Friday, March 29, 2013

Water Hyacinth

Water Hyacinth

After a hot spell and now with some rain we had, has helped to trigger water hyacinth plants to bloom once again. I have noticed that the water hyacinth after a couple weeks of a hot humid weather without much rain and then finally followed by some consecutive rainy days will make the water hyacinth plant starts to produce flowers.
Water Hyacinth Blooming Season

Today we are fortunate to see 4 plants bloom at once. The water hyacinth flower only bloom for a short time. Water hyacinth plants multiplied very fast and the plants does not required a deep pot fill with water to grow well. As long as the roots are soggy and wet. Later, I probably will have to throw some plants away as it is getting overcrowded. I could not convince my mother yet to add some on her koi pond as she is worried about the pond filter system got clogged with these plants. Water hyacinth is also a good water purifying plant.
Water Hyacinth Bud

I spied some water hyacinth buds which will make a succession of flowering water hyacinth these next few days.
Have a Nice Weekend!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Butterfly Pea KakiAge and Smurf Drink (Garden Gobble)

 This Thursday we are participating Garden Gobbles hosted by Veggiegobbler. I am always amazed on how creative Veggiegobbler at producing amazing vegetarian dishes from her garden for her family. The garden produce that is daily available to us is the Butterfly pea flowers and Surinam Spinach or also known as Javanese Ginseng. When I first came back, I seriously thought that Javanese Ginseng was a weed plant before I knew what it was. Well, it grows like weed even now in our garden, self-seeded readily and they thrive any kind of weather here in our garden without any care. But Javanese ginseng leaves have a lot of health benefit for the whole family. One of the benefit for children eating Javanese leaves is that it helps boost appetite. So I always sneakily add some Javanese leaves into the dishes for my underweight kids so they eat more. For example, whenever I cook pasta or fried rice/noodles, I will add some Javanese leaves. Our Rayyan who is 3 and a half years old is only 11 kilogram.

 Butterfly peas is good to harvest daily as the blooms only open per-day and it promotes the plants to produce more flowers too. I was thinking of another way to enjoy our butterfly pea harvest and got the idea to fry it like Japanese kakiage style. Kakiage are often set on top of a rice bowl or Japanese soup like dishes that contain udon or soba noodles. Kakiage is usually a mixtured of julliene carrot and onions mix together with tempura batter and fried deeply in hot vegetable oil until you get a crunchy texture. Basically, it is a very easy to prepare kakiage, you just need tempura flour, vegetable oil, veggies and water for the basic ingredients. I tried mixing with sweet basil leaves before too which is also ok.  However, we made a fusian dish, we enjoyed the crispy kakiage together with pasta which contain Ginseng Jawa leaves harvest from our own garden.

Butterfly Pea Flowers Kakiage ~ Butterfly pea blooms, carrots, onions, tempura flour, water, vegetable oil.

Butterfly pea kakiage lifted our from the hot wok.

 Do you know you can create magic show for your children with the smurf drink? The smurfy blue colour drink with lime/lemon juice added to it will slowly turn to purplish ~ pink depending on how much you add. Scientifically its like a pH indicator of acidic or alkaline of a way to explain to your student. To make the smurf drink is easy, just boil water together with the blue part of the flower only. Traditionally it is boil with pandan leaves (screwpine leaves) but if you don't have it don't worry it is not necessary. Add sugar according to your taste. We usually harvest more than 50 butterfly pea flowers which can get me more than 3 Litres of smurf drink. Don't worry if you don't have much butterfly pea flowers you can adjust the water volume bit by bits. The more flowers, the more bluish it is. After cooling the smurf drink you can squeeze some lemon/lime juice according to your taste.

Smurf drink ~ Butterfly pea flowers, pandan leaves (optional) , sugar, water and lemon/lime juice (optional) . 

 Due to the weather change each week with one hot weather than the week after thunderstorm, many people got sick near Klang Valley area. So do take care. I am still having a fever.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Lemon Tree and March Mains

 My kids and I are all feeling under the weather this week, sadly for the kids it is school holiday this week so the museum trip is being postponed for the time being. There are certain things as a parents it is not easy to explain regarding our own basic customs or culture because our children spent more living in Adelaide than here for the time being. The almost six years old Ilhan getting curious what is a Sultan and Malaysia democracy system for example. So my other half suggested probably the National Museum will be good for them. When my parents came back this month, I got to identified many plants and its origin from Mama. One of the plants that surprised me the most is her lemon plants. For all my teasing her (gulps with regrets when I was staying in Adelaide), she successfully grown so many lemons trees from the seeds that she collected from fresh lemons that we received from 'Fruit & Vegetables Swap' meetings. On top of that, the plants were bearing heavy fruits when I came back . For a fruit plant, the lemon plant my mother grown from seeds must be very young especially to start bearing fruit compared to a grafted one. I don't think I can catch up with her green thumb at growing plants. The most amazing thing I observed was the plants that she bought from our local nursery did not produce juicy lemon (mostly dried pulps), but the ones she sowed from seeds were so juicy and far better than the ones we ever bought in the market. We are so blessed with lemons since we came back, each week we will have some to harvest and sometime I got lazy to pick them.
 A few gardeners in Malaysia were a bit sceptical (just kidding, jangan marah ya) that we can grow lemons in Malaysia and asked for us to post lemon plant pictures. Well here is one of our superstar, picture taken last December. This plant height is just over 1 metre tall. There is a vine creeper plant over the lemon plant need to take it off from lemon. This is the plants that produces lemons for the heart charity event that we participated last year. Grafted plants does not have a long life at our garden especially during wet season they will be a lot of rain and our area is prone to flood. So growing fruit plants from seeds is more a good investment but rather a tricky one because it might not be the same clone as its original parents. However, if you are lucky, you get much better original new fruits. For example, the seeds sowed by mother I have noticed at least 2 different kind shape of lemons and both are good bearing trees bearing good new fruits different from the original parent seeds.
 Here is the lemon plant base, the roots has spread to more than a metre at its growing location. Chicken and ducks love to sit under the lemon tree sometime and we don't have to weed as they like to scratch the soil while leaving their poo around.
 Sometime the lemon fruit is stung by that insect in the picture especially during hot weather which made me think how did the ones in the store can be perfectly unblemished. I don't really mind much as it only reduce the lemon storage time a little bit outside of the refrigerator compared to the ones that did not received kisses from them. But the ones that stung by them are actually more juicier, very intelligent insect.
 This is how the plant look last month, not much leaves compared last year. This lemon plant has spent most of its energy producing fruits in expense of leaves. Last week, my other half has helped pruned all the branches into half for the plant to be able to rest for a while. This lemon plant were given goat manure after being pruned. At the moment, we still have more than 3 lemon plants fruiting so this one was given a chance to rest and refreshed itself. After cajoling mama for the tour at the back, I was surprised we have actually many lemon plants all over the garden, perhaps more than 20 plants in various sizes. One of the main reason, the naughty butterfly pea plants and winged bean plants hide those plants and make them their trellis. Of course the Head gardener was not happy to see her lemon plants being swallowed up by that naughty naughty plants. Since the lemon trees are more precious, when I fill fit again all those naughty plants will be cleared and off into the compost bean. The head gardener is still planning to plant more lemon along the wall. Probably the thorns will put off people from trespassing. 
 Another citrus that we were able to harvest last week was a mini pamelo. Also some basil leaves, okras, bananas, soursop, calamansi limes, butterfly pea blooms, surinam spinach and a soursop.
A small papaya before the birds got to them and some green mangoes.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Baby Blue Jade Corn

 Rice is a staple food in Malaysia.  For my babies, I would like them to sample a variety of staple food and not just rice in their diet everyday. Growing home-grown rice is not realistic at the moment and one which I cannot commit while still struggling to complete my thesis, not easy since I can't really started my writing while trying to recover from post-natal and mental depression. I chose another relative of rice which is corn as the first tentative step to grow our own food. Thus this year, I decided to study the soil and weather at our place which is perfect for a successful growing corn requirement in different season and location. Perfect condition meaning I don't have to look after them as I need to be more committed and focus more on my thesis and my three babies which is all under 5 years old. All the plants including corns at the moment only depend on rain water unless we don't have any rain for 3 consecutive days. The first corn we decided to grow since we came back is Baby blue jade heirloom corn. 
 Baby Blue Jade Corn is a very beautiful mini size corn compare to standard sweet corn size. Baby Blue Jade is about the size of baby corn  just fatter and have fat kernels. Therefore, baby blue jade corn is a blue heirloom open-pollinated corn that is suitable for gardeners that have limited spaces to grow their own food. For fun, we did a trial growing baby blue jade corn on a meter square raised bed and just use a quarter of that space to grow Baby Blue Jade Corn next to okra plants which also dominated a quarter of space too. I also utilised the raised bed space for a place to sow seeds that will be transplanted later. One of the reason why I put small pots underneath the Baby Blue Jade Corn to prevent hens from scratching the soil and uprooted the young sweet corn plants. Happened several time, so this is one of the solution apart from fencing it. Although, many young Baby Blue Jade Corn were uprooted, the plants were hardy and strong enough to survive the attack after I replanted them back. Corn has very shallow roots which is actually not much a problem growing them in container. For successful pollination it is advise to grow many in block and not in rows.  However, it does not mean to really grow them in perfect 'block', can be grown in circle or clumps as long as the plants are surrounded to ensure success pollination. This is one heirloom corn that balcony gardeners can try. can also be space much closer than the standard sweet corn size.
 The raise bed which we grew this first batch of Baby Blue Jade corn is situated underneath the canopy of Durian and Banana tree. I always observed on hot weeks from experience growing corns, the male pollen is not very rich and the male tassel somehow looks a bit worn out quickly, probably many got damaged before all the female hair came out. I am speculating that the banana leaves that shade the male tassel did make some contribution of corn success this time around. The male tassel did not seem to dry up fast.
 Tantalising silky female hair making an appearance.
The male tassel still look good after lots of hair emerged from the ear.
 Almost the time to harvest waiting for the white hair to turn brown and drying. It is said the Baby Blue Jade Corn plant grows about 2~3 feets tall. But some of our plants were more than 5 feet tall. Surprisingly, Baby Blue Jade Corn is a good companion with okra plants. Can you see okra flower and fruit peeking?
 Baby Blue Jade Corn is an heirloom blue-coloured corn, but beginners at growing corns makes mistake easily with the ancient or heirloom coloured corn with the time of harvesting. If you want to harvest the corn to eat them raw, grilled or boiled, harvest the corns before they turn blue and when you prick the kernels milky liquid ooze out. This is the perfect time to harvest them like the picture above. Eat while they are young. It is the sweetest corn, we ever tasted raw! We taught our boys to eat fresh home-grown corn raw since little. No need to hassle preparing boiling water at all. The corn also tasted better that way. Sowing corn to harvesting this stage took about 70~80 days. Corn is Ilhan favourite food while Rayyan is a carrot fan. I was very surprised that Rayyan finishes up one corn quickly than Ilhan and Rayyan is a very slow-eater. Little Rayyan was even asking for more and I even have to hide Ilhan share so Rayyan will stop pestering.
 When the kernels turned blue, indicates that the corn is not palatable to be eaten just like that. However, the hard dried kernels can be use as popcorns or grind them for your very own home-grown corn flour. Also look very pretty as ornamental hanging in the kitchen, I am just happy looking at them in our kitchen drying.
 One of my passion in gardening is collecting heirloom seeds. Although, it was hard to resist not to harvest all of them young, I managed to harvest some just enough for my private seed bank. Hopefully with the seeds that I  collected can help us to grow more for our babies. Collecting seeds requires patience and hopefully with the next new batch with our own home-grown collected seeds will be able to grow more and collect more seeds.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kesimpulan tuaian bulan Mac ini

 For these past 2 weeks, we had lots of hot sunny days and not much rain. Thus some plants are balking and some welcome it. Happy plant is the okra bunch.  I have to check on the okra plants every 2 days because the fruits grows so long so fast in just 2 days for about at least 10 cm. The lemons are sulking, the hot weather causes them to ripe too fast and physically they don't look great. Lemon size significantly changes on the smaller side compared to wet season.
 Butterfly pea flower plants is a very cool plant. They don't mind the wet or hot weather. So our kids continue to enjoy their 'Smurf' drink. Everyday we spent at least 15 minutes harvesting the butterfly pea flower blooms.
We harvested some turmeric rhizomes and bandicoot some young ginger rhizomes as well this month.
 I almost missed out the beginning of our burgundy okra harvest since I ignored the place that they were growing for more than a week not expecting the plants will produce anytime soon. The Sweet Large Italian Basil plants are doing very well and I was surprised how big the basil leaves were comparing to other sweet basil I have planted before.
 I was not expecting to get any decent harvest of this variety heirloom sweet corn as the male started to flower in just over a month. From experience, when the male started to poke out too early it is always a sign they are under stress. Well I do know what was the main reason why was this sweet corn batch suffered stress because it was solely depending on rain water. Furthermore, our geese managed to chomp some part of the sweet corn plants as I forgot to close the nettings properly as they were able to poke in their head and tugged the plants. This variety of sweet corn produces a lot of ears, but I decided to harvest them as baby corns because the male pollen has finished up. Calamansi limes are also available but not many. So my aim this week is to prune the citrus family and feed them with some manure or compost. 
 Entering March we started to be blessed with bananas. As we are able to harvest a bunch of bananas from one plant each week. Our cheekie monkies is very happy each time we have them in the basket on the table when they are fully ripe. We have to keep an eye on them or ended with a huge mess of bananas in the kitchen.
 Malay wild eggplants which is a very tiny over 1 cm in length and birds-eye-chillies is wildly growing all over the place courtesy of the birds that like them too. Actually the birds and our part of the share is more than we can eat them. I am very happy the first time I tried growing Baby Blue Jade heirloom corn  and have very good results with it. Although the hen below scratched out the young corn seedlings caused it to uprooted and I have to plant it back feeling no hope for it. Despite that these corn batch did very well.
 But the hot weather brings many death to our egg-laying hens in this month of March. Every week at least 2~3 hens were found dead. Sadly, we now only have 2 hens left. I really need to get more chickens now. Does anyone knows any chick suppliers close to Sungai Buloh area? We really are interested to buy some chicks, please do contact us.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Golden Torch

 Imagine if one of the international sports events during the night the torch that athletes are holding while running have a designed like this 'Golden Torch' shining in the dark. The Heliconia members is surely very showy, striking and exotic plant to look at. It does very well here in the tropics thriving without care in full sun or partial shade, provided the soil is moist. The plants is very appreciative of the wet season. The golden torch has been flowering non-stop since we went back. The blooms are like step of ladders, one by one it gives you a beak before fully bloom like the first photo. It is no wonder why it is also known as 'Bird of Paradise'.
Here is how the 'Golden Torch' journey begins.
Climbing towards the peak....
Almost there.... to full bloom.
Some spent blooms...
My parents came back for a few days from Borneo island. My mother gave a really good whacking like a Kung Fu master to her 'Golden Torch' plants. Well she is the professional in the house anyway. It took her less than 5 minutes to prune this one whereas I would probably take half a day. Because I will be very worried whether I am careful enough or damage her plants. So the above photos were collected from the ahem 'pruning'.
Peeping inside...looks like sweet corn kernels.
 It seems at the other side of our fence which is an empty lot has been populated by this 'Golden Torch' heliconia plants as well. I wondered whether this is due to seeds that has been dispersed from the plants or the rhizomes went really deep and across the brick fence. Heliconias is usually much easier to propagate by rhizomes or plant divisions.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Scarlet Passion Flower

 I did not realised on my mother's pergola, two type of passiflora made their home there until finally the scarlet passion flower made a debut. The other passiflora species also has very showy flowers.  However, the late bloomer is shockingly scarlet when it made a showy entrance from afar one of the pergola corner seems to be in blaze (probably exaggerated too much).
At the centre of the flower, forms very tiny fruit not as big or palatable like the other passiflora. These two passiflora has very different shape of leaves which makes it easy to differentiate when both are not in flower. The red ants like to play around the scarlet passion flower. Don't be alarm the red ants are like bodyguards not a pest unlike other type of ants that host aphids.
 Each string of stems fill with buds. But on the same string of stem the bud does not bloom at once. Instead they opened one by one making the blooming season long and if you miss them or away, you still have a chance to enjoy them.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Marching into March Harvest

 Since we came back last November lemon harvest season has been very long or continue until now in our garden. Lemon trees has been fruiting very well and lemon fruits has been dominating some space in the wet kitchen. When we have several days of warm weather, I really have to harvest the lemon quite often. Passion fruits also has been making its way back to the kitchen this March as some fruits are seen ripening up on the tree and some has drop for picking.
Other small fruit harvest this early March is velvet apples, soursop and papayas.
Okra fruits also growing long so fast in just 2 days it can be more than 15 cm. Need to check on the okra plants almost everyday to pick the fruits. Butterfly pea blooms are generous everyday.
 We also harvested jicama tubers, sweet basil leaves, birds-eye chillies, pandan leaves and nam nam fruits. I was clearing up a patch and one volunteer javanese ginseng was growing on that spot. Pulled out the javanese ginseng and got a nice ginseng root. Javanese ginseng root is as potent as Chinese/Korean ginseng root.  The leaves and flowers from the javanese ginseng is edibles and I add into the stir-fried pasta for a quick simple lunch for us. We also deep-fried sweet basil leaves and butterfly pea flowers battered with tempura flour. I was surprised the boys ate them so quickly like snacks came out from the potato chips bag. I thought they won't find it interesting at first. I had to compete with the kids to have a bite or two before it finishes.