Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Project long green beans

I enjoy eating long green beans, whether raw or cooked.  I prefer them when they are mature and green, still crispy.  Previously, I had done smaller experiments in planting them, looking at soil content, support structure and water quantity as well as sunlight.  This time around, we decided to plant a lot more than previously, about 100 plants.
I started with seeding them in small polybags and once they were about 10cm with several leaves, they were transplanted.  The planting beds were also prepare carefully, removing the weeds and then mixing the soil with "seasoned" pure goat manure and then covered with black plastic.  The beds was covered to serve two main purposes: to reduce the weed and grass growth as well as to help retain moisture in the soil.
Since we do not use any chemical herbicides, it was essential to remove the weeds and grass prior to planting and to control any new growth.  It would be a waste for all the nutrients from the goat manure to be used by grass and weeds.  Covering the beds also meant that we would reduce the time taken to maintain the beds - a big savings in time as we would have to manually remove the weeds and grass.  I was hoping that it would also mean that we would not have to water them but rely on the rain to supply the necessary water to the plants and that has come to fruition.

Five weeks after transplanting, it began flowering  and about at six weeks, the first beans began to appear.  The intial harvest was around 6kg and now it is producing about 15 kg per week.  I am happy with the results in terms of the yield but I learnt that we need to improve how we support the plants.  On a weekly basis, I remove the mature leaves and try not to let any dry out on the plant.  By removing the old leaves, it encourages the plant to produce new shoots and more flowers.  Without old leaves drying out on the plant which turns mushy when it rains, it helps prevent mold from forming on the plant which can kill the plant.  As the leaves are maintained, I also manually remove the black aphids which literally suck the life out of the plant.  All the time and effort is worth it when I see the quality of green beans that we produce.  SubhanAllah.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Tumeric - a totally edible plant

As with many condiments, so does tumeric (Malay name: Kunyit; Botanical Name: Curcuma Longa), it taste better fresh and provides maximum health benefits.  In Malaysia, you can find both fresh tumeric and tumeric powder easily.  Personally, I prefer the fresh tumeric and I find that it doesn't leave an after-taste more often experienced with turmeric powder and you can be sure that it is pure.  Apart from being used in culinary and traditional medicines, the rhizome is also used to create a natural yellow dye.

The tumeric belongs to the ginger plant family hence it can be propagated from its rhizome.  The first time I planted it, I used store-bought fresh turmeric, selection the ones with the darkest rhizome skin colour to ensure better success in propagation.  In ensuing propagation, I have used the farm-produced rhizomes.

It grows well in a sun and well-drained soil and requires substantial water for good growth.  If there is insufficient rain, then it needs to be watered.  The tumeric rhizome doesn't grow as well in heavy clay soil.  I find that he best soil mixture for good growth after my experiments at the farm is 50% soil, 30% organic matter and 20% sand.  I fertilise it about once a month.

Each leaf grows on its own stalk.  The mature leaves are best for using in cooking.  It can be harvested as you want to use it without impact to the growing rhizome.  The rhizome has an "orangish" skin and mature rhizomes is almost orange in color on the inside by comparison to young rhizomes are yellowish-white in color.

It is a small plant, measuring under 0.5m.  As such, it can make a good walkway or patio border plant for the home landscape.  It produces a creamy white, with a tinge of green, flower when mature, taking at least 6 months from planted at the farm, and it is at this stage that the rhizomes are ready to be harvested. 

The flower grows on its own stem from the base of the plant.  At the farm, the flower has grown to about 10cm long, with multi-layers of petals.  In creating an edible landscape, this plant is a good option as it is a flowering plant require minimal maintenance.  The beauty of this plant is the whole plant is edible: the leaves, the flowers and the rhizomes.

In Malaysia, both the leaf and the rhizome are used in cooking.  It produces a wonderful flavour that enhancesNo rendang dish is complete without tumeric leaves.  The flower can be eaten as ulam or salad.  The plant produces singular leaves which can grow to be quite long, about 40-50cm long, if it is healthy.

Among the health benefits that have been attributed are:
  1. It is a natural antiseptic and antibacterial agent and is useful in disinfecting cuts and burns.  In traditional medicing a paste is created and applied to cuts and burns.
  2. Has properties that appear to prevent and stop the growth of cancer cells.
  3. In traditional medicine, the juice extracted from the tumeric has been used as a natural liver detoxifier.
  4. A potent natural anti-inflammatory that works well without the side effect, it has been used in natural medicine for treatment for athritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
  5. Used in natural medicine for treatment of psoriasis and other inflammatory skin condition, usually by applying a tumeric poultice.
 For its culinary uses and therapeutic benefits, this plant should be high on your list if you are planning an flowering edible landscape.

Updated: March 15, 2015