Category Archives: Polyculture & FoodForesting

If you can’t change Seasons, Landscape & Vegetation, accept what Mother Nature allows but maybe tweak a little, here & there.
There is no reason why different plants can’t grow happily together, so mix them I will.

Pandan ~ Can baby roots be forced to grow?

I have received a very interesting email from a reader (Mr/Ms H. M.L.) with questions as per captioned and whether I add Epsom salt &/or coffee to my soil.

In reply:  I have never tried forcing “baby roots” to grow but you have actually triggered my curiosity with that question. I think it’s time for a new experiment. No, I have not added Epsom salt and yes, I do add used ground coffee to my soil.

However, IF you have 2 very matured plants and are willing to try getting “babies” out of them, you have 2 options.*

Land-babies sprouting from a chopped off “old” stalk which has had its trunk and aerial roots buried about 1 ft in rich composted manure and then mulched to retain moisture,
or Aqua-babies, which are growing from a stalk being rooted in water. These small plants were just green spots when the stalk was submerged and to me that  indicated potential growth.


These will grow in (yes, under) water until they are tall enough to be exposed above soil when I bury all the water cultivated (white-hair like) roots in soil.

We have just had the Summer Solstice and I think the Pandan plants are feeling the Moon’s magnetic charge. See some of the parent plants with their “babies”.

So, Mr/Ms H. M.L., I can’t answer your main question about forced growth of baby roots yet but … that will be my experiment for 2018.
Thank you for igniting that flame of curiosity.  😉

*Forewarning: If your plants die because of poor handling, bad soil, infertility, etc … don’t blame me. Try at your own risk.

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Extreme Makeover

It’s almost the end of winter ~ Florida winter that is.  Another “nor’easter” is brewing and will probably come down south, yes, our way.

Will my warm weather plants’ seedlings survive? Will it get frosty, needing the tropical fruit “trees” to be covered again? Unpredictable as … who knows(?) *sigh*

But all is not lost. There is an indication that Spring is forthcoming. The grapevines are calling out.

Spring is forthcoming and I’m ready to grow!

So we decided on an extreme backyard makeover … Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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. 😀

Continue reading

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!

Continue reading

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