Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Lumai or leunca or Black Nightshade

I was first introduced to this leave when I attended MAHA 2010 and at one of the stalls they had sayur lemak lumai.  Later, I found out that they were growing at the farm.  This plant belongs to the terung or solanaceae family although the fruit is not eaten especially the unripe fruit and the leaves are eaten either raw or cooked.  In Indonesia, it is also known as Ranti.

This plant produces tiny white flowers which turns into a dark purplish black berry which contains many tiny seeds.  These seeds can be used to propagate new plants by squeezing out the seeds and putting it into soil, lightly covering the seeds.  However, once you have seeded it, this plants do fare well when moved and transplanted to a different location.  It prefers a semi-shade location and flourishes in moist but not soggy ground.

The young leaves can be consumed raw as ulam or cooked such as in coconut milk creating sayur lemak pucuk lumai  or in water creating sayur air pucuk lumai.  To the cooked vegetable you can add shrimps, dried or fresh, or anchovies.  Add this to your vegetable selection to increase your repertoire :)

Terung Telunjuk

Before I started farming, I was only familar with a few varieties of solanum or terung.  Now I find that there are many species of the Solanaceae Solanum including this particular species Solanum spp.  The fruit is almost oblong in shape with the upper portion being green and the lower portion having a mixture of white and green.  When the fruit matures, it turns into a golden yellow.  The terung telunjuk can be eaten raw or blanched ulam.  For 100g of fruit, the amount of nutrients are : water 91.2 g, protein 1.7 g, fat 0.1 g, carbohydrate 5.6 g, fibre1.0 g, calcium 25 miligram (mg), phosphorous20 mg, iron 0.6 mg, carotene90 ug, vitamin A 15 ug, vitamin B1 0.07 mg, vitamin B2 0.05 mg, niacin 0.7 mg and vitamin C 18.4 mg.

The plants are propogated from dried seeds of mature fruit.  It takes 3-5 days for the seeds to germinate.  The leaves are similar to other aubergine leaves with its velvety and sponge-like texture and distinctive shape.  To keep plants healthy, it is best to remove the brown leaves to prevent mold or mildew.  It grows like a shrub and can be pruned to encourage a fuller-looking shrub as well as to control the height growth.

It produces medium-sized purple flowers with a yellow center so it makes a nice addition to your landscaping.  The time from flower to fruit can take about 1 week and it is harvested prior to the fruit turning yellow.  To keep plants producing lots of fruits, fertilizer should be applied about once a week once it starts to flower.  At the farm, we use a organic compost and fertilizer to keep the plants healthy.  Once it starts to flower, it will continuously flower with the quantity of flowers dependent on the health and nutrients available to the plant.

When eaten raw, the fruit has a spongy flesh with small seeds which you can eat.  So if you love ulam or eating raw vegetables, try this.  On the other hand, you can also cook it with sambal belacan and anchovies (ikan bilis) or add it to your dalca or curries.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Bananas - Pisang Raja

A much sought-after banana, the pisang raja is amongst the most requested type of banana for making banana fritters.  There are so many varieties of bananas and this variety is classed biologically to be Musa Balbisiana.  Like many of the other banana plants, this variety also produces multiple baby plants as it matures.

To produce quality fruits, it is best to plant them 3m or 10' apart in high organic content soil that can retain moisture without being soggy.  As it produces multiple baby plants, for better quality and yield of fruits, it is best to reduce them to 2-3 plants per cluster.  It is imperative to ensure sufficient water and nutrients during the inflorescence stage.

As the fruit matures, it turns from green to yellow but not as bright a yellow as pisang lemak manis or emas.  It takes about 8 weeks from the inflorescence stage to maturity.  The fruit is more elongated and has defined edges without "sharp" lines.  The skin has a smooth, almost velvety texture.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Baby Kailan

One of the vegetables that I love is the baby Kailan or English name: Kale (biological name Brassica Olecerea) which is sweeter and tastier in my opinion than the other types of Kailan.  It is highly nutritious with powerful anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  It is also very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and reasonably rich in calcium.  Following my maxim, that I only plant the vegetables that I enjoy, this is one of the vegetables that I continuously plant.  This vegetable can be cooked in so many ways – kalian with salted fish, kalian with garlic, put in fried rice and fried vermicelli, stir-fried with bean curd and anchovies – the list is limited by one’s imagination.

Putting the greenhouse to good use, I plant a few rows of this vegetable, in stages, trying to keep a constant supply.  To start with, I have my “tools of the trade” – my reliable cangkul, my small spade, my bucket of compost, and of course my weeding basket.  To me, soil preparation is key.  Creating a bed free of weeds and high in organic content, this will help ensure that the plants can thrive and the moisture content is good.  I enjoy running my fingers through the soil, breaking it up and removing any stones or remaining weeds.   I create beds of about 1 ft. wide and seed two columns.

It takes 2-3 days for the seeds to sprout.  It is essential keep the soil moist but not soggy so that the plants can assimilate the necessary nutrient for its growth.  Having good soil also invites weeds so weeding is one of my favorite activities – a time for me to reflect and plan, relaxing times – in surrounding rich with oxygen content.  Once a week, I will turn the top soil and sprinkle my organic fertilizer or more compost or a mixture of both.

I water as necessary, sometimes once a day sometimes twice a day – depending on the weather and the moisture in the soil.  In this instance, I am lucky that my water supply is from a natural, uncontaminated source so no “funny” things will be introduced to the plant.  My aim is to grow these vegetables as naturally as possible hence one of the reason why I do not do hydrophonics vegetables even though I have a good water supply.

The vegetables are ready to be harvested about 4 weeks after seeding.  The harvesting needs to be done carefully as the stems are easy to break.  The leaves can get to be quite large measuring about 10cm long and width of about 6 cm so I wonder, why are they called baby kalian?  I harvest them either early morning while the morning dew is still present or in the early evening.  It helps them from wilting.

For my own consumption, I will harvest just before cooking – after all why not take advantage of being able to have FRESH vegetables.  There is no bitter taste to this variety and I like to have it simply, quick stir-fry with garlic.  So, to all lovers of leafy vegetables, try this variety of kalian as opposed to the other and you may be surprised by the taste J.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Mangosteen Puree

Yes, it the seasons of fruits in Hulu Langat.  Another popular seasonal fruit is mangosteen or manggis (biological name: Garcinia Mangostana).  This fruit does not keep well in its raw farm but I find that by creating a nice pink puree of it, it can be kept longer and used for multiple purposes.

There are many purported health benefits to this fruit including for athritis and joint pains, high blood pressure and lowering of cholestrol and aid to the digestive system.  This fruit has a high fibre content and is rich in anti-oxidants.  All in all, this fruit provides for a myriad of health benefits. 

I think the puree form of this fruit also makes for great baby food, rich in nutrients and tasty.  I suggest using raw sugar as opposed to refined sugars.

  1. Mangosteen
  2. Raw cane sugar
Peel the mangosteen and place it in a pot with raw cane sugar.  For 10kg of fruit, I used 0.5kg of raw cane sugar.  Depending on the sweetness and sourness of the fruit, you can adjust the sugar used.  There is not need to add water as this fruit has a high water content.  Once the mixture starts to bubble, reduce heat and simmer until it reaches to a consistency of your choice.  Run the mixture through a sieve to remove the seeds.

Consumption and uses:
  1. A a base for a delicious fruit drink.  Just add water and serve chilled on our hot summer days.  Great pairing when eating durians.
  2. As an ingredient in creating a mangosteen jelly or agar-agar.  Taste delicious as an after meal dessert.
  3. Simmer it to a thicker consistency and you can produce a conserve which is great eaten with buttered toast.
Store in the refrigerator.

Personally, I like to leave the puree in it more "watery" form and drink it as a delicious, cool fruit drink.  In this form, it takes about 1 hour cooking time.

Durian Conserve

As the farm is located in "Durian Country", with lots of good, "original" durian of Hulu Langat, this durian season, I decided to experiment and create Durian Conserve.  I love the durian from this area and the season lasts for approximately 1.5 months.  During this period, there are durians aplenty and when the season ends, I will have to wait another year.  Thus the decision to make a conserve.

Extending the idea of a conserve, I prepared durian conserve to a consistency of other types of fruit conserve with the main difference being the addition of coconut milk.  If you want to prepare this conserve, be prepared to spend many hours and exercise your patience.
The ingredients that I use are:
  1. Durian
  2. Gula Melaka oralternatively you can use raw sugar
  3. Fresh coconut milk
  4. Pandan leaves
  5. Corn starch - optional
I tend to prepare my recipes based on relative proportions.  In this case, ratio of durian to coconut milk is 10:1.  For sugar, depending on the sweetness of the fruit, hence to your personal taste.

Remove the seeds and add gula Melaka, pandan leaves and coconut milk to the flesh of the durian.  Bring the mixture to "bubbling" and reduce heat to a simmer.  Periodically stir this mixture.  As I use the corn starch to produce a conserve to the consistency that I want, the usage of corn starch is optional.

The durian conserve should be refrigerated or can be frozen if you want to consume it later.

Ways to consuming the conserve:
  1. As a spread on bread similar to jams and other types of fruit conserve
  2. Cooked into a sauce that can be eaten with bread, glutinous rice, tapioca and other types of tubers.
  3. Used as an ingredient in creating bread puddings, cakes and other types of sweet dishes.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Of keli and tilapia

Another major activity at the farm is the rearing of fish,  On  1st of June, a new batch of fish was placed in the ponds.  The baby fishes (10,000 keli and 15,000 red tilapia) were about 2 inches long and in the month that they have been in the pond, I am amazed at the growth, especially the keli. 

I started them out with the starter feed with high protein and to date, the loss has been almost negligible.  They are fed strictly fish pellets and leaves from tapioca and keladi.  A definite no-no is any carcasses, human or animal wastes, or animal innards.  Whilst this means that the cost of feeding them is higher but I believe in producing quality tasty fish that doesn't have a funny taste or smell to it.

Another key element is the quality of water - to ensure good oxygen content as well as keeping the fish waste level to a minimum.  Alhamdulillah, the investment of laying 3 inch polypipe from the source up river ensures a good constant supply of water into the pond resulting in continuous inflow and outflow.  Definitely no smelly, stagnant water so it provides a beautiful landscape feature to the farm.
I have separated the keli and tilapia but somehow a few of the keli has managed to get into the tilapia pond. There are a few other fishes that have appeared in the tilapia pond - river fish as well as haruan.  I guess I will know what else has appeared in the pond when I drain and harvest the tilapia.
In order to gain more knowledge into the rearing of the fish, I have attended courses with Jabatan Perikanan as well as visited some other fish farmers - the quest for knowledge never ends.

I love feeding times - the first 3 weeks I fed them 2 times a day and then increased it to 3 times a day with the feed calculation based on 2% of the estimated total body weight of the fish.  After the second week, I changed the feed to be specific feed for the type of fish - keli feed for keli and tilapia feed for the tilapia.  When the keli is feed, there is this furious rush of feeding activity and you can hear the sound of the water as they attack the feed,  The tilapia also rush for the food but it is less aggressive when feeding.
This week, we will be categorizing the keli by size and separating them.  The rate of growth is different although they were all about the same size when introduced into the pond.  The larger size will be placed in the holding pond ready for harvest as I expect the first harves will occur by end of month if not sooner.

The tilapia on the other hand is targetted to be harvested at the end of October.
The next challenge I face is marketing the fish so I will have to draw from my corporate experience.  InsyAllah, this effort will be successful.  The journey continues......