Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Edible Landscape - Ubi Kayu (Tapioca or Cassava)

Many of us are familar with the tapioca as a good carbohydrate food source and some are familar that is used to produce a popular food flavor enhancer commonly known as monosodium glutamate or MSG.  A widely-known brand in Malaysia is Aji-no-moto.  There are many grandmother stories that eating a lot of MSG causes you to go bald but I have yet to find scientific proof of this.  However, our "grandmothers" are wise and as in many traditional Malay grandmother stories, there must have been some reason as they tend to use euphemisms.  

There are many varieties of tapiocas but at the farm three types are planted - ubi kayu merah, ubi kayu pulut  and multi-colored leaf tapioca which I have named ubi kayu bunga.  We do not plant the ubi kayu kuning as these are not as tender and has a more fibrous texture thus is used mainly for making tapioca chips or kerepek ubi kayu and fermented tapioca or tapai.  

Ubi kayu pulut leaf shoot
Both the ubi kayu merah and  ubi kayu pulut have green leaves but the young leaf shoots of the ubi kayu pulut has a dark red tinge and takes about 4 months to produce good-sized tubers which breaks easily whilst the ubi kayu merah has a light green young leaf shoot and takes 8 months to produce good-sized tubers which breaks with a "snap".  The leaves of both these varieties is edible.  In Malay cuisine, it is often cooked in coconut milk on its own or with dried or fresh shrimps.  It is also a great ulam ,which is done by blanching the leaves, to eat with sambal belacan.

The tapioca plants can be used as windbreakers or as an ornamental with the added benefit of being an edible addition to your landscape.  I paticularly love the multicolored leaves variety and plant them at the banks of my fish pond,  This variety though is a slow grower and it produces a tender tapioca in about 10 months.  There is also another variety that we plant at the farm which has a more needle-like leaf shape.  This variety doesn't produce edible tubers and is planted for the leaves, which is more tender than the normal variety.  

The tapioca plant is propagated using stem cuttings that have at least 2 "eyes" visible above ground level when planted.  At the farm, it is planted at a 45 degree angle.  I normally dig a hole about 6 inches deep and place the stem  (about 9 inches long) at an angle.  It is important to place the stem with the eyes upwards or else you will have funny-looking stems sprouting.  The tapioca produces tubers best in slightly sandy soil mixture with a good amount of organic matter and in sunny areas.  Heavy clay soil is not conducive to the production of tubers and you will end up with more fibrous roots.  We fertilise it 1 month after planting and will rake more soil around the base after fertilising.

Tapioca is gluten free, rich in starch and contains a significant amount of calcium, phosphorus and vitamin C and protein free however the leaves are a good source of protein and rich in amino acid lysine.

The ubi kayu pulut tastes creamy and is the most tender of the species,  I have even eaten this raw.  It takes 10-15 minutes to cook and has a "fluffy" texture.  According to "grandmother" stories, this was the favourite kind to replace rice during the Japanese occupation of Malaya.  The ubi kayu merah is also tender when boiled and takes about 15-20 minutes to cooked when boiled.  I prefer using the ubi kayu merah for desserts because it is "sweeter" and less creamy as our Malaysian desserts for the tapioca tend to include the use of coconut milk so the dessert may turn out to be too rich tasting.

For whatever dish you want to prepare, the tapioca is best cooked within 1-2 days after harvest.  If you want to cook it a few days after buying, do not wash it or remove the outer layer of the skin and this will affect the taste and texture of the tuber.  To test freshness, you can try to break the tapioca tuber and if it tends to "bend" than it is not so fresh.

Updated: 12 December 2014


Friday, 22 April 2011

Healthy Options : Ubi keledek (Sweet Potatoes)

I enjoy having ubi keledek goreng (sweet potato fritters) for tea with a nice cup of fragrant tea.  Sometimes, it is quite difficult to find this at the stalls and sometimes the taste is not so nice as the sweet potato has been harvested for quite some time.  So, what do I do?  I plant them so I can have my own supply that I know is nutritious and pesticide/chemical free.  After all, one of my aims is to have the best quality of food.
At the farm, it is planted in beds of about 9 inches high, fertilized with compost and watered only when it has not rained for many days.  At it often rains, this means that I rarely need to water it.  With plenty of sun and good moisture and organic content in the soil along with good drainage, it takes about 3 months for a suitable size of ubi for consumption.  his plant is propagated either from the tuber or stem cuttings.  It takes 2-3 days for the roots to form from the stem cuttings. However, the downside is, because of its good conditions for growth, it is a battle with grass and weeds so weeding needs to be done fortnightly to ensure all the goodness goes to the sweet potato plant.
The leaves can be prepared as a vegetable dish as a stir fry with scrambled eggs or with sambal belacan and anchovies.  Its texture is similar to kangkong but not "chewy".  Personally, I prefer it cooked with sambal belacan and achovies (ikan  bilis) - tasty.
The sweet potatoes can be prepared in many ways and can be a substitute for carbohydrates in your main meals - try it roasted with a touch of salt and olive oil, a healthy alternative.
The sweet potatoes are best consumed right after harvest.  It can be stored but the taste begins to degrade.  Being lucky enough to have it on the plant, I harvest on the same day that I plan to cook it.  For sale at the market, it is harvested the day before in order to have it as fresh as possible.  
In Malaysia, sometimes the sweet potatoes are added to bubur cha-cha, made as a pengat, added to flour and made into kuih cek mek molek, kuih keria, cucur badak and many other tea-time dishes.
From a nutrition standpoint, the sweet potatoes are high in complex carbohydrate, fibre, beta carotene, vitamin C and B6.  According to some studies, the sweet potatoes ranks higher than potatoes from a nutritional standpoint.
The conclusion, this is a great food source both from a nutrition aspect as well as preparation versatility. 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Farm Recipes - Sugar-Glazed Striped Gourd

I love striped gourd with its creamy texture and subtle taste.  Most of the time, I tend to prepare it as a savoury dish.    I have roasted sliced gourd coated with a bit of salt and olive oil, diced them and used them in a vegetable soup, added it to dalca and just had them boiled in salted water.
The current plants have produced a substantial number of gourds so I started thinking of how it can be prepared.  Thus, recently I decided to try preparing it as a sweet tea-time dish, calling my dish Sugar-Glazed Striped Gourd.  To my delight, I loved it and so did my testers.
It is very easy to prepare and takes under 30 minutes to prepare.  The sugar glaze is prepared with a bit of blended margarine hence it adds that creamy taste to the glaze and less sugar is used and does not dry out.  I love adding cinnamon to it as it not only adds to the taste but also gives a nice aroma to the dish.

  • 1 striped gourd
  • 2 tablespoons of margarine or butter-blended margarine
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar – preferable raw or brown sugar
  • Salt (not required if using salted margarine)
  • 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons of water
Peel, slice and remove the seed of the gourd.  Using a flat pan, melt 1 tablespoon of margarine and cooked the slices of gourd until tender and brown.  Remove from heat.  Using the same pan, melt the remaining margarine, add sugar, cinnamon and water.  When the sugar has melted, dip the slices of gourd and plate it.  Pour the remaining glaze over the slices and gourd and serve.

SHL Journal - Countdown to Durian Fest Part 2

The Durian Fest will be a "house-warming" of sorts - the second anniversary since I started the development of the farm and marking the completion of the house - a time to celebrate with my family and friends.
Entrance to the solat area in my bedroom
Two weeks seems to have flown.  The construction job is still underway and substantial progress have been made, albeit sometimes it seems to take a bit longer as I add some "beautifying" elements to it.  I am looking forward to the completion of my bedroom as then I can move out of the solat room to a proper bedroom.  It will be divided into 4 areas - ruang solat, sleeping area, bathroom and closet/dressing room.  There will also be a door leading to a patio area when I can just imagine myself enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning at sunrise.  
The walls are up and the base for the roof is being constructed before the roof tiles can be laid along with the "sun roof" so that during the daytime, there will not be any need to turn on the lights.  After all we are living in the tropics where natural light is available almost 12 hours of the day - save energy.  Two other rooms will also be added - one for Aziz and Seri, my great assistants who live on the farm all the time and the other, a guest room along with another bathroom.
From the main front gate
In front of the house
The road leading from the front gate to the front door has also been completed.  So for those who came last year and were worried if their car can be driven on the property, you will not have to worry anymore.  The portion in front of the house has also been widened to about 20ft so that should provide for some parking spaces.  All in all, a major improvement for vehicle access.  Now all that is left to do for this part is the beautification process and to build additional porch so my dear van can be protected from rain and sun.  In the plan, is to do the road on the outside leading to the "smaller" gate but I do not know if there will be sufficient time to get this done as there are many more things to be done before the event.
Rezeki Timur area
The front "garden" also known as Rezeki Timur, has also undergone its major cleanup - now I need to maintain and fertilize to keep it nice with healthy plants.  The main plants there are the herbs, bananas, cassava and limau.  I hope they will grow steadily and I will have a lovely garden for all the guests to wander in.  As requested by many who have visited the farm, I am working on creating the "tags" for the plants so that you will know what it is.  I hope from this, people will have a first-hand view of how these plants can be incorporated into their own gardens.  At the same time, they can also know what precaution to take with some of the plants like jeruju and bintang tujuh which have thorns.
The Durian trees in the area are in full bloom, although none in mine as they are still young, so insyAllah, there will be plenty of durians without alphabets for all of friends and family to enjoy.  It is only 3 months away and there is still a lot to do.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Edible Landscape - Papaya Tree

I find that the papaya is a refreshing fruit to have for breakfast and is full of vitamins with a high vitamin C content and fibre - a great way to start the day.  The papaya fruit that are tree-ripened also contain the highest amount of the papain enzyme which is beneficial.  The tree also makes an interesting addition to the garden, with its "fancy leaves" and based on the type, will fruit or will just have flowers.  In Malaysia, the papaya trees that do not fruit but just flowers are known as Male Papaya trees and the ones the fruit are know as just Papaya trees.  Its botanical name is Carica Papaya.

It is propagated from the seeds from the mature, ripe papaya and grows well in sunny locations with regular watering - naturally or manually.  I still haven't figured out which type of papaya tree I will get from the seed and hopefully some day, I will know what type of tree the seed will produce - fruit-bearing papaya trees or male papaya trees.  On the farm, it has grown up to 10m tall, which made picking the fruit a challenge.  Luckily, I have someone who is adapt at climbing it.

Fruit bearing flower
There are many varieties of papaya and depending on the variety, the height of the tree is different.  Some varieties start bearing fruit even at 1.5m tall, making it much easier to harvest.  The skin of the fruit turns from green to yellow to orange as it ripens.  The fleshy part of the fruit ranges in color from yellow to vermillion to red and the taste vary from one species to another.  It is a plant that requires minimal care fertilisers, it is an easy plant to grow.  At the farm, the life span of the plant is about five years.  Even if they live more than that, by the time it is 5 years old, they are too tall for me to harvest and the quality of the fruits have diminished so I will remove it and plant a new one,  As I stagger my planting them
Ready-to-eat Papaya flowers
do not turn into fruits

The papaya flowers that are eaten, either raw as ulam or cooked, appear in multiple flower buds whereas the fruit bearing flower grows as a single flower.   The flowers that are eaten have a slightly bitter taste but there are ways to counteract this.  If you plan on eating it raw, combine them with terung pipit or Turkey Berry.  I tend to eat the young papaya leaves with terung pipit wrapped inside.  The resulting taste is less bitter and I am left with a papaya after-taste - definitely more pleasant than a bitter after-taste.  If you plan on cooking them, first boil them in water with senduduk hutan (Melastoma Alba) leaves and this will remove the bitterness from the papaya shoots and flowers.  The resulting taste is slightly creamy papaya-like.

The papaya shoots and flowers are traditionally used for high blood pressure and hypertension therapy and to encourage red cell production hence it is often given to someone who is recovering or fighting dengue fever.  It is becoming more common in Malaysia as a supplementary treatment for dengue fever as it will help the production red blood cells faster, counter-acting the effect of dengue fever that causes a decrease in the red blood cells.

Because of the leaves bitter taste, for people who like to juice, it is juiced with fruits like green apple and also vegetables like celery and cucumber to make it more palatable as well as adding nutritional value.  Personally, I take it at least once a week to help prevent hypertension and high blood pressure as well as a blood cleanser and is in my regular diet regime since I love eating "rich" foods.  The flowers can also be turned into a salad or "kerabu", either in its raw form or blanched.  The leave stem can also be eaten raw by first removing the outer skin.  It has a crunchy texture and is creamy in taste and can be added to salads or eaten on its own.

The young green papaya fruit makes a delightful addition cooked in spicy dishes such as curry.  It is is used to make papaya soup with a clear broth.  A semi-ripe papaya can be turned into a sweet and sour pickle and sometimes, chillies are added to spice it up.

The ripe papaya is often eaten raw as a dessert in Malaysia.  It can also be blended into a lovely smoothie or milk-shake.  Papaya is often eaten as part of breakfast as it can help to expedite the bowel movement.  A tasty papaya conserve can also be prepared from ripened fruits.  The papaya peel can also be used as a facial treatment by placing them on cleansed face and leaving it for 10-15 minutes and then rinsing the face.  I also use the wastes from the papaya for my beneficial microorganism fertiliser.

With all the ways to eat the fruit , leaves and flowers and the benefits, this plant is a great addition to an edible landscape.

Updated: 5 October, 2015

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Edible Landscape - Kacang Kelisa

This perennial climber is also known as Goa Bean (Malay Name : Kacang Kelisa, Kacang Botol
Botanical Name : Psophocarpus Tetragonolobus).  It is am amazing plant as the whole plant is edible - the leave are cooked an eaten as a vegetable similar to spinach, the flower can be used to cook with the leaves, the bean can be eaten either raw as ulam or cooked, the root can be cooked similar to potatoes, and the mature bean seeds can be ground to flour or roasted and used to make a coffee-like drink.  One could prepare a complete meal, including a drink, from this plant - simply amazing - an all-in-one plant.
As it is a climber, at the farm, it is grown on a trellis, providing a nice, shady arbor when one can enjoy the day,  With its beautiful purple and white flowers, it can be a beautiful addition to a garden landscape and it requires minimal maintenance.  It has the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere so requires minimal fertilizers.  You can also get away without giving it any fertilizer.
This plant is propagated from its mature seeds which are almost black in color.  It takes about 3-4 days to sprout and does very well in our sunny Malaysian climate with its abundance of rain and sun.  To maintain its beauty, just remove the old leaves regularly as this will also encourage it to produce new shoots and flowers which turns into the bean.
It is very nutritious - the leaves contain a high amount of vitamin A, C and Iron whilst the bean has all those wonderful Bs - riboflavin, B6, Thiamin, etc.  As it is versatile, there are many ways to consume it.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

SHL Journal - Countdown to SHL Durian Fest

The first Durian Fest was held last year on July 31, 2010 with the main idea of having my family and friends over at the farm.  Last year's fest was a success with over 100 guests who consumed over 300 durians, 60kg of mangosteens (manggis) and 20 kg of duku langsat and of course the home-made lemang made from 20kg of glutinous rice (beras pulut).  It started at 3pm and the last guest left at 10pm.  I had a great time and from the feedback, my guest enjoyed themselves too.  I decided then, Allah willing, it will be an annual event.  So, here I am, about 3.5 months away from this year's event, with still a ton of stuff to get done for the farm to be ready for the guests.
In the last 9 months, the farm has undergone further transformation, focussing on agriculture and aquaculture.  At the same time, construction has also been underway to build a house, albeit leggo-style.  The last phase is underway now, with the addition of 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.  This will complete my "farmhouse".  It will take another month for it to be completed, insyAllah.
On the aquaculture front, the fish pond is being beautified.  At four locations, steps to the waterline has been constructed to allow easier access as well as creating places where one can sit by the water and enjoy the peace and tranquility, watching the fish or fishing.  A word of caution, it is quite difficult to land a fish although there are a few thousand in there.  The vegetation surrounding the pond is also being "processed" and getting rid of those plants and vegetation that I consider as weeds or pests.  This job is not that simple as I thought as when I begin to identify them, many have some value to them, either as a food or traditional medicine source.  Thus, what I thought would be an almost simple weeding turned out to be a painstaking effort as well as time consuming.  I hope to get it into a decent enough state so that all my guests can enjoy the beauty of it.
The fishes have also had a "good" time, as since the last event (my Aidil Fitri open house), they have been left to live in peace.  A few thousand new babies - some becoming food source in the natural eco-cycle and some growing.  There are a few species in the fish pond, some I introduced and some naturally introduced with the flow from the water source.  Among them are Kelah Merah, Tengas (Kelah Daun), Bujuk, Ikan Putih, Lampam Jawa and Kerai, Keli, Haruan, Telapia Merah and Bunga, Jelawat, Puyu, Tongsan, to name a few.  I also feel blessed that fresh water shrimps have also found their way to the pond and thus serve as a natural food source for the fish.  The plan is to let them live in peace for another year before making it available for market.
With a land size of 2.5 acres, and Sg. Lui, splitting the land, a natural division of the farm was created.  On the land across the river, the focus is on vegetable farming with baby cucumbers, spinach, chilies, squash pumpkin, pucuk manis, long beans, green beans, varieties of brinjals, kemangi (lemon basil) and tumeric (kunyit) to name a few.  There is a sprinkling of papaya trees - some bearing fruits and some for the flowers and new shoots, as well as banana trees and cassava (ubi kayu).  The cassava planted here is strictly for the shoots which are a favorite at the market.  Corn is also planted on rotation here.  In preparation for the event, the fence will need to repaired due to damage from wild boars and also from "wild" man.  I hope my guests will enjoy a walk in this area.
On the front portion, of course work on the house is still to be completed as well as the work to be done on the herb garden, the home vegetable garden, as well as all the clearing and fertilizing of all the various plants and trees which include hundreds of banana plants, various fruit trees, cassava, ubi keledek, corn, and many others, all in all on almost 2 acres.
There is also the tea production to be done - teh misai kucing, teh serai and teh kemangi - which will be served to my guests.  Considering what we will be eating, these three teas are probably the best to have to balance the meal.  In previous events, big kettles of tea were brewed and it was consumed with relish.
On top of that, I have had requests for purchase of some of the plants so it is time to propagate them into polybags.  The plants available will be of the herbal variety.
So, I guess, we will be busy at the farm until the event.