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Water Spinach Farmers Struggle To Recover After Hurricane Harvey

Sok Sum wraps a rubber rope around creatively cut H2O spinach inside a hothouse behind his home in Rosharon, Texas.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR


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Sok Sum wraps a rubber rope around creatively cut H2O spinach inside a hothouse behind his home in Rosharon, Texas.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

Water spinach goes by many other names. A tack among some Asian-American families for stir-frys and soups, this stalky unfeeling with arrowhead leaves and vale stems is famous as ong choy in Cantonese and rau muong in Vietnamese.

But in a Cambodian-American village tucked down a sand roads of Rosharon, Texas — about a half-hour south of Houston — many people call it by a Khmer name trakoun.

Often sole in a furnish territory of Asian-owned supermarkets around a country, a unfeeling is a categorical source of income for many families in Rosharon.

A rarely regulated, invasive plant, H2O spinach is grown in greenhouses in Rosharon, Texas.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR


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A rarely regulated, invasive plant, H2O spinach is grown in greenhouses in Rosharon, Texas.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

This nation city is one of a few tools of a U.S. where H2O spinach is grown commercially. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department has released some-more than 50 active permits in Rosharon for flourishing H2O spinach, a rarely regulated, invasive plant that a sovereign supervision considers a noxious weed, creation it bootleg to sell opposite state lines yet a permit.

But roughly dual months after Hurricane Harvey and ancestral flooding totaled many of their homes and shop-worn their H2O spinach greenhouses, a farmers are still recovering, disturbed about what will occur to their approach of life.

Before Harvey, Sok Sum and his wife, Sreyaun Pin, would mostly spend early morning hours crouched inside a 3 greenhouses behind their home, any some-more than half a football margin long. Harvesting H2O spinach inside a plastic-covered greenhouses too late in a day could meant removing feverishness stroke, Sok says.

“This is tough work. When we see things during a store, a vegetables, we don’t know how tough work over here is,” he adds.

Water spinach farmers in Rosharon, Texas, are disturbed about a depressed beams and ripped cosmetic sheeting for their greenhouses as winter approaches.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR


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Water spinach farmers in Rosharon, Texas, are disturbed about a depressed beams and ripped cosmetic sheeting for their greenhouses as winter approaches.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

With a beef hatchet from his kitchen in his left hand, he would strike tighten to a H2O spinach vines snaking opposite a greenhouse’s mud floor, slicing down stems growing usually next his knee.

In about dual hours, Sum and his mother would fill a 25-pound box with tiny immature bouquets of bunched-up H2O spinach to sell to a internal supermarket or wholesaler. In a week, they could acquire about $300 to supplement to a incapacity advantages Sum’s been receiving given after a welding collision from a bureau job

But Sum says he hasn’t been tillage given Harvey and a flooding incited his home into a rickety shell. It took about a week before a H2O receded in Rosharon and he and his neighbors could lapse to their houses.

“When we non-stop a door, we was crying,” Sum says.

Pin, Sum’s wife, says donations from churches and proffer groups have helped them tarry given Harvey. They and other families have been replenishing their reserve with donated bottled water, baby regulation and other essentials built around a church tabernacle of a circuitously Buddha Raksmey Monastery.

“Now, it’s better, yet [we] still need help,” Pin says.

They lived in a tent in their front yard with their 10-year-old daughter for weeks, watchful for their residence to dry out. In black marker, Sum wrote above a tent flap: “We are clever here.” But anticipating snakes on their skill assured them to pierce behind into their house, even yet it was still damp inside and some bedrooms smelled moldy.

Now, Pin says they and many of their neighbors are disturbed about a depressed beams and ripped cosmetic sheeting for their H2O spinach greenhouses.

Flooding from Hurricane Harvey broken Vuth Yin’s home.

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Flooding from Hurricane Harvey broken Vuth Yin’s home.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

Vuth Yin lives down a highway and says his greenhouses need work, too, after a flood.

“But we don’t have time to repair it,” he adds. He’s been bustling building a one-room residence in his backyard to reinstate his flooded home for his family of eight.

But even after their greenhouses are repaired, it’s not transparent when Rosharon’s farmers can start offered H2O spinach again.

Water spinach is a categorical source of income for many Cambodian-American families in Rosharon, Texas. But Vuth Yin says rebuilding his home after flooding from Hurricane Harvey has kept him from farming.

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Water spinach is a categorical source of income for many Cambodian-American families in Rosharon, Texas. But Vuth Yin says rebuilding his home after flooding from Hurricane Harvey has kept him from farming.

Hansi Lo Wang/NPR

At slightest one supermarket in a Houston area says after Harvey, it stopped offered H2O spinach from Rosharon since it’s disturbed about probable decay from a inundate waters. The Hong Kong Food Market, located inside Houston’s Hong Kong City Mall, has usually been offered H2O spinach from California and Florida, according to David Le, an worker during a store.

Still, Yin says as a former interloper from Cambodia, he’s been by a lot of challenges.

“Everywhere,” he says, “you have to quarrel for a square of life.”