Sunday, 23 October 2016

Papayas, our local delight with options

Papaya is one of the highest nutrition local fruits, rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, fiber and enzymes including protein-digesting enzyme.  We are blessed to be living in a climate  where papayas can be grown easily with  minimal care.  There are many varieties of papayas and the shape and size differs.  Not all papaya trees produce fruits, there are some that just produces flowers.  To produce healthy papayas, it is important to ensure that it is free from chemical pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilisers.  For me, I avoid GMO papayas as well as the usage of hormones to modify size, taste and texture.  t would be silly to eat something to care for our health when it also contains toxic chemicals.  There is no need to put herbicides to kill off the weeds around the plant and have it be introduced into the fruits that we eat.  Just clear the weeds manually and you can just leave it to dry off or place it in your compost pile.  I also practice salting the ground with coarse salts on a quarterly basis for several reasons.  The type of papayas we grow are less fibrous is texture giving a creamier taste.

It is a great fruit to start the day, having middle of the day and also in the evening supplying us with loads of antioxidants and helping our digestive system.  The fiber in papaya binds with the cancer-causing toxins in our digestive system, keeping them away from our healthy colon cells hence it is a good preventive against colon cancer. The other nutrients in papaya such as the vitamin C, vitamin E, folate and beta-carotene have been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer.  A healthy digestive system further promotes our overall health.

For adults, this fruit is a great fruit to eat as protection against rheumatoid arthritis based on a study that was reported in the Annals of the Rheumatic Disease.    So great for women who tend to suffer this as we age.  For men, in a cancer study reported in the Asian Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that this lycopene-rich fruit helps to reduce  the risk of prostate cancer.  The nutrients in the papaya also helps to inhibit the oxidisation of the cholesterol, protecting our heart.

So, with one fruit, you get to cover your digestive system, bones, heart as well as immune system, it is definitely sitting high in my list of fruits to eat.  I get easily bored or tend to "forget" to eat it if there is only one way of eating them.  There are many ways of eating papaya and still get the necessary nutrition so it makes it easier to incorporate into my daily diet.

We are most familiar with eating the ripe papaya raw but we can also eat the unripe papaya in many ways.  It can be fermented to make it into a probiotic-rich  food.  The fermented green papaya can be eaten similar to sauerkraut or turned into a salad or our local kerabu.  The free papaya can also be skinned and cut into pieces and turned into nutrition soups or used in cooking savoury dishes like curry.  A simple soup is to brown shallots and garlic, add water and the cut pieces of green papaya and bring to boil and allow it to simmer until the pieces are soft.  You can add salt and other condiments to taste.  This soup can be dressed up with other ingredients such as chicken, beef, seafood or other vegetables.

The ripe papaya can also be turned into nutritious drinks like milk shakes or added with other fruits and vegetables to create a healthy drink.  It can also be turned into a healthy, nutritious and delicious snack by dehydrating them.  The dehydration process removes the moisture and it is best to dehydrate it to contain less than 15% moisture as this will inhibit the growth of bacteria that will result in the dried papaya to spoil.  When dehydrating papaya pieces, it is best to use the ripe papaya of good quality and not spoilt or mushy papayas that has already started to spoil.  The end result is a great snack that has minimal loss of its nutrients and ready to be enjoyed at any time.  It is also easy to store them and does not require refrigeration and lasts for months (although you will find that you consume it much faster).  What I do is to pack them in serving sizes as this means that I do not expose the dried papayas to the environment unnecessarily.  The thickness of the papaya pieces will determine whether you end up with crispy pieces or slightly chewy papaya chips.

With its nutrition and health benefits along with its versatility, why not go local and consume our papayas :)

Monday, 17 October 2016

Now I almost know what I have : Plants et al

Over the years I have bought, been gifted and propagated many types of plants and trees.  I finally have decided that I need to know what I actually have at the farm and to plan for their care and maintenance as well as continuity.  When trying to catalog them, at times I have difficulty in trying to classify them so I put them in the category of how it is used most often.  I broke them up into 5 categories:

  1. Herbs
  2. Fruits
  3. Bananas
  4. Vegetables and
  5. Others.
Basically the Others category is what I couldn't fit into the remaining categories.  For a plant that fruits but is mainly used as a herb, then I categorise them as Herbs.  Many can argue over the classification but the categorisation is from my viewpoint :).  I may have missed some but after compiling this list, now I know why I never seem to have enough time...... 34 herbs, 24 fruits,  21 Banana varieties, 35 Vegetables and 10 Others - each type has multiple plants for a total of 124 types.  Amazing what you can fit on a planting space of less than 1.5 acres.  Still more work ahead in documenting them - and there is always something new to add :)

All these are currently at the farm.

  Bahasa Malaysia English Scientific Name
1 Bangun-bangun Indian Borage, Mexican Mint Plectranthus amboinicus
2 Bebuas Premna foetida Reinw Premna foetida Reinw
3 Belalai Gajah Snakegrass Clinacanthus nutans
4 Bunga Tasbih Canna Lily Canna
5 Cekur Aromatic Ginger Kaempferia galanga
6 Halia Bentong Ginger - Bentong Zingiber officinale c.v. Bentong
7 Kadok Piper sarmentosum (Wild betel) Piper sarmentosum
8 Kantan Ginger Torch Etlingera elatior
9 Kari Curry Murraya koenigii
10 Kemangi Basil, Lemon Ocimum citridourum
11 Ketumpang Air Peperomia pellucida Peperomia pellucida
12 Kunyit Turmeric Curcuma longa
13 Kunyit Hitam Black Turmeric Curcuma caesia
14 Lengkuas Kecil Small Galangal Alpinia galanga
15 Limau Perut Kafir Lime Citrus hystrix
16 Mahkota Dewa God's Crown Phaleria macrocarpa
17 Misai Kucing Cat's Whiskers Orthosiphon stamineus
18 Oregano Cuba Cuban Oregano Mentha x. villosa
19 Pandan Pandan Pandanus amaryllifolius
20 Pegaga Asiatic Pennywort Centella Asiatica
21 Pudina Mint Mentha spicata L.
22 Rerama Christia vespertilionis Christia vespertilionis
23 Selasih Hitam Basil, Holy Ocimum tenuiflorum
24 Selasih Putih Basil, White Ocimum citriodorum
25 Selasih Thai Basil, Thai Ocimum basilicum var thyrsiflora
26 Serai Lemongrass Cymbopogon
27 Serai Wangi Citronella Cymbopogon nardus
28 Sireh Betel Piper betle
29 Temulawak Javanese turmeric Curcuma zanthorriza
30 Tenggek Burong Eudia lunu-ankenda Eudia lunu-ankenda
31 Tujuh bilah Pereskia Sacarosa Pereskia sacarosa
32 Ulam Raja Cosmos Dianthus Cosmos Dianthus
33 Spearmint Spearmint Mentha spicata
34 Hemilang (rumput beremi) Wild Purslane Portulaca oleracea


  Bahasa Malaysia English Scientific Name
1 Abiu Abiu Pouteria caimito
2 Alpokat Avocado Persea americana
3 Belimbing Buloh Bilimbi Averrhoa bilimbi
4 Betik Eksotika Papaya, Exotica Carica papaya v. Exotica
5 Cempedak Cempedak Artocarpus Integer
6 Cermai Malay gooseberry Phyllanthus acidus
7 Delima Pomegranate Punica granatum
8 Duku Duku Lansium domesticum
9 Durian Belanda Soursop Annona muricata
10 Gajus Cashew Anacardium occidentale
11 Jambu Bol Malay apple Syzygium malaccense
12 Jambu Madu Java apple Syzygium samarangense
13 Kelapa Pandan Coconut, Pandan Cocos nucifera
14 Kelapa Pandan Gading Coconut, Yellow Pandan Cocus nucifera
15 Limau Bali Pomelo Citrus maxima
16 Limau Kasturi Calamansi Citrofortunella microcarpa
17 Limau Nipis Lime Citrus aurantiifolia
18 Manggis Mangosteen Garcinia mangostana
19 Mata Kucing Longan Dimocarpus longan
20 Nangka Jackfruit Artocarpus heterophyllus
21 Pulasan Pulasan Nephelium mutabile Blume
22 Rambutan Rambutan Nephelium lappaceum
23 Roselle Roselle Hibiscus sabdariffa
24 Sukun Breadfruit Artocarpus altilis

I know I have missed some so I will just have to add as I remember :)

  Bahasa Malaysia
1 Abu Batu (Nipah)
1 Abu Bunga
2 Awak
3 Berangan
4 Emas
5 Embun Rendah
6 Embun Dingin
7 Embun Wangi (Bunga)
8 Jari Buaya
9 Kapas
10 Lemak Manis
11 Lidi (Rotan)
12 Nangka
13 Raja
14 Rastali
15 Susu
16 Tanduk
17 Udang
18 Ruai
19 Raja Udang
20 Berangan Kampung
21 Telor

These vegetables are in various stages - some seedling, some growing, some producing :)

  Bahasa Malaysia English
1 Asparagus Asparagus
2 Bayam hijau Green Spinach
3 Bayam merah Red spinach
4 Bendi Okra
5 Brokoli Broccoli
6 Cili Akar Hot Chilli
7 Cili Api Bird's Eye Chilli
8 Cili Benggala Merah Red Bell Pepper
9 Cili Kuning Hungarian Yellow Wax Pepper
10 Cili Putih WHITE CHILLI
11 Jagung Corn
12 Kacang buncis French beans
13 Kacang Panjang Long green beans
14 Kailan KAILAN
15 Kale locinato Kale Locinato
16 Kale, kerinting Curly Kale
17 Kangkong Water spinach
18 Keladi Hitam Yam
19 Keladi Kemumu Yam
20 Kelo Moringa
21 Kobis Cabbage
22 Labu Pumpkin
23 Labu White scallop squash
24 Labu Dingin Winter melon
25 Peria Bitter gourd
26 Peria katak Bitter gourd
27 Pucuk Manis Star gooseberry
28 Pucuk Paku Vegetable fern
29 Sawi Chinese Mustard Greens
30 Terung  pipit Turkey berry
31 Terung bulat hijau Round green eggplant
32 Terung Telunjuk Green finger eggplant
33 Terung unggu bulat Round purple eggplant
34 Tomato Tomato
35 Ubi kayu halus Tapioca

All these are currently planted.

  Bahasa Malaysia English
1 Bunga Telang Blue pea
2 Jering Jering
3 Pagoda Pagoda
4 Pinang Areca catechu
5 Surian Suren
6 Tebu Hitam Black Sugar Cane
7 Ubi Kayu Merah Tapioca
8 Ubi Kayu Pulut Tapioca
9 Ubi Keledek Sweet potato
10 Vanila Vanilla

Suria Helang Lui: 7 years later Part 4: Behind the scenes

Suria Helang Lui is a family farm, not a large corporation farm.  It took me 10 years to find the right piece of land for me.  As far as possible I wanted to get a piece of land that hadn't been developed or worked on for a while.  The main reason being that it meant the exposure to chemical pesticides and herbicides would be minimal.  Having the basic infrastructure is important.  The basics are access, water and electricity.  Another important factor is the distance from my home to the land had to be within commuting distance which also meant not far from K.L.

When I bought the land, it looked like a jungle so the first few months, I spent time with my parang
and weed cutter to check the lay of the land to figure out how I wanted to design the layout of the farm.  I already had road access and electricity was near so nothing major to be done in this area.  The water supply to this area was by Syabas and they used a 1 inch polypipe to supply the water to the area which meant that the water supply would be insufficient for what I wanted.  So, I decided to lay polypipe to bring water to the farm.  Three years later, I decided to lay a second water supply line strictly for the fish pond.

The farmhouse was built on a as-I-grow basis so it started out with a storage room/rest room and then I added a square structure of 24 fee by 24 feet and it was connected to the rest room via a walkway.  This has evolved to what I have now: a 3-bedroom, 2 bathroom, 1 bookworm, 1 prayer room, living room, dining/work area (where the walkway used to be) and a large kitchen.  The kitchen area is an open concept kitchen with plenty of work areas and storage all to support the operations of the farm.  To date, I have still not completed the outer exterior - still have details but I hope someday I will get around to it as it is not high on my priority list.  I had started out with a design that allowed for growth and additions so the farmhouse took a few years to be the way it is now.  Each time we did an addition, we didn't have to knock down walls because I didn't want the headache of debris removal and I didn't want to waste money unnecessarily.

The development of the farm is self-funded hence I have the freedom to develop it any way I want and no reporting needed.  After all, I had done my share of reports in my previous life in the corporate world.  As such, every major development is properly planned to reduce wastage and unnecessary investment.  I would say I went to the University of Life as I develop the farm as my idea was different than what I had seen other do.  All the farms that I have seen are focussed on a produce be it vegetables, fruits, chicken, fish, etc. and followed what has normally been done.  Through it all, many have often remarked that what I was doing was wrong and that if I didn't focus, it would not be commercially viable.  All the produce we have now are from what we planted or started and it takes time for them to be productive.  I am happy to say that we are now moving into the black though I do not foresee being a millionaire from it in the near future but what I gain from it is ultimately worth a lot more.  I could have gone into the black earlier if I experimented less but I wouldn't have gained all the knowledge that I have now.  On top of that, I am my own employer, doing what I love and I do not have to worry about what I will do when I retire.  I continue to experiment, do research and learn.  This keeps my brain alive and I do not have time to be bored.  It is through all this that I have been able to move the farm from being a purely raw goods producer to multi types of produce and products.

I am not from an agricultural background but I have never let that stop me from experimenting and researching as well as learning from practitioners.  I cannot do it alone hence having a solid right-hand man who shares my vision for the farm is essential.  From time to time, I add helpers for specific projects - mainly when there is building to do or preparation of area for planting.  It is not a matter of throwing bodies but having the right people with the right mindset and attitude.  Currently there are 3 of us - Azis, Lia and I.  We each have our roles but help each other out as needed.  

Farming is not a 8-5, Monday to Friday job.  We are dealing with living things, nature and life.  When it rains, we have to work around it to get things done.  If the river otters or wild boars decide to invade the farm at night, we cannot just ignore them and let the dogs deal with them or we may end up with our plants destroyed or the fish gone.  It cannot be treated as a job but more as living.  Hence it has to be a full-time commitment.  It has to be a team sharing the same vision of making the farm succeed to be successful.  In every task we do, we have to do it to the best of our ability and not just say a task was done.  I do monitor that members of the team get enough rest so at times outsiders may find that I have people sleeping in the afternoon or resting.  It is not because they are lazy but more of the fact that they were taking care of the farm until dawn.

I am very much hands-on and am involved in every aspect hence I continually need to increase my knowledge from farm practices to marketing.  One of the most important tenet is that we only sell what we will eat or use.  Each week as we prepare for market, the question that I remind my team is "Will we eat it?  Will we use it?".  If the answer is no then we don't sell it.  I care about our brand: Suria Helang Lui.  It has taken us years to build our reputation and it is important that we maintain the trust and confidence from our customers.

While it may be hard work, it is infinitely satisfying and I know that what we produce are good and something that I would feed my family and friends.  Pursuing my passion has given me a lot of pleasure and sense of accomplishment and a future, in shaa Allah, until the day I die.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pisang Embun Wangi a.k.a. Bunga - fragrant delight

One of my favourite bananas to eat raw - either on its own, in a banana split or in my greek yoghurt
with honey - all natural, no hormones or chemical pesticide or fertiliser, non-GMO with a fragrant honey sweet taste beats the GMO, often with chemical inducements commercial Cavendish hands down.  In size and shape they are similar to Cavendish.  In the age where we have a choice, I choose Pisang Embun Wangi over the Cavendish any day.  The Kedahans also call it Pisang Bunga.  In Indonesia, it is called Pisang Ambon.

The plant itself grows quite tall, about 5m so it does need a bit of room to grow in a home garden.  However, if you love fresh bananas, this tree might be your choice.  The inflorescence (jantung pisang) is bitter so it is not eaten.

The taste is similar to Pisang Emas and Lemak Manis although the texture is softer but not mushy.  This banana ripens with a light yellowish-green  or pale yellow skin so if you are waiting for it to turn fully bright yellow, you would probably end up with an over-ripe, mushy brown/black skin banana.  As with most local bananas, it is best stored in a basket or fruit bowl, not on a cool surface like ceramic tiles.  When stored in the fridge, the skin will turn brown-black even though it may still be good to eat.  It is funny how many are still tuned in that for a banana to be ripe, it must be yellow.  There are many varieties of banana which ripen with a green skin so it is best not to "judge the book by its cover".  The flesh is also a cream color with a pale yellow tinge in the centre.

This banana is best consumed raw and is not suitable for turning into banana fritters because it tends to "soak" in the oil.  However, it is also good when roasted with the skin still on or turned into smoked bananas (pisang salai).  Another option is to use it to make cakes and pancakes especially when it is overripe as it tends to be mushy to mashing them up would be easy.

From a nutrition standpoint, as with other bananas, it is high in fiber and also contains vitamin A, C and calcium.  In traditional medicine, this fruit is eaten when you have a fever and the pseudo stem is heated and used to treat sore muscles.