The deep coloured greenery swelled out and spilled over the top of the plastic carrier bag, which had been handed to me. Hidden beneath the massive aromatic foliage were more interesting items. There were three Pak Choi and one splendid white Mooli. It was lunchtime when I made my visit to the care home, carrying this abundantly overflowing bag. In my spare hand I held a pack of raspberries, a treat. I got curious looks from the care staff and some polite smiles. I was on a visiting mission. I knocked on the door of room 41.
She immediately wanted to know what I was carrying. I got her to feel through the foliage and the thin stalks. Still not sure, I encouraged her to nibble at a little of a leaf. Yes, it tasted of something but what? She sniffed the green bunch and stroked the stalks. Realisation; her mother used to grow this and use it in soups, make soup with it and put it with meat and gravy. She couldn’t remember how long ago, but it made for a good flavour. Did the Mooli have a sharp and hot radish flavour, she wanted to know and could it be boiled or steamed. What about the other one, the Pak Choi? She was thinking and asking questions while I gave my ideas for preparing the two vegetables.
We shared savoury and sweet recipe ideas for the best part of an hour, and the time passed pleasantly and quickly. The raspberries, which all got eaten, evoked thoughts of home made cakes; puddings; jam; outings with an enamel bucket used for collecting and cooking the raspberries, in times long past.
On my way out, staff asked me about the greenery I was carrying. One, a Bulgarian lady did not know Pak Choi, but bemoaned the fate of her garden back home without her. A local carer had no idea about any of it. A Chinese carer squealed with delight when she saw the Mooli and was thrilled to hear we called the other little vegetable (the Pak Choi) the same name she knew it by.