Sunday, February 27, 2011

Growing Stevia: a sweet adventure

I thought sweet Stevia had been overly priced. They didn't look too healthy. Anyway we bought 3 pots at a price of RM5 each at Felda Kemahang nursery on 26th of December 2010. We tried to propagate right away. After a month one had rooted. To get back the investment of RM15, I needed another two cuttings to sprout roots and grow. Now we have 10 tiny seedlings, and another 50 in the pipeline.

One of the three mother plants
 Stevia has a drooping habit, 
and new shoots try to straighten.

A simple technique indeed, cut a stem with a few nodes and place in water. Wait until there is enough roots to transfer into pot.

The first baby Stevia propagated

baby stevia
baby stevia

baby stevia
References mention about good practice to cut off flowers, because flowering is an indication that stevia is about to dry up and die.  So we keep cutting back branches with flowers, and propagate. What we know about Stevia  is only through reading.  And that doesn't stop us from planning to propagate more, setting a target of 1000 plants by middle of next year.

bangchik and kakdah
Tanah Merah

Notes on Stevia

What is stevia?

Stevia is a small shrub like perennial plant which belongs to sunflower (Asteraceae) family. It is also known as Eupatorium rebaudianum, sweetleaf, honeyleaf and sugarleaf, and sweet herb of Paraguay. The leaves of Stevia are a source of natural zero-calorie sweetener which is considered sweeter than sugar (sucrose). It has been used in South and Central America , Japan and many other parts of the world as a sugar substitute and in the treatment of a number of health conditions for centuries. Initially the leaves of Stevia were consumed fresh or dried but eventually chemists isolated the glycosides called stevioside and rebaudioside from its leaves that give stevia its sweet taste. Stevia also contains phytonutrients, trace elements, minerals, vitamins and volatile oils which give Stevia its nutritional and medicinal properties. In 2008, FDA (The Food and Drug Administration) approved sweetener derived from the herb stevia as safe for use in foods and beverages. The steviols glycosides are now used in herbal supplements, foods and beverages, and as sweetening powders and syrups. Unlike other sweeteners, Stevia can be used in baking and cooking and its lesser amount is ample.(click here for more:  Health Benefits of Stevia )

What are the benefits of Stevia

A number of studies show that Stevia can be beneficial in the treatment of many health conditions. Stevia is believed to have anti-bacterial, anti-septic, anti-microbial, anti-oxidant, anti-glycemic, and anti-hypertensive properties which may help with hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, chronic fatigue, indigestion, upset stomach, heartburn, weight loss, cold and flu, gingivitis, tooth decay, cavities, dandruff and hair loss, brittle bones or osteoporosis, streptococcus, candidiasis, bacterial infections and skin conditions such as cuts, wounds, rashes, itchiness, blemishes, acne, seborrhoeic dermatitis, dermatitis, eczema, and wrinkles. It may also improve energy levels, strengthen immune system, stimulate mental activity, and may also help in withdrawl from tobacco and alcohol addiction. (click here for more:  (click here for more:  Health Benefits of Stevia )   


Friday, February 25, 2011

Blooming Friday: A Pinch of Green

It was red and bare when we came here, to start a new life in Tanah Merah home November last year. Green starts to get in slowly painting a picture of  what we were so used to , over in Putrajaya. I am joining Katarina of  Roses and stuff  on Blooming Friday to share a glimpse of that green;  a pinch of green

 The Malabar spinach is learning how to climb, 
and carrying along little greenish buds. 
They will get whiter soon.
(thanks to Wendy for the seeds giveaway)

 This particular baby plant is so beautiful, 
as it gets to the second set of leaves.
It will grow, climb and produce 
beautiful red flowers.
With a slightly different angle.

 This particular one crowns its own seed coat. 
A little greyish at the beginning, and soon it will become greener 
before the second set of leaves appear as in the second photo.

For three years,we are quite used to yellow flowers 
with accompanying white leaf look alike. 
The plant probably has excess chlorophyll that  
a pinch of green 
gets into the white false leaf....

Bangchik and Kakdah

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Miracle berry is ripening

The fruit (miracle berry/ buah ajaib/ Synsepalum dulcificum)  is tucked among leaves, and that makes it difficult to see as we walk pass the plant. I have to squat down to get a better view for pictures. It is definitely ripening now, green turning to light red and now red. It should be anytime now.

The other day Kakdah had a conversation with  Madam Noor as they were touring the garden, looking at plants and orchids.  The fruits were very expensive many years ago, RM10 a fruit, she said. Then the price dropped a little , 3 berries for RM10. Now nobody seem to be buying or selling berries because everyone is eager to have their own plant and pluck their own berries. Stories went around  about medicinal properties for diabetics.

The two seedlings germinated from seeds are still growing. The healthy one, is coming to the third leaf, while the other one stays dormant. It stays as it was a month ago.  I suspect, it will not go the distance...
miracle berry, red and ripe

miracle berry, red and ripe

 the ripening miracle berry, a week earlier

the little flower.

the flower bud of miracle berry
other buds

Kakdah will soon take it. A bite of ripe miracle berry will  retain sweetness in the mouth for hours,
and it is sugar free. So it must be a good thing for diabetics
and those who wish to reduce sugar intake.

bangchik and kakdah
Tanah Merah, Kelantan

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Delightful Moment for Kakdah.

The little girl was born on the 13th of February 2011 8.00am, the third child for Farah and Ramli. We made a trip to Jitra Kedah the next day. Farah was fine and the little one too. Now Kakdah is the grandmother for three grandchildren. So is Bangchik.

Kakdah, Adlina, Adli and the little girl.
I probably clicked a second too early, before everyone opened up a smile, showed their teeth and said cheese.  Adlina (the eldest) is very conscious with her gaping teeth, that she would never open up for the camera.

a big yawn.

a little smile,
responding to the kiss from grandmother

what's she thinking?

bangchik and kakdah
Tanah Merah, Kelantan

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sowing Timun Tikus seeds (Zehneria)

How many times bank slips, address on a piece of paper, dollar notes, and seeds tucked in pocket ended in washing machine and spoiled. I reminded Fauzi, a friend staying in a gorgeous an acre property in Tanah Merah, as he was about to leave the house with roselle seeds in his pocket. Fauzi is an old friend since the days of late 80's.

I came back from a meeting 3 weeks ago at Swiss Garden Resort some 20 km away from Pantai Remis with seeds in my pocket. Some are taken from Rosiah garden, my younger sister, some from Mother in Law's garden and some are collected from flowering plants as we stopped along the highway.  The seeds were germinated right away. Timun tikus has to be the special one for months to come.

Timun tikus seedling.
I have known about timun tikus, the miniature cucumber but never actually seen one growing. It is a rare opportunity indeed to actually grow them with seeds given by MIL. After googling, I think this will describe timun tikus best:.........

 monoecious or dioecious climbing annual or perennial herbs. Tendrils simple. Leaves simple, dentate, usually palmately lobed. Male inflorescence an axillary raceme, sometimes paniculate by leaf reduction, or cluster or rarely flowers solitary. Male flowers: hypanthium campanulate; calyx 5-lobed; corolla 5-lobed; stamens 3, inserted about middle of hypanthium; connective broad, papillose; anthers 2-locular. Female inflorescence an axillary raceme or cluster or flowers solitary. Female flowers: perianth similar to male; staminodes 3; ovary usually globose or ovoid; ovules few to many, horizontal; stigma usually 3-lobed. Fruit fleshy, usually globose or ellipsoidal, indehiscent, few to many-seeded. Seeds obovate, compressed, smooth. 

A genus of c. 35 species of Africa, SE Asia to the SW Pacific including N and E Australia; 2 species in Australia; 1 species on Christmas Is. Included in trib. Melothrieae. ( Refer here : "Zehneria". Flora of Australia Online. Australian Biological Resources Study. 1993. Retrieved 2010-11-20.)

Two timun tikus seedlings ready to be moved to the ground

The raised bed for these seedlings had been prepared, and in fact I was terribly lavish, putting in cocopeat, rice husk, organic fertiliser and sand, mixed them well and watered. The two seedlings will set foot or rather roots on the ground in a day or two. I do hope they will grow healthy and produce numerous little cucumbers like these.
timun tikus, from 

bangchik and kakdah
Tanah Merah Kelantan

Friday, February 18, 2011

Three rows of vegetable bed

Kangkung, kale, sweet peas, and peanuts are lining up in the raised vegetable bed. Peanuts had been here for months, seems to stop flowering for a while but busy sending roots right from the stem straight into the ground for the eventual peanuts. Kangkung (water spinach), kale and sweet peas are of the same age, sown together and transplanted on the same day. Kangkung don't seem to pose any problem..., they just keep on growing. Some of the kale are adding the third leaves, some simply wilt and fall flat. Lucky that I have so many extras, which is so handy to replace them.

Sweet peas are real teasers. Their game had been hide and seek. I have been trying again and again, but somehow they are not up to it. They simply dry up and die young..... not even with the first bloom. I guess they hate too much sunlight. Now there is netting for the three rows......

 three rows of vegetable bed with netting.

three rows of  kangkung

sweetpeas at both ends, 
and three rows of little kale in the middle

peanuts / groundnuts / kacang tanah
far left.

bangchik and kakdah
Tanah Merah, Kelantan

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Miracle Berry / Pokok Ajaib: the first fruit.

Miracle berry or pokok buah ajaib is quite a craze in some part of the country these few years. Nurseries sell these plants like hot cakes. We joined in the craze. Two plants in large pots, three in the ground by the roadside and a few more still in polybags. Kakdah has plans on the extra plants, as giveaways whenever we get back to the hometown.

Pokok buah ajaib is fairly straightforward. Tough stems, and every part of the plant is ready to grow and all the while, the plant maintain its rigidity. Then one day I noticed little flowers hanging down the stems and branches. They do look like bunga tanjung ( Mimusops Elengi) which is also from the same family  Sapotaceae.  Since I had climbed pokok tanjung trees in childhood days for the ripe fruits, I guess Pokok Tanjung must be the closest cousin of miracle berry, judging by the leaves, the flowers and the berries.

Now I am waiting for the first fruit to ripen....

the first miracle berry
(buah ajaib pertama)

bangchik and kakdah
my little vegetable garden

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fertigation Weekly: Malabar Spinach steal the show.

I never thought Malabar spinach will grow here.  The name suggests its Indian origin  . In fact malabar spinach seeds arrived here as seeds gift,  as Wendy  from Rockville Maryland. celebrated her first blogiversary. I received it August last year. Some seeds had been tried in Putrajaya. Now is the turn for Malabar spinach....

Malabar Spinach
malabar spinach

malabar spinach
There was a Bangladesh guy walking down our street one day. He simply couldn't resist ,  he stopped and talked to me. We grew that in Bangladesh, very nice he said. Then a week later, the plants added more leaves as automatic irrigation system fed them three times a day. One plant, being the healthiest, and tallest, showed what does it take to spurt  malabar spinach flower, which I had never seen in my entire life... They grow so healthy with fresh looking leaves, that in the end kakdah doesn't have the heart to cut for the kitchen.

Probably we just let them grow 
and flower this time around.. 
and climb up as others had done before...

from Nancy J Ondra

from deborahsilver

from farm3

from charlottefresh

 bangchik and kakdah
Taman Kota Harmoni, Tanah Merah

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Growing grapevines in Malaysia.

Through gardening connections, we ended up at a house somewhere in Tanah Merah with lots of  grapevines. Mr M was a pleasant guy indeed. We talked, discussed, and brought home 2 seedlings at a price of RM 7.50 each. We will go back for more since we had promised Rosiah, my younger sister and Mother in Law 5 seedlings each. Both of them must be busy right now, planning where to grow and getting woods for trellis. Within a month, they should be having the first grapevines in their whole life. I told them, not until I had gathered enough info about grapevines.

Another friend, Mi staying nearby, has 2 plants, one died and another still growing. A friend  WanZ mentioned about a retired teacher in Machang having an orchard of grapes. At least where I live, growing grapes is not really rare.

I hope the two plants will be kind to both of us..., grow healthy, and bear fruits within a year... I have created a separate blog just to handle grapevine updates, written in our own language. Non Malay speaking readers  can still follow using Google translator.

anggur / grapes:
an empty pot ready to be filled up with sand
anggur/grape:  another pot with two  little plants close by 

anggur / grape: the leaves look healthy. Mr M mentioned that the fruits would be reddish black. It is going to be a very long wait.

I saw Puteri Chandan with grapevines.., anybody else grow grapevines?

bangchik and kakdah
Tanah Merah, Kelantan.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First roselle juice and jam in Tanah Merah.

There should be enough harvest to get roselle juice and jam. Kakdah had the pleasure of picking them one by one to fill a pink basket. The seven roselle plants gave us 129 dark red fruits.

Cara membuat jus dan jem roselle

a basketful harvest, i have given the total number so no count the fruits contest!

Calyx, the red outer skin peeled and washed.

How it was done, separating calyx off the fruit.

The nuts which contain seeds are left to dry indoor, There should be a lot of them. Within a month, Kakdah will do giveaways..., stay tune for the announcement!

The calyx boiled for an hour, strained to get home-made roselle juice stock. Kakdah always dilutes the juice, add a little bit of sugar for a lovely roselle juice.

The residue is further boiled with sugar to get jam. Kakdah placed them in plastic containers.

As giveaways to neighbours and friends.... I hope they read this ( Roselle) to know more about its food value.

of course, a glass of cool iced roselle juice to end gardening chores for day. How would I describe the taste... wualla!!

a close-up of roselle juice

How's your roselle? If you haven't got one, there will soon be roselle seed giveaways  from Tanah Merah .... stay tune...

bangchik and kakdah
Taman Kota Harmoni, Tanah Merah

Earlier  post on Tanah Merah Roselle, 
all within 4 months :

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Sowing Kale / Kailan: I never do this before.

We don't have acres of vegetable farm. So, for small vegetable garden around the house, we sow just about enough seeds, ranging between 10 to 20. Trouble with seeds is that they deteriorate over time..... Once a seed packet is opened,  quality of seeds is on the downhill. We should be very frustrated to sow seeds from the same packet  6 months later for new batch of plants, if none sprout. I have come across the frustrating situation a number of times.

We recently decided to give Kale / Kailan a chance. We spread out the whole content onto seeding pots...., with the intention of choosing the healthiest and not willing to keep extra seeds in an opened packet.

Here we are... more than a hundred!

kale germinating in little brown pots

kale germinating in a black tray
 little kale seedling

 little kale seedlings

We may include a little variation with growing kale..... a row in raised vegetable bed, in black polybags using different combination of growing media.  Cocopeat and rice husk. Last night, Mr Noor brought a big sack of rice husk he took from a paddy factory in Pasir Putih, for free..... Noor is also a keen gardener in Tanah Merah.

bangchik and kakdah
Taman Kota Harmoni, Tanah Merah 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...