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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The circle of a Food Chain

From seeds to seeds … and more seeds …
It all usually begins with buying seeds to feed the birds. If you are not a keen lawn mowing activist and allow some so-called weeds to grow along planting borders, you will be surprised what appears.

Nature’s bird food ~ millet

Fresh bird seeds, grown from seeds sown by the birds after consuming from human-made bird feeder(s). Yes, volunteer Millet plants! They are actually quite pretty, adding color to the garden.

Garden assistants helping to pollinate.

Aphids join in the food ring for their plant-sap needs

The ants will pollinate and help the aphids; the aphids will multiply …

Aphid-ful

and soon the Ladybugs will come to devour the aphids, while the Millet will ripen to once again feed the birds.

Nature’s well-planned food chain circle.

 

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

A Great Wall

I just thought I’d share a couple of photos of this great picturesque wall of a house I saw, along one of the coastal roads, in Cape Cod ~ of Cedar Shingles and Lobster Floats.

Simply Eye-catching!

Pretty Lobster Floats

 

Meeting venue (without agenda) of Chairpersons

You come in hungry,
you take your seat; you eat.
You finish, stand, sigh happily…
then it catches you eye and
you stop to scrutinize and read.

Sorry, no red-carpet either, but by golly, I’d happily hold a chow-down meeting there again if I’m in the area.

The carpet is definitely not red.

Cape Cod ~ Chatham to Provincetown (Pt 2)

Nauset Lighthouse icon of Cape Cod potato chips.

The Lighthouses of Cape Cod are so famous that they even have their own iconic brand of Potato Chips!
So how can I not visit Lighthouses while there?
They were a must to see.
(BTW, those chips are delicious!  especially with some cold beer ~ this is not an advertisement & I get no commission 😀 )

The Chatham Lighthouse had a tour for school children when we were there so they also had a US Coast Guard vessel on display.

Children touring the US Coast Guard vessel.

The Lighthouse also functions by day, showing its slow constant timed flash.

The Chatham Lighthouse

The Lighthouse Tower.

The Highland Lighthouse, Cape Cod’s 1st lighthouse, was built in 1857. It was actually moved 453ft further inland away from a cliff.
Today, the moved Lightouse still functions, operated by the US Coast Guards, and if interested, you can read more of its history here.

The view from the parking lot.

Its profile taken from the cliff.

For afar I took a shot of the Woodend Light but unfortunately we did not have enough time to seek it out to explore further.

Woodend Light