Thin streaks of clouds trailing across the azure sky, a concoction of aromas, a splash of colour all around. Subject Day turned out to be rather fascinating, despite the ennui I initially anticipated.
The Herbs and Spices Farm Tour was held at the Oh Chin Huat Hydroponic Farms. Brimming with a mixed bag of herbs and spices that come in the form of leaves or petals, a sense of excitement can be felt amongst the participants as they eagerly snapped pictures and rubbed tiny leaves between their fingers to subsequently take a whiff of the scents emanated. I particularly enjoyed the fragrance of the spice, citronella, which smelled just like lemon extract.
Whilst walking on gravel paths and trying to avoid buzzing bees that surf the open spaces from flower to flower, our guide, Jeff, enlightened us on the many uses of various herbs and spices.
For instance, rosemary is a herb that is often used in slimming products due to its ability to digest fats (this is an added bonus, now that you won’t feel as guilty for consuming meat, which tends to be rubbed with rosemary for a sumptuous finish). Basil, another herb that is commonly added to dishes, has even been used in insect repellents!
Spices, which exist as any other part of the plants except the leaves, have been known to enhance the aroma and flavour of food, as well as bring therapeutic value to consumers. Are you aware that for ages, mint and lavender have helped individuals to overcome nausea, restlessness and insomnia?
To preserve all of this overwhelming goodness, the plants were cultivated in shade as exposure to excessive sunlight impedes their growth.
According to Jeff, only a small portion of the herbs and spices are eventually sold to the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), given that the main aim of the farm is to raise awareness of the significance of herbs and spices as natural nutritional powerhouses in our daily lives.
During our break, Jeff began showering chemicals over us, much to everyone’s surprise. It then dawned upon us that his aim was to familiarise us with the scents of certain herbs.
Before the session drew to an end, we were brought to a store selling seed packages, adorable embellishing plant jars or herbal plants as keepsakes. If properly cared for, the plants can last for around 2 or 3 years.
The best part of this horticultural activity is that it is not tedious in the least(seedlings only need to be watered once or twice daily) for a considerable yield of spices or herbs. Being able to grow your own ingredients not only allows us to ensure the freshness of our meals, but also to savour the fruits of our labour.
To wrap up, the activity was generally exhilarating and enriching.
One of our teachers-in-charge, Mr Tan Wee Yong, quoted, “I believe the students enjoyed themselves and have learnt about herbs and plants that many weren’t familiar with, and how these ingredients can be used in everyday life. I hope future batches can participate in this tour.”
“It was plain awesome!” quipped Muhammad Salman Bin Sabeer from 16S33, who gave the tour a sterling ranking of a 5 out of 5 for how fun it was.
Nonetheless, there were a number of students who opined that the tour could have been more educational.
As Bao Rong from 16S42 mused, “The session today provided me with a new and refreshing experience because I haven’t been to such farms in the last decade. However, I don’t understand why it is considered to be Chemistry-related. It would be great if details of the chemicals present in the herbs and spices were shared with us to see whether what we have learnt at school can be applied to gardening too.”
After all, there are countless benefits to our welfare when you know what a dash of this and a pinch of that will do.
Liyana Mokhtar Hussein, 16S31