Monday, 18 May 2015

Bananas: Berangan or Emas

I admit it - I still prefer the originals, no genetically modified for me.  The taste you get from the originals are special.  Pisang Berangan is about slightly more than double the size of Pisang Emas and the difference doesn't stop there.  Both bananas are eaten raw but over-ripe pisang emus can be turned into a lovely pancake and also our favourite local cucur - cucur kodok or as the northerners call it: cok kodok.  However, both varieties do not make good banana fritters as they tend to soak in lots of oil.
Just ripen, pisang berangan (left) and pisang emas (right)

Two days later, you can see the difference in the skin colours.

The pisang berangan skin turns yellow as it matures and as it further ripens has a slight orange tint to it.  The flesh is white and has a sweet taste with a subtle sourness to it.  The texture is almost cake-like with a lower water content by comparison and almost melt in your mouth.  Because of the taste and texture, it tastes great when turned into a banana split with chocolate or vanilla ice cream as it balances the creamy sweet taste of the ice cream.
Pisang berangan (left) and pisang emas (right)

By comparison, pisang emus skin turns yellow as it matures but as it further ripens, becomes a golden yellow.  The flesh is slightly yellow and it gets to be a golden yellow as it further ripens.  The texture is more solid and it gets even sweeter as it ripens.  When it is over-ripe, it tends to get slightly watery due to its higher water content making it easy to turn into a mush for pancakes or cok kodok.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Mulching - good choice for recycling

By definition, organic mulch is the placing of organic material around the base of the plant to enrich or protect the soil.  I have found this to be a great practice to improve the quality of the soil as well as providing additional nutrients naturally to the plants.  As the organic matter decomposes, it releases essential nutrients such as potassium, nitrogen, phosphorous as well as other elements into the soil from which the roots of the plants absorb.

It serves as a great way to recycle the leaves, grass cuttings and stems of plants, allowing me to clear these items from laying around the farm.  I will chop up the stems before applying it as a mulch so that it can function as a mulch effectively.  I stay away from grass that have flowered or formed seeds as this will then add additional work for me as I will need to manually weed them out.  On top of that, they will consume the nutrients that I wanted my plants to absorb.  I always stay away from sawdust as timber is treated with chemicals to maintain them and the lumber produced from these timber will contain these chemicals.  I also do not use any lang material that was infected by disease as I do not want to spread it to my plants.  I find that there is no need to wait for the mulching material to dry out before applying in on top of the soil.

For planting bed, I will lay at least 2 cm depth of mulch as this will greatly help the soil to retain moisture especially as the day heats up in the early afternoon.  I also use mulch on many of the plants that I plant in polybags or pots.  Most vegetables do not tolerate the soil drying out and will wilt in the afternoon.  By mulching, water remains available in the soil and allows the roots to absorb them.

For all my external mulch, I will add citronella leaves that have been chopped up to serve as a pest control element to the soil.  It doesn't affect the beneficial microorganisms in the soil so it ensures that I do not kill these wonderful microbes.  For fruiting vegetables, I will added banana pseudo stems as they contain lots of nutrients essential for fruiting.

When the plants have lived their age and taken out, I will till the planting bed, mixing all the mulch, which by now have broken down substantially, thereby adding more organic matter into my soil and improving its quality, ready for the next round of planting.  This is a practice I highly recommend as well as understanding what is in your mulch.  Happy recycling and mulching.