3 min read

Being a homebody plant nerd

Being a homebody plant nerd

Hi there,

As some of you may know (or have been forced to applaud), I've picked up a new hobby over the pandemic. Growing microgreens!

I understand this process is not for everyone

I appreciate the meditative nature of my approach. It’s unpractical if you’re looking to substantively grow your own food. But if you want to the outside world to disappear — I recommend a tray of coco moss, a wet toothpick, and meticulously  sowing individual seeds. I can plant about 2,000 seeds at a go. I did get a healthy amount of sprouts in a few days!

A cat’s paw planted firmly on the sprouts
RIP alfafa and arugula

Unfortunately, due to the intense and close attention I paid to the seeds, my housemate’s cat also developed an obsessive interest in them. I could not convince him to leave them alone. As such, I need to work out a place in this house that is out-of-reach for a determined and heavy chonk.

I am drawn to plants that are either edible, or attractive to pollinators. I think I’ve been quite successful in providing for the bees and butterflies so far.

a bulbous durian sapling emerging, its original cracked seed still hanging off the edge of one little branch
I had no idea durian trees start off looking like alien pods

I’m currently having some moderate success growing durians and rambutans from seed. Even the mini pineapple I hold up in this newsletter’s cover image was grown in my garden. I have also been keeping friends updated on each new leaf that unfurls from the Monstera Adansonii I keep at my desk.

To be honest, I’ll probably always be a mediocre gardener. I enjoy gardens, and I love plants, but the day-to-day nature of tending to multiple living beings isn’t for me. I want my chores to stop at the cat, house, and a few indoor plants.

I do however quite enjoy reading about nature. My favourite books on living in the forest, and plants, are written by Eric Hansen. I picked up Stranger in the Forest over a decade before I first encountered the concept of anticolonial travel writing. I don’t know if I would have so easily picked up the title today, as I try to read more Southeast Asian and women authors.

I’m glad I did. It exists in a little nook of my heart, unexamined, just loved because of the joy I got of reading it. It was of his travels with the Penan people in the 1980s. I found his gaze on them gentle, and their interactions full of humour and heart. Even then, we could see many of the problems that would plague the Penan people were already in affect.

Hansen proved to be an insightful commenter at the George Town Literary Festival, well versed in the artificial scarcity of orchids and plants imposed by trade sanctions, and how they negatively impacted the Orang Asal in Borneo. I would later discover he covered the topic in his book, Orchid Fever (unlike the reviewer, I think Hansen’s focus on CITES was valuable and insightful). I will never reach the level of obsession for orchids documented in his book, but I enjoy reading about other people’s fanatical dedication! I really do recommend both titles — I very much rate them  🏳️‍🌈💁🏻‍♂️🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 each.

Two cutouts of photos on a pink background: one of a hand holding a black book up with the title Retelling Forgotten Tastes -- it has illustrations of leaves on it. The second is of a hand holding up a spread, each page has an illustration of green leaf and description
Recalling Forgotten Tastes by Syarifah Nadhirah! (ok a part of me feels like I’m reading about plants printed on murdered plants but I can’t stop my brain)

I’m currently reading Recalling Forgotten Tastes. What I love about the book is how memories and indigenous knowledge/stories are central to knowing more about the plants we find in our forests. You can get a copy (RM35 print, USD6 Kindle). It is the next book I aim to add to the Open Library catalogue.

This title is also included in Sam Cheh’s list of 10 Books by Malaysian Women Writers You Should be Reading. There are many titles I enjoy in Sam’s selection. I won’t go into it here, but do check out her list to see what she recommends.

That’s it for now, see you all next week. (I hope by then my microgrens have a new spot!)


PS: This newsletter is free, but you can help it grow by being a paid subscriber, or buying me a cup of coffee. Thank you for reading! 🏳️‍🌈💁🏻‍♂️🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟