Helping temples, a melon at a time

In the fields of Amherst, Mass., a group of four immigrant Cambodian sisters and their friends is raising money to rebuild Buddhist temples in their homeland.

They're achieving this by growing the vegetables they know best. From seeds brought to the US by survivors of the killing fields of the Pol Pot regime (1975 - 79), they plant everything from water grass to exotic melon vines. They've been selling at farm markets for the last seven years, and now the produce is sold to restaurants in Manhattan and Washington.

Peter Westover, Amherst's conservation director, first spotted the women's garden at their apartment complex. He was so impressed at how much the women were growing on the tiny plot that he helped them lease a 40-acre plot of town conservation land.

"I was so happy," one of the women, Prak Ky, told the Associated Press. "It is so beautiful. Our prayers were answered."

They now have more than four acres planted - without an inch wasted - in more than 30 different kinds of Asian vegetables, greens, and hot peppers. The crops range from lemon grass and baby corn to the more exotic water grass - or tachouen - which resembles asparagus. They also grow big-leafed arum, fish-cheek basil, sticky melon, and two-foot long Asian beans.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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