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You may remember her from Netflix’s high-flying series Bling Empire, but—in contrast to the show’s over-the-top themes—Cherie Chan keeps it simple when it comes to how she spends time with her kids. Over the past year, Chan (who recently announced with her husband Jessey Lee that they would not return for the show’s second season) has dedicated herself to getting—literally—in the weeds with her kids Jadore and Jevon, growing a Japanese vegetable garden from scratch in the backyard of the family’s California home.
Gardening has long had significance to Chan, and the past year at home gave her the chance to explore the hobby with her kids. “Growing up, my grandma was really into growing tomatoes and guava and avocado and lemon,” she tells House Beautiful. “So, I guess, as a child I was with my grandma helping her pick the fruits and veggies and my love for food started very young.”
Her own kids, Chan divulges, are the same way. So, Chan decided to recreate the experience at home—and suffice it to say, it’s been a hit. “They love eating and they love going to the backyard, making their own veggies, and being able to water plants,” she says. House Beautiful caught up with Chan to hear more about how she perfected her garden, her favorite veggies (and accompanying recipes!), and the tips she’s learned along the way.
On why she started the garden:
“My kids always wanted to come with me to the grocery store, so I thought, ‘why not start my own garden in my backyard?'” Chan recalls. “Their nutrition and their health is everything to me, so to be able to know that we grew everything in our backyard and, you know, we don’t use any pesticides or anything was so important.”
It was also a way to incorporate a variety of (sometimes hard to find!) foods: “We didn’t have that much access to Japanese produce, so my distributor was like, ‘why don’t I help you source these plants in Japan?'” That’s how it all began.
“When you grow your own produce—I’m not sure if it’s because of the labor—but it tastes so much better than actually purchasing it from the market,” Chan says. “It’s also pretty educational because the kids can learn about the soil and how things are made, how things are grown and, and, you know, and being able to eat the stuff that you grew is pretty rewarding.”
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On what she’s growing:
Chan’s produce vendor helped her source many of the family’s favorite plants: “We got Japanese eggplants, Kumamoto tomatoes—which are these delicious Japanese tomatoes—cherry tomatoes, and Japanese okra to start,” Chan says. “And we actually had sweet potato that we grew in the house first and had sprout and planted.” She’s since added cucumbers, too, and a few herbs…
On her natural mosquito repellent:
Chan’s favorite herb is beloved not only for its handiness in cooking: “I’ve been growing rosemary in the backyard as well, and that repels mosquitoes,” she says. “Definitely grew rosemary in your garden. Because we got attacked by mosquitoes the first couple times, we went out there!”
On her favorite recipes:
Nothing in Chan’s garden goes uneaten. And while her kids will eat tomatoes raw, she’s more prone to picking veggies for cooking: “Lately I’ve been making eggplant miso soup,” she says. “It’s really good for you because miso is high in probiotics. My nanny makes the miso with barley, which helps you get rid of water retention. And we add green onions from our garden too!”
On her kids’ favorite things to grow:
“Kumamoto tomatoes are our absolute favorite,” Chan says. “They are very different than heirloom tomatoes; they are sweet and crunchy…I can’t explain it but they’re amazing. And they’re only available in summer.”
They’re a special favorite for Jevon: “My son will run to the yard and just go, ‘Mommy, Mommy!’ And point at the tomatoes,” laughs Chan.
Jadore, Chan says, “will eat anything,” but especially loves strawberries. “It’s great because they’re packed with vitamins and antioxidants,” she says. “When the strawberries are really ripe, I grind them up and make a face mask.”
Oh her favorites:
As for Chan herself? “My favorite is the lemons,” she says. “I love having lemon water and lemon trees make great photo backdrops.”
And one newer addition has special significance to Chan, who struggled with the loss of her mother on the show. “I’m growing Serrano Chile peppers—those were my mom’s favorite,” she says. “My mom loved them, but they’re dangerous, they’re so spicy. I know my mom isn’t physically here, but I still like doing things with her in mind.” And what better place to do that than a family-centric garden?
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