Archive for October, 2010

It was an odd one. The shrubs had what seemed like green and red buds, bright yellow and red flowers, as well as green and luscious black berries.

It was our first encounter with the Ochna Kirkii and we couldn’t make it out. Dad would slow down the car each time he drove past two big shrubs.

Then one day, dad noticed something else. The car almost crawled to a stop as dad took a good long look. There were seedlings popping up near the shrubs!

That was years ago. The two seedlings that came home with us that day grew into strapping potted plants.

They threw out glossy bronze leaves and then bloomed. Finally we could unlock the mystery of the Ochna Kirkii for ourselves.

We observed how it bloomed and fruited; how it appeared to have both yellow flowers as well as red ones.

This is what we saw:

–          pale green buds form
–          flower blooms with five yellow petals and a green calyx
–          petals fall leaving calyx which closes up like a bud once again
–          calyx turns a peach color
–          berries grow within on waxy base
–          berries grow bigger while calyx turns red
–          green berries turn into a glossy black

All the forms and colours can appear on the plant at the same time. An amazing sight.

I like it best when I see plump shiny black berries sitting on its rosy red pad. I think Mickey would agree.


Care and propagation: partial to full sun; well drained fertile soil, water moderately. Propagate using seeds.

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I planted the Petrea Volubilis cv. Albiflora seeds a few years ago.

They were a gift from a friend who knew how much I loved the flowers – both the more common lilac variety as well as the white.

It seems like I have been waiting forever for both plants to bloom and the albiflora did, a few months ago – when I was away from the country!

I was thrilled when I heard the news, but wished I had been around to see the flower which I had been anticipating for so long.

“There were a few small bunches,” my mother said.

I carried a step-ladder out into the garden determined to have a closer look at whatever was left on the vine. I saw a couple of remaining flowers.

A gust of wind soon sent them spiraling to the ground.

Then, last weekend, I looked up and saw a raceme of pure white petrea. That brought an instantaneous smile to my face.

And this morning I saw a few more racemes. Anyone would have thought I was a Cheshire cat; I was grinning like one!

My neighbour must have been baffled to see me climb up the step ladder to check the vine dressed in my working clothes.

I couldn’t wait; treats like these don’t come along every day, do they?


Care and propagation: full sun, well drained soil, water moderately. Needs support. Propagate using seeds or cuttings.

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Taro or Yam

Our family is partial to anything yam – yam cake, yam rice, yam balls, yam soup … you name it.

And since it takes nine long months to wait for it to be ready for harvesting, the only solution is to plant more.

The yam is actually taro or Colocasia esculenta – but everyone here calls it yam, so yam it is.

It all started a few years ago when we tasted a very good yam – the much sought after powdery variety.

We stuck the head of that tuber into the ground and waited. Some months later, we enjoyed the same delicious yam.

That single plant multiplied many times over.

Today we have about a dozen bigger plants and scores of plantlets. We’ve shared these with family, neighbors and friends, and some have already started to harvest theirs too.

I gave some tiny plantlets to a friend recently. “Does the leaf on your plant have a purple spot in the centre?” she asked. “My aunt says that those are the best.”

The ones I gave her didn’t have any but then the leaves were too small.

I didn’t remember seeing any purple dots on the yam leaves, having been more interested in the edible base so I had to check.

And there it was; the critical purple spot which seemed to attest to its quality.

We’re now clearing space to grow more yam. It’s so easy to grow and hardy needs any care.

Stick it in, give it some composting material every now and then, and you get to enjoy a lovely yam a few months down the road.

There is something odd about our yam though; the tubers form above the level of the ground! My first thought was that the soil needed loosening. So I dug it.

The soil was loose enough but I dug anyway and added composting material. But it was the same every time. Each successive tuber held itself up above the ground.

I’ve come to consider this a blessing since I don’t have to dig around the base to check if it was ready to be harvested.

I’ve been told that the leaves are edible too; as if I needed another excuse to start more yam plants.


Care and propagation: partial to full sun; garden soil and compost; water generously. Propagate using a yam corm, plantlet or the head of a yam

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Crunchy Cereal Prawns

This is one of the easiest dishes to prepare.

I could eat one crunchy cereal prawn after another if it wasn’t for the cholesterol.

It doesn’t take long and it doesn’t require a long list of ingredients either.

You can skewer the prawns if you have a bunch of bamboo skewers handy.


15 big prawns
½ teasp lemon pepper salt
1 tablesp milk powder
1 egg
1 cup cereal (I used Nestum)

  1. Marinade prawns in lemon pepper salt for ½ hr.
  2. Add milk powder and egg.
  3. Push a bamboo skewer through each prawn (optional).
  4. Coat with cereal and deep fry till golden brown. Enjoy!

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