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Archive for the ‘Edible plants’ Category

Meyer Lemon

20160103_081246sApparently the Meyer lemon is the lemon of choice for many. I once bought what I thought were Meyers but they weren’t. What a letdown; especially when the bag was misleadingly tagged as such.

I continued to keep a lookout for them, but could only find regular ones.

Fast forward a few years ….

I was in Vegas a few weeks ago when I was told that my cousin had a lemon tree. You can pretty much guess the exchange that took place …

20160102_124213_s“Are there lemons on the tree? May I pick a few?” My cousin assured me I could but said they were not 100% lemon. “They’re a cross between a lemon and an orange,” he said.

Ding! … Ding!

I’m not a casino-goer but this must be how it feels to hit the jackpot. My cousin had the Meyer lemon!

I arrived at my cousin’s to see the Meyer. It looked like a massive cocoon, covered to protect the tender tree from the frost. “We’ve already picked most of the lemons but there are some left,” he said.

I peeled the covers off the swaddled tree. It seemed almost as momentous as the unveiling of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

20160102_132926bI gawked at the big juicy baubles before swaddling the tree once again for the night. I’d have a better look the next morning.

If the lemons had been enticing the day before, they were even more irresistible the next morning. My cousin handed me a pair of secateurs and I selected and cut a number of lemons and cuttings. Oh, joy, joy!

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So, how do the lemons compare? I find the Meyer lemon from my cousin’s tree bigger, juicier and less acidic than regular lemons. And while I always struggle to squeeze the juice from a lemon, I had no trouble at all with the Meyer lemon.

Would I grow a Meyer lemon tree? If I could, yes, without a doubt.

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Care and propagation: Morning sun, well-drained soil, water regularly. Best grafted, it is possible to propagate using seeds or cuttings

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Meyer lemon on the left, regular lemon on the right

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20151122_112142sI’ve never given much thought to the black jelly drink the locals call ‘xian chao’ or ‘cincau’ – up until recently anyway. That was when I discovered that it originates from a plant; … which is, I now realise, why some people call it ‘grass jelly’!

My interest was piqued when I found out that there was also a green grass jelly. A friend who was given a bunch of Cyclea Barbata leaves, lost no time in making some green jelly.

“Was it good?” I asked.

He was hesitated for a split second. “Tasted of chlorophyll,” he said. “… and it was a murky green,” obviously not overly impressed either by its taste or appearance.

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Image taken from wikipedia.org/wiki/Grass_jelly#

 Yet when the chance came for me to get a plant, I didn’t need to think twice. Mine, however, is the Platostoma palustre which yields the black jelly.

20151122_112450s The plant has been growing well in its pot and appears to be fuss-free – so far at least.

I hope it won’t be long before I start harvesting some Platostoma palustre leaves for the kitchen. For now, the plan is for the plant to grow a bit more since more leaves mean more jelly.

In the meantime I’m reading up on the plant, as well as on the preparation of the jelly. Something tells me that it’s going to be fun experimenting with all the possibilities!

Care and propagation: Full sun, garden soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings or seeds.

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the Platostoma Palustre when I first got it

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20140806_183145sMore minty than peppermint and spearmint, the Menthe Arvensis is an instant breath-freshener. All my friends who sampled the leaves hesitantly were amazed at how minty it really is.

The Menthe Arvensis has the trademark square stem which is characteristic of the mint family, and small, nondescript white flowers.IMG_9412s

It grows easily and spreads through its network of roots. 20140824_104622sWhile mints have a reputation for being invasive but mine is nowhere as invasive as I’d like it to be.

I thought I’d lost the Menthe Arvensis on more than one occasion but this trouper bounced back each time. I’d cover the bare stems with more soil and wait for them to spring up again. They’ve never failed me before, but I  should try to make more use of it while I can.

I’ve used it as a garnish and will probably brew some mint tea next. But, what else? Someone said she used it to flavour her chocolate mint cake. Tempting indeed. I wonder if I dare …

Care and propagation: Partial sun to full sun, humus rich soil, water generously. Propagate using runners or cuttings.

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20150531_173124sGarlic chives can go into just about anything … omelette, pancakes, fritters, soups … And what’s great about this versatile herb is that it keeps coming back so you have a constant supply. I’ve been enjoying my chives for many years now, nipping out to snip them whenever I felt like adding some to a dish.

So in my list of ‘Got-to-have herbs’, I had confidently ticked off this herb.

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what I saw up in the highlands

Then on one of my trips to the highlands, I saw the broadleaf flowering Chinese chives which I was told yielded garlic chive buds popular in stir-fries. My eyes widened at the information, I had thought the chives I had produced these chive buds … no wonder mine were a poor shadow of those I find in the market.

I couldn’t ask my host for a plant as it was a recent acquisition, so I mentally added the herb to my wishlist.

20150531_173047sThen quite recently, I saw it for sale at a floral fest. There were only two pots so I grabbed one and persuaded my aunt to get the other.

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regular and broadleaf juxtaposed

The broadleaf chives which have settled in next to the regular chives, put their more common cousin in the shade.

It surpasses the regular chives in terms of size with leaves about 4 times wider, and its plump buds are definitely bigger too.

What about taste?

It’s said that the leaves can be used in the same way as regular garlic chives but I’ve yet to try them. But it’s about time I did. After all, the more I harvest them, the more they’re supposed to grow.

Hopefully that means I will not have to wait too long for a plate of stir-fried homegrown garlic chive buds.

 

Care and propagation: Full sun; regular garden soil; water normally. Propagate by division.

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20150501_100106s2‘The seeds fell on rocky places… and sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow,’ … so it goes in the parable.

Which was precisely what happened to the neighbour’s Basella seeds; these dropped into cracks on our side of the wall and quickly took root in the shallow soil.

The fleshy Basella leaves make a good soup so we nurtured the
plants as best we could. Before the plants faded away, they 20150524_092202sproduced plump purple berries which we planted in compost-rich medium.

The seeds responded to the more favourable conditions and germinated readily. They grew upwards, and twined all over the neighbouring plants.


20150524_092407bI rigged up a simple support using stakes and a nylon garden trellis, untangled the mess and trained the purplish Basella vines. The Basella now grows in some semblance of order and yields enough for a pot of soup every fortnight.

A common vegetable in tropical Asia, the Basella thrives with minimal care in the backyard and grows easily either from stems or from seed.20150509_082821_s

But despite feeding them regularly with fertilisers, our Basella can’t hold a candle to those sold in the market. The latter are such whoppers I suspect they’re on steroids. Sour grapes? Sigh … I guess you could say that.

 

Care and propagation: Partial shade to full sun, humus rich garden soil; water generously. Plant using seeds or stem cuttings.

 

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20150330_091234sAren’t berries supposed to be plump, juicy and inviting?

Most are, but not the white shahtoot. What I have looked more like big anaemic caterpillars. However, instead of being gobblers, these end up being gobbled by others. Squirrels, birds and ants compete with me for the shahtoot and more often than not, I end up being the loser.20150307_081755s

The shahtoots are nectar-sweet and are not as widely grown or as prolific as the regular morus alba. So I’m not about to concede without a fight. I’ve resorted to tying a double layer of netting around the white shahtoot; anything to deter my competition.

20140916_180101s Is it working?

So far neither the squirrels nor the birds have spotted the berries. Once the squirrels do, they’d gnaw right through the netting and the berries wouldn’t stand a chance. Neither would I … so I’d better enjoy them while I can.

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Care and propagation: Full sun, water moderately, most soils. Propagate by using cuttings (I’ve not succeeded yet) or by grafting   20150322_180802b 20150328_083443b 20140921_111354b

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20141006_094527sThey are like hundreds of purple bubblegum balls clustered on a stem, only much smaller, and exactly the same colour as the grape-flavoured gum balls I had loved and bought from the school canteen.20140901_080240s

The berries were every bit as inviting as the gum balls but I had to find out if they were edible or toxic before I planted it. I was more than a little suspicious of the enticing, vivid berries.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Callicarpa berries are edible – at least that’s what Google Search and a TV documentary told me.

I finally bought the plant a couple of months ago and couldn’t wait to do a taste test. Would be as delicious as it looked? I picked a small purple sphere and popped it into my mouth.

The verdict? It was dismally flat and insipid. Tastewise, it would never make it to the hall of fame.

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20140920_123502sBut hey, it’s totally off the charts in the looks department. What it lacks in taste, the Callicarpa makes up for it through its aesthetically pleasing berries. Whoever gave the plant its common name chose that name well.

But there is more to the Callicarpa than its gorgeous berries. Even the buds and flowers appeal visually. Neat clusters
of pinhead grey-green buds blush slightly before revealing a delicate froth of pink flowers.

The Callicarpa has bloomed more than a few times so I had expected more berries. But strangely, these have not been forthcoming. Apparently, fruiting is a lot easier when a few shrubs are grown together and there’s cross-pollination.

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So it looks as though I need to get another plant … or two. In the meantime, I’ll get a brush ready and give Nature a helping hand. Who knows, that may just work.

Care and propagation: Full sun, partial shade; well-drained, moist soil; water moderately. Propagate using cuttings or seeds.

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20140902_165118sHe had guilt written all over his face and scampered away faster than I could say Jack Robinson.

The squirrel had been feasting on my red shahtoot! And this was despite wrapping the berries in netting!20140810_083544

The netting may have deterred the birds, these quicksilver creatures just grabbed the berries, netting and all, and sucked them dry.

I held the flimsy netting with the pitiful remains of what had been succulent berries just minutes earlier. All the ripening shahtoots had been eaten.

What’s the big deal, one may ask? After all the shahtoot is just another mulberry and I have lots of that.

20140823_103309But while the other mulberries in the garden are tart, the Morus Macroura is nectar sweet. The tassel-like berries which measure up to four inches long is definitely no ordinary mulberry. The Morus Macroura or red shahtoot is clearly in a league of its own.

The problem is, the birds, squirrels and ants love it too much. Procuring the plant might have been a huge challenge, but guarding the berries is definitely a bigger one.

Care and propagation: Full sun, water moderately, most soils. Propagate by using cuttings (I have not succeeded yet) or by grafting

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20140501_084659sWhile the Salvia Officinalis is the sage most people are familiar with, fewer have heard of Salvia Elegans, the pineapple sage.

In contrast with the grey-green of the regular sage,  the pineapple sage has attractive light-green ovate leaves, pink stalks and square stems.

The leaves have a fresh fruity taste and make what I’d like to think are ‘healthful herb’ fritters.

I’d seen pineapple sage fritters on the Internet and as soon as it was possible, a handful of sage leaves went into the batter and into the hot oil. As my niece would say, I walloped them all.20140501_130204s

But since that fritter episode, the sage has diminished in size and is just teetering in there. I’m giving it a small dose of TLC and am hoping it’ll rebound.

If it does, it wouldn’t be fritters that would top my wish-list this time; it would be the herb’s intensely red edible blooms. I wonder if those taste like pineapple too.

 

Care and propagation: Partial sun, well-drained soil, water moderately. Propagate using cuttings

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IMG_6084Anredera cordifolia - then chut_sThe Anredera Cordifolia is regarded as nothing short of a nuisance in some parts of the world. Growing relentlessly, it has been known to smother trees and shrubs that are superior in both size and volume.

But the puny climber in my neighbour’s garden bore no resemblance to the marauding monster I saw on the Internet. It was just a metre in length; a long way off from reaching the end of its bamboo support. I guess the intense heat of the tropical lowlands stunts its growth.

However, I saw what the Anredera Cordifolia was capable of when I was up in the hills. Assuming a different persona under more favourable and cooler conditions, the brash climber grew in abandon, rambling unchecked over beams, fences and shrubs.

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seen up in the hills

IMG_6091sNot content with twining over anything in its path, Anredera Cordifolia scions grew where swollen aerial tubers had dropped onto the soft moist ground.

This was a lot more like the menace that was depicted on the net. It’s no wonder then that the spread of the Anredera Cordifolia has to be curbed in some countries. Left unchecked, it is likely to colonise the world.

So we confronted the lush mass of Anredera Cordifolia before us … armed not with machetes or poison but with baskets and bowls.

IMG_8469bWe spent more than an hour filling our receptacles with fleshy jade green heart-shaped leaves, a portion of which went straight into the frying pan after a quick rinse. We demolished a plateful in the blink of an eye.

I doubt if I’d ever have an issue with overgrown Anredera Cordifolia in my garden. If anything, mine needs a growth booster shot right now.

But if I ever had to control this climber, I’d probably just chomp my way through it.

 

 

Care and propagation: Partial sun, moist fertile soil, water generously; propagate using aerial tubers

 

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