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A successful gardening and cooking experience at Faith Temple Triumphant Ministries

Bottle gourd

Submitted photo A large bottle gourd in the community garden. It can be used to detoxify the body.

Submitted photo A large bottle gourd in the community garden. It can be used to detoxify the body.

By Dr. Sashi Sabaratnam

For the Salisbury Post

As usual, the members of Faith Temple Triumphant Ministries socialized after morning service and shared their experiences from the past week. Church members visited the church kitchen and pantry which is stocked with snacks, drinks and the bounty of vegetables from the summer garden.

The church offers not only spiritual food but also pick-me-up snacks for the members before they go home. For the past few months, the members had the advantage of taking home fresh vegetables produced in the church yard. God blessed this garden with aesthetic beauty of the church yard and bounty of fresh nutritious vegetables. Since it was such a pleasant and healthy experience for the church members, they have plans to continue this endeavor.

The summer garden was my brainchild. I am professionally trained as a botanist, environmental scientist and a horticulturist. I am a self-proclaimed international chef. I use my skills to promote garden and cooking projects at Livingstone College. I advise the Ecology Club. Plans are underway for me to start an international cooking and culture club at Livingstone College.

My idea of starting a church yard vegetable garden was well received by the pastor, Rev. Henry Diggs and the church members. Diggs has gardening experience with his home garden and shows much enthusiasm with exciting projects such as creating a church/community garden to promote sound nutritional practices and family and social relationships.

Many other church members participated in this garden project, including Diggs, deacon Preston Clark, deacon Albert Fairley and Clara Corey, to name a few. The produce from the garden significantly promoted healthy eating habits and introduced members to exotic healthy/medicinal foods such as bottle gourd which detoxifies the body and bitter gourd, which keeps the blood sugar under control.

The health benefits of these crops have been documented in the journals of nutrition. I offered recipe suggestions to the church members to cook these exotic vegetables. However, the creative and adventurous church members came up with their own innovative recipes to make these vegetables taste good.

I had the opportunity to show off my international culinary skills in a social event hosted by Diggs and the first lady, Joann Diggs this year.

The church event included Sri Lankan cooking I learned while growing up in Sri Lanka. I also highlighted the culture and traditions of Sri Lanka before meal time. The meal included the famous chicken curry, yellow fried rice, chickpeas in tomato gravy, mixed vegetable sides and a banana parfait for dessert. The recipes were shared with participants.

My dear friend, Jayangani Fernando, another Sri Lankan who lives in Salisbury, was there to assist and support me with this event. This was a fun evening and church members were very pleased with the exposure to the taste of a foreign cuisine and culture.

Events promoting foreign cuisine and culture are very limited in Salisbury.

People travel to big cities like Charlotte and Raleigh to gain valuable international experience. Many local community members do not have the money or modes of transportation to attend these events. I feel that we need to educate and expose the local community to foreign cuisine and cultures, using the resources available locally. International experiences offered locally will enlighten and educate community members. Churches and colleges in the area can play a pivotal role in this effort. Also, the exposure will enhance appreciation of foreign cultures by the locals.

Pastor Diggs and I hope we can procure grants from local and national agencies to continue this garden project to include fall and winter gardens, because of the amazing and rewarding experience church members received from this summer garden.

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