And this (along with lots of leftovers from family gatherings) is how I survive on $20-40/month for groceries.


JPENG said...

oooh man, everything looks soooo good. Are you Cambodian?? I'm half and my grandparents backyards never looked this good (maybe it was all the snow in Connecticut). I

JPENG said...

oh yea, and I think Cambodians naturally love all things's in our genes ^.^

kara said...

Kaffir limes?! Whoa...

Btw, khu-chai... any chance they are garlic chives/chinese leeks?

the grocery fiend said...

Yes, Kara, you're right. Bugger me for not doing more research. :n)

Krysta said...

You are so lucky!

e-regular said...


my father is Cuban and my mum is Romanian and they live in Brisbane. I guess that most ethnic families like to have their own fruit and vegetables growing in their own backyard, it is part of our culture and the savvy economist's way.

I used to love eating fruit and vegetables from our own garden when I was growing up as a child. I still go to my parents every now and then and take some limes and macadamia's off the trees, although I have my own house now and started planting my own fruit and vegetables.

Great stuff! Truly awesome and congratulations to your family for putting in so much hard work and reaping the benefits.

I truly find it amazing and think more people should do it.