Category Archives: Plants

What I grow & what I get

Edible Bromeliad ~ the Pineapple

There’s the decorative Bromeliad (which is very pretty when in bloom)

and the edible Bromeliad which is otherwise known simply as the Pineapple.

When ripened they are fruits that are simply so “tropical” looking, aren’t they?

Ripe and Ready!

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Luffa or Loofah or 广东丝瓜

Whichever way it’s spelt or written, I grow both Egyptian Luffa which is smooth surfaced and Luffa acutangula which is angled luffa, to be used as food rather than for sponge. I once posted and made it known that Yes, I eat Luffa!

It blooms beautifully in summer, but it is unpredictable when deciding whether it should produce more male or female blooms at any one time, usually more of one than the other, rather than 50/50. I guess it’s Ma Nature’s way of population control.

Blooms galore…

Right now, there are blooms all over the trellis but my Angled Luffa is producing 1 female to 9 males. I guess I shouldn’t complain as I’m still get some gourds for kitchen use.

Good Gourds!

I always make one of the simplest (and one of my favorites too) when out of ideas as to what to cook for a meal.

Luffa Fu Yong

In case anyone growing Luffa is curious to try:
– 2 Green Luffas (make sure it’s soft when pressed & heavy – loaded with liquid within)
– 4 cloves Garlic & 1/2″ ginger finely diced
– 6 Dried Shiitake Mushrooms & some Black Fungus, soaked & cut into fine strips
– Sesame Oil, 2 Eggs, Pepper, Soy Sauce, and some water
1. Skin/peel Luffas
2. Oblique cut into bite size
3. Rub in just a pinch of salt
4. Put sesame oil in hot pan & sauté diced garlic & ginger till fragrant
5. Add Shiitake Mushrooms & Black Fungus
6. Mix well and add 1/4 cup water, pepper and soy sauce
7. When steaming hot, add luffa & stir-fry until luffa turns a little translucent
8. Add a little extra water if more gravy preferred, then add eggs.  Wait till egg whites
begin to turn opaque then gently mix.
9. Serve (with garnishing of your choice).
* 3 servings if eaten with rice.
Ideal for ovo-vegetarians

 

 

 

My Tropical Asian Treasure Trove – Part 2

Apart from those hidden Asian treasures in the micro shady boondocks of my backyard, summer warmth has spurred the growth of aromatic foliage which I need, for home style cooking, dishes which I grew up with, taught by my mother and grandmother, food that makes a house smell like home.

Walking around in the morning, at times with coffee mug in hand, pinching or breaking a leaf or two, inhaling the aroma, makes me appreciate what a little bit of each plant can do to enhance our chemical sensing system of smell and taste.

The very easy-to-propagate Lemongrass, nothing to do with lemons, has a citrus flavor which can make a not-so-appetizing dish smell heavenly. In Asia, it is used in soups, spicy stews, sweet tea, curries, as a basting brush for barbecues, as an air freshener in cars, fragrance for soaps and hair oil, heck! it’s supposed to even attract Honey Bees (which is why Lemongrass essence is placed in swarm boxes).

Lemongrass does not like lemons

It looks like scrawny weeds but has very sharp-edged blades and hibernates to a brown clump in winter. It’s also supposed to repel mosquitoes but that aspect is one I can’t vouch for.

The Curry Leaf Plant (Murraya koenigii) to me is what makes a Curry taste and smell like real Curry!  It is a plant native to India and Sri Lanka … the land of Curries, of course! I grew up with this in my backyard ~ yes, déjà vu.

Curry Leaves do smell like Curry.

Can this be found in all Asia grocery stores? No, only Indian run stores, unfortunately, which is why I need to grow my own. I harvest and dry some when it produces its leaves abundantly, just in case there is a bout of winter frost, that’s when it gets bald.

But … there is so much more that can be concocted with this herb, not just curry,

Just a versatile herb.

and in case you are curious (and brave) enough, you might even like to try making Indian Shepherd’s Pie. 😀

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My Tropical Asian Treasure Trove – Part 1

It looks like some overgrown wasteland, neglected, in disarray … well, Ma Nature never created forest growth in straight rows. If they can grow in harmony as companions, and they have for over 3 years, why should I try to ‘straighten things out’ and spoil their habitat?

My shade loving Asian bed

It’s summer. Both plants and human beings in this household can feel the heat, which results in the planting and monitoring frenzy of spices, herbs and rhizomes I use in the kitchen. I try to grow as much as I can, to harvest and preserve (dry or freeze) as I know when the weather gets cooler, they die off or hibernate. They make way for their cool weather comrades.

You may ask “why not just get Asian stuff from an Asian grocery store?” Well, it’s over 35 miles to the closest well-stocked Asian produce store so it would be crazy frequently heading there just to get herbs & spices I need. More important, many of the items that I use, are not sold there … oh yes, not all Asian culinary spices are created equal.
(Click on the sub-titled links for more info & photos.)

Turmeric ~ a much-needed spice in my kitchen. It has grown in my backyard for over 3 years so it simply feels at home and will start re-growing in Spring but will show its leaves in Summer. I use these leaves in tea, curries and as wraps when roasting; and the roots in curries, pickles, sambal, etc.

Fresh green Turmeric leaves.

Galangal (Alpinia officinarum) 南姜 ~ which I simply call Lengkuas is another crucial item needed when preparing S.E. Asian dishes like those Mum taught me.

Galangal – just “normal” looking rhizome growth.

Can you get these in Chinese, Vietnamese or Filipino owned stores? No, but you might find it in Thai & Indian stores … frozen ones, yes but fresh ones, maybe.

Sand Ginger (Kaempferia galanga) or Cekur/沙姜 ~ the mysterious ornamental ginger which I began growing when a ginger-growing enthusiast sent me a rhizome.

Cekur, it makes a beautiful groundcover

Leaves and rhizomes are edible. Lovely as ground cover, even lovelier as an organic backyard grown food aroma enhancer. Can one find this in Asian stores in Florida? Unfortunately I have to say 99.9% it’s “No”. So I simply grow it!

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Grapes’ Gripe

What does one do when the squirrels are once again toying around and simply destroying your grapes, not giving them a chance to ripen? Is there a reason why Ma Nature created these destructive beings?

My daily morning find *ggrrr*

Bagging my tomatoes to prevent critter damage has been successful so far, so in desperation, I have decided to bag some of the grapes which I have spotted and are within my reach. Will the bags act as camouflage to their visual perception?

Bagged grapes

Bags galore

In case any reader knows of better ways to outsmart those darn squirrels, please offer advice/share information with this bag lady.

My Summer Indicator

Yes, it’s Summer … just passed Summer Solstice … but how do I know it’s just as warm as the Tropics? With Mother Nature’s help.

Admittedly I live with my little vegetable-turf and try to grow all kinds edibles which I can harvest during different seasons. I love Asian Spinach (Bayam/苋菜) which is a perennial but grows better in Fall, nevertheless I simply leave some to bolt and produce new plants whenever they feel conditions are right.

Asian Spinach (Bayam/苋菜)

BUT … amongst this greenery which provides some shade, some sprouts have emerged to indicate that it’s Summer!

See the Sprout?

That is the Cekur or Sand Ginger (Kaempferia galanga) which is a beautiful groundcover… but I grow them more for use in the kitchen.

The warmth loving ginger.

Young leaves capturing water.

Soon, some Sand Ginger leaves will garnish & add flavor to sautéed Asian Spinach and later, both leaves and roots will be used when preparing Kerabu or Malay style salad which is rice based.

Kerabu

Is this Recycling or Upcycling?

I, with my simple vocabulary range, will just call it re-using. How about that?
Yes, I have found some of those discarded plastic containers of great use and they can be used multiple times too. Be it the Paris Agreement or Global Warming concerns, it is just my nano contribution to slowing down the flow to the recycling plant.

Watering bottle

Apart from the general hose-watering, I use this method to water slow and deep in areas which do not get rained on – keeps my Daikon & Carrots happy.  🙂

Feeding liquid seaweed fertilizer this way gets it right where it’s needed. No spraying around causing soil-splatter on leaves.

These bottles have been in my possession and used for over 2 years yet they are still in very good condition.

To start seeds in winter, even the not-so-chilly Florida winter, I would still need a greenhouse-of-sort. I don’t have seeding lights, warm mats and other expensive stuff avid gardeners use. I use supermarkets’ salad containers which I call green-boxes.

My seeding “boxes” – (R) is box with lid 4″ high & (L) is box over box 8″ high.

You can start with boxes in their original form – box & lid, but as the seedlings get taller, the lid can be peeled off (for next use, again as lids ) and another box can be used as cover giving the plants growing space. These boxes are 4″ high so with 2 boxes together (see pic above; left item) seedlings can happily stay there longer.

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Pandan Growth Gusto

The Pandanus Amaryllifolius (not any other Screwpine) ~ Pandan for short breaks into a growth gusto when Spring is about to turn to Summer. It must feel like the Tropics to them so ‘babies’ and aerial roots appear at a crazy rate.

This is the time to carefully check between leaves because unless you separate the leaves and inspect, chances are, small young plants will not be seen until too late ~ dehydrated and stunted. Cut the long leaves hiding them if required, be merciless, as the ‘babies’ need light and growth space.

Pandan “babies” just springing up from parent plant and leaves cut off giving them breathing space.

A thick healthy root is about to spring forth.

When that healthy root grows up to 2″, it will be ideal to remove the baby plant from the parent to have more subaerial roots develop in water.

With so many leaves cut off today, what do I do with them? Continue reading