Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Well-being Landscape - Flowers of Suria Helang Lui Part 1

Malaysia is rich with edible plants that produce beautiful flowers that can be included in our landscape, thus providing us with beauty and nutrition.  I enjoy photographing them and enjoy sharing them so here are some :
Serai Wangi

Serai Wangi - known as a food condiment as well as a natural pest repellant and in beauty products.
(Lemon Grass)

Lengkuas kecil

Lengkuas kecil produces orchid-like flowers.  The roots are used as food condiment and in traditional medicine.

Bintang Tujuh

Bintang Tujuh produces a bright orang flower.  The leaves are used in traditional medicine.

Papaya flower- soon to be a fruit

Edible papaya flower

There are two types of papaya flower, one which is eaten as  ulamand one which tranforms into a fruit rich in vitamins.

Ulam Raja

Ulam raja, the king of the ulam, rich in vitamins and minerals, produces a beautiful flower.

Misai Kucing

This beautiful lavender Misai Kucing flower makes a lovely ulam and tea.  This plant is used a traditional medicine and is edible.
(Cat's Whiskers)

Bunga Kantan

Beautiful, striking pink Bunga Kantan is often used as a food condiment or as ulam.  It also has a lovely fragrance.
(Ginger Torch)

Gourd pumpkin

Bright yellow flowers of the gourd pumpkin provides beauty as well as being edible.  When it matures, it transforms into a gourd, a tasty fruit.

Senduduk Hutan

Dainty white flowers of the Senduduk Hutan.  The leaves are used as traditional medicine and is also used as a cooking condiment.

Senduduk Kampung

The lovely purple petals with a yellow center flower of the Senduduk Kampung.  The leaves are used in traditional medicine.

Herbal Teas - Kemangi (Lemon Basil) Tea

Kemangi leaves and flowers
 I enjoy tasty herbal teas as addition to having a healthy diet so I started on a quest to discover herbal teas that can be produced from Malaysian plants.  After my experiment with Misai Kucing, my next experiment was with Kemangi (Lemon Basil) (Botanical Name : Ocimum x Citriodorum).  Kemangi planted on the farm was growing very well, producing substantial quantities of leaves and flowers - more than what I can sell on a weekly basis at the market.  As the plants need to be pruned on a weekly basis to ensure quality production of leave and flowers, I decided to try making tea leaves out of it mainly due to the lovely citrusy fragrance which I theorized should produce a citrusy tasting tea which I hope would not also include a bitter taste.  In my research, I had found that this leaves have been turned into tea.
What I have found is that if water remains on the leaves for a long period of time, the leaves will bruise, causing them to turn brown.  With this is mind, I rinse the stems of leaves and shook off the excess water, and hung them "upside down" to dry them off as quick as possible.  To preserve the nutritional values of the flowers and leaves, it was air-dried out of direct sunlight. It takes about one week for it to totally dry. 
Once it was dry, I only crush the leaves and the flowers turning them into my tea.  I store the leaves in air-tight containers and in the chiller but I am also experimenting in storing them in containers on the shelves.  I want to see what is the best way to store them and I hope storing them on shelves produce favorable results as sometimes out fridge fills up so there is no place to store them in cool places, with our lovely warm, tropical climate.
To make the tea, I use about 1 teaspoon of tea and let it steep in just-boiled water for about 3-5 minutes.  It produces a golden brown color tea with a fragrant citrus smell, that wakes up the senses.  True to its English name, the tea has a refreshing, lemony taste to it and yes, not bitter at all, and taste great with or without honey.  For me, I avoid using white sugar and use either brown sugar or raw sugar if I want to have the sweet taste and do not have honey handy.  It can be served hot or cold - I prefer chilling it if I want it cold rather than adding ice as it will then water down create an uneven tea flavor. 
Since Kemangi is purported to aid in strengthening the heart and helping reduce stress, I call this my Heart Love tea, which I enjoy sipping in the late afternoon whilst enjoying the green scenery of Helang Lui.  One thing for sure, this is a definite great addition to Suria Helang Lui Herbal Teas.  Now, on to the next experiment......:)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

SHL Journal - Celebrating our eating tradition

Ever wondered why our ancestors appeared to have a healthier life despite not having the modern medical facilities within easy access?  In my opinion, it starts with their food and lifestyle.  I remember my great grandmother, Tok Nek, eating simply, always with "ulam" included for lunch or dinner.  She walked everywhere, miles daily, and not at a creeping pace at that.  I was always amazed at her energy.
Our Malay traditional cuisine is rich with natural vegetables and fresh ingredients which as the years go by has been over-run by processed foods and decline in freshness.  Take our curry, more and more, people are using processed coconut milk, processed spices, days or weeks old fish or chicken or beef and for some, they love adding food-flavor enhancers.  Sometimes, due to our lifestyles, it cannot be avoided but I always read the labels.  I try to avoid ingredients that contains items that have numbers and difficult to pronounce content.  More often than not, our reason for going for these expedient ingredients is lack of time.  However, if we plan our meals, having fresh, less processed food does not take any longer than the current alternative.

Selection of ulam
 Our "ulam" culture have also fallen by the wayside with many preferring to opt for salads, which in my opinion is not as rich and nutritious as using our many ulam  to create a salad.  Maybe it is because more information is available on western salads and also the "glamour" associated with it.  But have you noticed how expensive these salads are which contains mainly lettuce and tomato?  An alternative which is much cheaper and nutritious is doing your own salad which contains fresh leaf baby spinach, ulam raja, kemangi, ruku, selasih, daun salam, bunga kantan and seasoned with limau kasturi and salt and pepper to taste.  You get all the great stuff - vitamins A, Bs, C and K, and protein, beta-carotene, calcium, and iron to name a few - all at a fraction of the cost.  These leaves also contain other benefits such as sources of traditional treatments for diabetes, cholesterol, heart diseases, tension and stress - all the illness that is prevalent in today's modern society.  Celebrate all the greens that we have!!!!

2.4 kg Keli
 As the years go by, I tend to eat more and more fish as opposed to chicken or beef.  Somehow, the idea of chicken that has been given antibiotics does not seem to appeal to me as much.  The same goes for eggs that come from this "processed" chickens.  I am blessed to have alternatives - I have a healthier egg source which comes from the chickens that I rear that eat all those natural food from the farm supplemented by corn.  I also have a fish source - the fish from my pond which is constantly getting fresh, clean water from the hills and fed with shrimps (that is in the river naturally), other small river fish, keladi leaves, banana plant stem center and supplemented by fish pellets, albeit not that much as they have so much food naturally.  A big no-no is carcasses or animal innards.  It makes a huge differences to the quality and taste of the fish and there is no need to wash the fish "to death" to remove the smell.  Prior to having my own fish pond, I had tried fresh water fish like keli and tilapia and I found them to have a smell and also a "muddy" taste.  It left a marked impression on me and I always avoided fresh water fish thereafter.  Now, I realize the importance of fresh flowing water and feed for quality and tasty fish - many of the fresh water fish producers have stagnant water ponds and some feed them carcasses as a cheap alternative fish feed. Yuck!!!!!  Our ancestors ate fresh water fish that ate natural food so why do we lower our standards?  For cheap food?  Remember, we are what we eat so while it may be cheap in the beginning, it may turn out to result in expensive medical bills :).

Misai kucing flower
 For drinks, I enjoy drinks such as limau kasturi juice, teh misai kucing, teh kemangi and teh serai, which you may find served as a speciality drink at some restaurants at a rather high cost such as RM 10 per glass for teh serai.  So, I create my own at a fraction of the cost.  I was amazed to see how much a box of 10 sachets of teh misai kucing costs so I make my own using only the flowers and its flower stem, and the leaves - none of the leaf stems - which results in a nice golden brown tea that has its own sweetness and rich taste.  These drinks also have a nutritional value as well as being traditionally used in the treatment of diseases - it can also help prevent these diseases.  The axiom "Prevention is better than cure" holds true.  Celebrate our traditional drinks!!!!

Pisang lemak manis
 Traditionally, we have also eaten our local fruits as snacks and as desserts after a main meal.  Bananas, papayas, watermelon are some examples.  Where bananas are concerned, there are so many varieties to suit many different taste such as pisang lemak manis, rastali, udang, embun, berangan, emas, telor, raja, awak and abu, to name a few.  They are what I call the orinal variety that have not undergone genetic modification.  I am a traditionalist in this aspect, I feel we shouldn't mess with Mother Nature where it is not necessary and to leverage on natural forms of fertilization such as composting as well as regularly turning the soil so that all the organic material returns to the soil to further improve the quality of the soil.  Bananas and papayas are great at breakfast as they help with our digestion system much better than taking laxatives.  Celebrate our fruits!!!!
Chemical pesticides and fertilizers were also not widely used then and today, this is the easiest way for many vegetable producers to ensure plentiful produce.  While we may wash the vegetables carefully, to my mind, it will always be present within the vegetable so although we may consume minute amounts, over time, this can be quite substantial.  At the same time, this will pollute the land.  Since I enjoy "grazing" as I walk on the farm, these are banned items which drives the guy that works for me crazy as it makes it more work to control the weeds which thrives on the rich soil.  It is a never-ending battle but at the end of the day, I think the effort is worth it.  So, let us all celebrate our eating tradition :)