Wednesday, June 21, 2017
These bright cheerful yellow balls are known as "terung asam" (literally means sour brinjal) here in Malaysia. The plant and leaves are all laden with very sharp thorns and one needs to be EXTREMELY careful when harvesting the fruits or the thorns will definitely hurt you. Ample space is needed to grow it as the branches can spread out rather widely. I was curious to know if this fruit is also popular in other countries and what is it called in English. So I Google-imaged "thorny plant with small yellow fruits" and found some photos of plants that look strikingly similar to terung asam. I clicked on one of the images and read the article, and found out that the name of this fruit in the photo as tropical soda apple. Interesting! But reading further and to my utter shock, the article says that the tropical soda apple is highly toxic. The toxicity level apparently increases as the fruit ripens more. The plant bears all the same description of a terung asam plant but it said nothing about a key feature of this fruit that I have eaten on so many occasions, which is it is covered by a layer of very fine 'fury particles' (don't know how else to describe it). This, I am left wondering now if terung asam and tropical soda apple are indeed the same, or perhaps in the same plant family but different cultivar where one is edible and the other is not? Because terung asam is perfectly edible in this part of the world and although not commercially available in supermarkets or widely popular/known to many people, they have been eaten by those who know about it (like my family) for decades. In Sarawak, a state in East Malaysia and on the Island of Borneo, terung asam is very popular and often used as an ingredient in local dishes. In fact, this fruit is regarded as a prized ingredient whenever we can get a hold of some when they are in season and sold at the morning market by local village farmers. But I have not seen it before in anywhere here in big city Kuala Lumpur. My family uses terung asam mainly in two ways (must peel off the skin first) - hand-pound a few with "sambal belacan" (spicy prawn paste) in a mortar and pestle and serve up as a condiment to perk up one's appetite, or cook them in my family's Nyonya recipe of "gerang asam ikan" (fish in spicy sour gravy). When we know this dish is to be served at dinner, we'll be sure to cook extra amount of rice!
If anyone has eaten this fruit before, please share what you know about it and how do you cook it.
For now, I have ample supply from the plants in my backyard. They grow so easily and the seeds stay viable in the soil for months or years. When they finally get a chance to rise to the surface after some heavy rain and be exposed to sunlight, a plant will just suddenly grow, literally out of nowhere!
The thorny plants in my backyard.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
These are the prolific harvest (at different times) from a single and thriving roselle plant of mine. The other 3 plants which I planted around the same time are not producing even quarter as many roselles as this thriving plant did. The pictures of the harvest below comprised about 75% of the total amount of roselles from this single plant. For this cultivar (there is one other cultivar which is dark maroon and is more fleshy and with curvy long tip petals), please wear a glove when harvesting as there are tiny fury thorns at the base which can get under your skin and annoy you. I was too lazy to make these into jam, which could yield me a few small glass jars, so I basically used all of these for juice. I'm so glad that everyone in my family of 20 plus people got to enjoy my roselles.
To make roselle juice, peel the petals or calyx. These are what we're going to use.
Below are the seed pods after peeling off the petals. To collect seeds, choose brownish pods and leave them to dry completely.
When fully dried, the pods will easily pop open, giving you many roselle seeds to plant.
Last but not least, to make roselle juice, use a handful of the petals/calyx and boil them in a pot of water for 10-15 minutes. Estimate is one cup of petals to 3-4 cups of water. Add white or brown sugar at your desired amount. Without sugar, it is sour. With sugar it should be sweet sour, just like any berry drink. So do not add too much sugar. Let it cool down and refrigerate. Serve with ice cubes. The soft petals are nice to be eaten. Roselle juice is known to be high in Vitamin C, really delicious and is a great thirst quencher!
Sunday, April 14, 2013
This one particular roselle plant of mine has grown too heavy and the stake couldn't support it anymore. I had to fill a bucket of heavy clay soil to hold it up.
It has also grown very large, tall and bushy, leaning towards my passion fruit trellis and blocking the narrow walkway.
This view below is from the other side of the blocked walkway. The lush green leaves in the black old water tank are sweet potato plants. Hopefully lots of tubers are growing inside.
With so much rain pounding the earth lately, the soil got too damp and soft and the whole plant toppled over. Harvested lots of rosellas and will post them up next day.
Have a great gardening week! Cheers!
Saturday, March 09, 2013
Roselle or rosella has been making a rousing come back lately. It was a popular household plant in the 70s and 80s. I remember during my childhood days, there was a house near to the seaside which has a couple of roselle plants growing in its garden. Each time I tagged along my Mom to her friend's place, we had to walk pass this house and we would stop for a few seconds to admire the many dark red buds on the stem. My Mom told me it was ribena. Apparently, it is, till today, conveniently referred to as ribena. However, roselle and the store bought ribena syrup are two different things although similar in taste. Roselle is in actual fact, a wild hibiscus cultivar.
It is easy to grow from seeds. I currently have 4 plants all grown from seeds. The first germinated seed has grown into a really bushy plant and is now producing more than a hundred roselle fruits/buds.The other 3 plants are scrawny but still producing roselle fruits, although lesser in number.
The ideal growing condition for roselle is warm and ample of sunlight. Sow a seed and lightly water it once a day. It will germinate within a few days. When the plant was about a foot in height, I fed it with some fertiliser once every 3 weeks. Stop fertilising once it starts to bear fruit buds. Do not over fertilize as roselle can still grow well in not-so-fertile soil.
The plant can grow to a height of more than 7 feet tall and send branches out to 3-4 feet wide. The plant can get rather bushy but do not prune it as fruits will grow all along the stem right to the tip of each branch. Tiny buds that appear will first bloom into flowers somewhere along its mid-life cycle before forming the fruits. Each fruit is made up of conjoined calyces with pointed tips which enclose inside it, a pod that contains many black seeds when mature. The calyces can be used for making jam and drinks that is rich in vitamin C.
A single large plant can yield many many many roselle fruits, could even be enough to yield a few small bottles of jam. Roselle drink itself is already delicious and is a great thirst quencher on a warm day!
Friday, February 22, 2013
This is my passion fruit plant in September last year.
Here it is around a month ago
Due to the hard clay soil at my backyard, I decided to grow it in a large rectangular polystyrene pot, with the base cut off. For the next 2.5 months, the vines grew and multiplied quite aggressively with no sign of flowers. I applied some fruiting fertiliser and in its third month, and 3 weeks later, countless number of flowers started to bloom. I was elated!!
I learned from this You Tube video below on how to hand pollinate the flowers if there is an absence of buzzing bees. Use a small brush or your fingers. The flowers usually bloom only in the afternoon till late evening for a day only, so if you missed this one day chance, you'll missed pollinating it. Good news is, once it flowers, it will normally produce many continuously for 2 weeks or so.
Fruits start to form within the next few days at successful pollination. Within a few weeks, the shiny apple green fruit will grow in size.
However, sadly some suddenly stopped growing and shriveled. About 20 of them!! I have no idea why!! What a waste!!!
So I removed them and in the compost they went.
Anyway, I'm utterly delighted that the rest, almost 30+ fruits, continue to grow and glisten under the sunshine! <wide happy grin>
Fruit flies and ants started to attack a few of the fruits as I noticed holes on them and so I wrapped each fruit with expandable foam wrapper I collected from a fruit vendor.
It takes almost 3 mths from fruit formation right up to ripening when the color of the fruit turns maroon-ish. Once ripened, the fruit will fall off by itself, or they can be also be harvested by hand with a kitchen scissors.
Here's my third and most recent harvest. I made them into juice for my family at our Chinese New Year dinner at home. Yummy!!
Some growing points and observations:
Soil - needs fertile soil, best mixed with compost, soil should not be water-logged.
Weather - needs warm sunny weather. best to plant it in the east side where morning sun shines.
Diseases - the plant has strong resistance to common diseases. watch out for fruit flies and ants trying to penetrate the fruit.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Most of my veggie seeds rotted away in vain due to the rain. The rainy season has persisted for over a month now and this has been dampening seed germination.
So, I decided to grow kangkung instead. Bought a bunch of kangkung with roots. I cooked the leafy and young stem part in a delicious stir-fry and planted the roots.
It's all very easy. Leave about 2 inches of stem from above the roots, trim the roots if they're too long.
Then, plant each stem 2 inches apart. Kangkung needs lots and lots and lots of water and the rainy season did all the work.
I stuck these into the soil on 27 September.
This was on 17 November
And this was taken today, 30 November. Ready for a stir-fry in the wok very very soon! :)
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
These nutritious veggies, red amaranth or also known as Chinese or Asian spinach and bayam in Malaysia, are very easy to grow. The seeds volunteer themselves wherever they land, thanks to birds, wind and rain, that spread them all over my backyard. I had 2 mature tall plants last few months which produced many mini foxtail-like flowers with hundreds of tiny black seeds lodged inside. Red amaranth has been growing here and there and everywhere in and around my plant pots at the front and back of my house for a year now. From time to time, sprouts emerged when I overturned the soil in the pots. The plants do very well in full sun and can grow in any soil condition and they grow fast. If you don't have the seeds to start with, just buy a bunch of this veggie from the market with roots. Plant the roots with 3 inches of stem above the root level, water and watch it grow. From here, you can let the plant mature for seed collection.
Cooked amaranth leaves are a good source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and folate; they are also a complementing source of other vitamins such as thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin, plus some dietary minerals including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, copper, and manganese. (source: wikipedia)
Here are some of the 'volunteer' red amaranth vegetable growing in my backyard.
Hundreds of tiny black seeds are lodged inside these mini foxtail-like flowers. Allow one or two plants like this go to wilt and the seeds will give you continuous batch of these veggies.
A bunch which I harvested for stir fry.