Sweet surprise unearthed

Cambodian monks Oeun Sam, Thai Chheouy, Vichet Hang and Chheang Sophal with the giant sweet potato. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d402538
Cambodian monks Oeun Sam, Thai Chheouy, Vichet Hang and Chheang Sophal with the giant sweet potato. Picture: Bruce Hunt www.communitypix.com.au d402538

The monks arrived in Australia in December 2011 to provide support to Cambodians who are integrating into the Australian community.

About a year ago, Cambodian Welfare Cultural Centre of WA president Phuong Un planted the sweet potato in the monastery grounds and monk Vichet dug it up last week.

‘I was amazed and couldn’t believe how big it was as I had to keep digging to get to the bottom of the potato, then I called our neighbour who was working in his garden to help me,’ said Vichet, who speaks little English, via a translator.

‘He said he has never seen one this big before and took it to his home to show his wife.’

Terence Flanagan, who has been teaching English to the monks, said they believed it was the biggest vegetable they had grown.

‘They have not seen anything this big in Cambodia, so it must be the soil in the Swan Valley, plus their daily care, that caused the potato to grow so big,’ he said.

Mr Flanagan said the monks did not cook as a normal rule as this task was done by lay people in their community.

‘They have their main meal at 11.15am, which must be finished before midday; they do not eat again until the morning of the next day,’ he said.

‘In circumstances where no one is able to cook they prepare a simple meal for themselves.

‘As ovens are not part of traditional food preparation, they either steam or fry the sweet potato, they also serve it as a curry, or they prepare it as a sweet, for example after cooking it they cover it with sweetened sticky rice and serve it as a dessert.’

Australian Sweet Potato Growers president Rodney Wolfenden said the monks had done well growing the 8kg vegetable, as it is a tropical plant.