Tag Archives: Bangkuang

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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Jicama (Bangkuang – 地瓜)

I always see Jicama in every wet market and supermarket in Singapore and Malaysia but only in Mexican stores in Florida, well, occasionally in supermarkets catering to local American cuisine (when in season, I guess). Everyone knows what a Jicama tuber looks like, right? What about the rest of the plant, which is a vine?

My average size harvest

My average size harvest

I began growing my own from seeds given to me by my Mexican amigo and to-date, every time it begins flowering, I am awed by its floral beauty. This season, because I’ve decided to improve my basic photography style (I dare not call it a skill, yet) I’ve decided to share some clearer shots of Jicama buds and blooms not seen by many who eat their roots. These (unfortunately) will have to be cut off today or tomorrow to stimulate its tuberous root growth.

in bunches at the end of the vine stem

in bunches at the end of the vine stem

some buds have turned to blooms

some buds have turned to blooms

 

Pretty though they may be they are poisonous so if you see some, do to be careful when handling. Wash your hands if you have been in contact with its sap.

If you have children or pets, do not allow them to play or chew on flowers or leaves.

I will only retain 1 plant/vine in its blooming state and after pollination it will produce hard shell pods which will provide me with seeds for next year’s planting.

blooms are beautiful BUT poisonous

Yes, blooms are beautiful BUT poisonous

Remember ~ only the tuberous ROOT of this plant is edible, not any other and don’t try to find out if this is true or not.  You have been forewarned. ❗

Jicama – Bangkuang – 地瓜

Commonly found in wet-markets. I used to buy it all the time but never knew what the plant looked like, didn’t know that the entire plant, except for the tuberous root, was poisonous either. It’s actually a beautiful plant and a superb groundcover, takes about 10 months from seed to harvest in my climate zone so it’s ideal to grow in the side beds and block weeds.Image

Very pleasant and green.

And the flowers are just beautiful.Image

But have to remember that both are poisonous and to keep neighbours’ pets away from.

At least I can claim to recognize the common Bangkuang when I dig it out 😀

ImageI have to remember to cut off all flowering stems to allow the roots to get nice and bulbous except for just 1 plant in order to get some pods & seeds for the next planting.

 

Out with the cutting board and long sharp knife (after rinsing the roots i.e.) and cut as needed for whatever dish in mind.

Image

Nice, juicy and sweet ~ ideal for Rojak!

Or actually also good with just haykor or shrimp sauce.

But tonight I will make Popiah which I always tell American friends are unfried Spring Rolls.

OK, so my Popiah is not as professionally round & tight wrapped as the hawkers’ version but it sure tastes good in the mouth. ImageAmerican homemade Popiah 😀