Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Organic lemongrass - FAIL!

Well, our organic lemongrass (aka Cymbopogon citratus, or serai makan) has died :(

I'm not sure why, initially it was doing great, but then started to wilt and go dry. We may have forgotten to water it, but there was rain and all. It's meant to do well in full sun too, which is what it was getting.

My guess is the soil was not drained enough, it seems like the stems just rotted away at soil level.

The soil itself was nice black soil from our compost heap, so it should have had enough nutrients, etc. A friend told me that they do better in the soil than in pots, and maybe that's because they need good drainage.

Ah well, we'll just have to try again :)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Organic Mint Tea

The organic mint I grew from cuttings has progressed very well :) Though it's the pot that I was expecting to do less well that has done better - this may have something to do with interfering dogs though... :)

It's important to trim the mint so that it gets more bushy, so I took the first opportunity to harvest some to make some tea. It smells wonderful when you cut it, so fresh and invigorating!

How to make organic mint tea (easy):
• Some organic green tea (or black if you prefer)
• Some organic sugar (optional)
• Organic mint

Put it all in a cup and pour in boiling water. Sorted!

It was nice, and had a lovely aftertaste. But, to be honest, it didn't have that 'in your face' mint taste I was looking for; my comparison for good mint tea is Moroccan mint tea, and I wonder whether they use spearmint (Mentha spicata) or peppermint? The plant I have is spearmint (the kind they use in toothpaste normally), and I prefere peppermint sweets to spearmint.

Hmmm... a rapid search via Google (detailed info here) doesn't tell me much apart from that most 'Moroccan mint' teas on the market use one or the other, or a mix.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Growing organic Thai basil

Also known as Vietnamese mint, Vietnamese cilantro, Cambodian mint and hot mint - Persicaria odorata is not a member of the mint family,

*Edit 12/2/2009*: thanks to the anonymous commenter below (Terima kasih!), I now know it is in fact Thai basil, aka Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora.

but you can also grow it from cuttings like mint. It may not be organic when you get it from the market, but I suppose if you plant it with your organic compost, fed with vermicompost, it must qualify as organic after a while! :)

In Malaysia, it's also known as daun laksa (‘laksa leaf’) [I'm not sure of this now...] because it's used in the delicious spicy-sweet laksa dish. It's also very nice with chicken, and WW likes to use it in stuffing for roast chicken.

As usual, I got a bunch at the market – its smell is easy to recognise, something like a spicy tarragon is how I remember it.

It's meant to be able to grow roots in water, but five days after the photo below, that hasn't happened.

There are purplish flowers on a stem which may help it to grow, I'm not sure about that though.

For those which were going in the ground, I stripped off the bottom leaves because the roots are likely to grow out of the interstices, and I buried as much of the stem in the earth as possible. I got the earth from below our compost heap where we piled all the palm branches, bamboo cuttings, etc.

Then into a wide pot they went – so far, they seem to be doing pretty well. So far, we’re doing pretty well with the ‘market to garden’ series :)

I’ll keep you updated!

Here's a recipe for Katong Laksa (Singapore Curry Laksa), and some advice for growing it in an apartment.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Organic sweet potato leaf

Yummy! Another in the 'From market to garden' series - sweet potato leaf is one of my favourite greens, and it never seems to be in the market. It's normally stir fried with garlic, and maybe some lard (sinfully delicious), and the leaves are thicker and smoother than other greens, and not bitter.

Anyway, WW got some sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) and planted them.

It grows fast! It took about a week to get to this stage

but then, three days later it shot up!

There was another one (not photographed) that was in the kitchen - where there's plenty of light but not much direct sun, it grew considerably slower.

And today she planted it in the ground. It's classified as a vine, so I'm not sure if that means we have to watch out for it growing all over the fence?

Look at those leaves... thick and purplish. I'm not sure when to cut them off though, they are quite bushy and soon there'll be enough for a dish, I think...

Here are some recipes online:
Piggy's Cooking Journal (this one looks more like what you usually get in Malaysia)
Mental Masala