Tag Archives: Ubi Kayu

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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My Root Awakening

It’s slightly over 2 months now, since Hurricane Matthew’s visit but I have taken my time unearthing my fallen edible “debris”. Why rush when Ma Nature is keeping them alive although no longer their usual vertical self.

Bit by bit my Cassava/Tapioca/Ubi Kayu is getting unearthed and used in the kitchen so yes, I have to keep thinking of “new” dishes. In the past I have usually grated these chunky roots to make sweet cakes but this time I’ve decided to use it in savory dishes too since there’s ample. So Mission Cassava begins with cleaning and parboiling.

Rinsed in the backyard and ready for peeling.

Rinsed in the backyard and ready for peeling.

Once peeled I soak them for 4 hours.

Once peeled I soak them for 4 hours.

... then cut them in chunks add pressure cook them for 20 minutes, yes, they're tough.

… then cut them in chunks and pressure cook them for 20 minutes, yes, they’re tough.

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Cassava or Ubi Kayu

We have had some rain and the heat in the atmosphere has lessened a little, so I did some “Forest” harvesting.

Ubi Kayu stems which were cut off/trimmed

Ubi Kayu stems which were cut off/trimmed

The 1st crop was Cassava (Yuca in Spanish) but known to me since childhood as Ubi Kayu (ubi means tuber and kayu means wood in Malay, so I guess it’s Woody Tuber).

Cassava, Yuca or Ubi Kayu

Cassava, Yuca or Ubi Kayu

It’s available in US supermarkets but usually comes with the sticker “Product of Mexico”. It grows so easily and provides a green hedge/shade plant, so I just stick cuttings in soil and let Mother Nature decide if it lives or goes to ubi-heaven.

There is so much written about its toxic properties in news articles and I feel that it is unfair. Yes, it contains cyanide and can kill ~ hey! so can Rhubarb, yet everyone eats Rhubarb pies and happily live on.  My caution is: Don’t treat any part of this plant as salad material, like carrots or beets or celery.

The leaves are edible too BUT, they need to be par-boiled for 10 mins and the water discarded. There goes the toxins…


Cuttings for planting

Cuttings for planting

So, for the next 48 hours, these stems will be in a jar of water to “refresh” them, then to further cultivate them on the property’s boundary.

The quirky looking tuber in the pic above is about to become  delicious cake.  Will post follow-up when done.