Thursday, June 30, 2011

So Ugly but So Sweet

The main reason I am not fond of growing wong bok in winter is that it is a place where baby snail and slugs make as their hiding place. It won't be easy to search each layer of wong bok compact leaves for them especially near the plant base as it grows bigger. I have always imagine that the wong bok we grown is the type which will form compact barrel head. Apparently after 3 seasons attempts at growing this variety it seems not so. 
The wong bok seeds that we have bought, sowed and nurtured usually just form a flat head. At early growth stages the leaves are very prickly. I am thinking that the wong bok seeds are not true type but has been hybridised with other varieties. We have already sowed it in different seasons but the results are always the same.
So many type of pests feasting on wong bok.
Only one plant managed to form a barrel shape but it is still loose not compact. I wanted to wait more but I saw sign that it is going to bolt soon. So this week, we planned to harvest all of them growing on this area. These wong bok has also look very ugly, badly eaten by the pest. Nobody wants to buy them if it is on the market rack.
Here how it actually looks before harvest.
Badly eaten by those pests. Nothing has been sprayed on the vegetables this winter.
You will find caterpillars, snail or slug each layer of the leaves. Not only that caterpillar poo too.
I had a difficult time washing them clean.
But throw them away we did not.
Our wong bok look disgustingly ugly but it was the sweetest wong bok we ever eaten in our life.
The true wong bok flavour we tasted not like the bland taste from the shops.
If your vegetables look like this, would you eat it or throw them away?
I wish I can make kimchi with our wong bok harvest.
But it has been such a busy month, I could not find the time yet.
I need a really simple recipe to make kimchi.
If the weather permits this weekend, those wong bok will be replaced with cauliflower seedlings.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Black Pearl Anyone?

From our observation, leaf amaranth (Chinese Spinach) flowers attract many tiny critters, the bad and good garden companion.  There are still many big ladybirds around in our garden now which will be good to control aphids that is trying to stay on our brassicas. 
Growing and collecting Chinese Spinach (bayam) seeds is easy. The male and flower are on the same plant. Pollination is by wind. We are only growing one amaranth variety last warm season. So we hope the seeds that we have collected by open pollination will not be cross hybridised with other amaranth. However, walking at the reserve land at the back of our backyard fence less than 50 metre away, we saw that one of our backyard neighbours has green coloured amaranth bolting as well. So is our amaranth seeds a pure strain or not? I had to do some reasoning;
  • Amaranth plant not tall and tall fence can perhaps act as physical barrier.
  • Not only one amaranth are blooming but others as well in our garden, so the winds will carry the nearest pollen to the nearest available female which is around our garden.
  • I won't know until I tested the seeds, but this mean have to wait until spring.
  • Ours are red flowers, neighbours are green flowers which I am hoping that it is not closely related.
What do you think?

Chinese spinach does not required many space to grow which is very suitable for gardeners that have small space to grow. Also looks very ornamental leaving them bolt to collect seeds.
Bolting Chinese amaranth scattered in different containers in this winter month.
I would like to share some of our Chinese Spinach black pearl randomly to 3 person interested to have a go with this plant (just leave a comment). I can't promise that it will be true seeds. However, I think with all the reasoning, it is true Chinese Spinach seeds. So I will be sending different kind of black pearl along such as angled luffa and lemon basil just in case. One plume from Chinese Spinach plant does contain so many seeds.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Massey Pea First Harvest

Main harvest for last week was mainly chillies, tomatoes and giant purple mustards. I tried to pull out one carrot to see how much the oldest sowed-batch have grown. The upper part of the carrot is medium size but still very short. I think one of the main reason is the carrot roots are having a hard time to push into clay soil. We harvested our first Massey peas last week and the boys were so excited. Kept asking for more. See Rayyan hands reaching for more peas while the photos are being taken.
Found some self-sowed tomatoes has ripen in winter and some does not look that good. But they tasted good. Pruned some laksa leaves (Vietnamese Mint) to cook with sardines.
Last sunny Saturday we finally tidied up and organised all our backyard garden containers. Summer plants which are no more productive were pulled out. We got to harvest 2 pumpkins that were grown from containers. This is the first time we harvested Queensland Blue pumpkin, although it is smallish compared to the shops. Found 2 inches of fresh ginger rhizomes from one of the containers. We grow turmeric for it leaves as well, so we freeze some leaves to use later to make rendang. Starting from early June, we had a new target trying not to buy any potatoes from the market. Thanks to Berry Gnome for the pink fir-eyed? seed potato we received a few months ago, we got to taste our first home-grown pink-eyed potatoes last week. We saved some of the potatoes to plant back and some were used to make beef korma. We also cut some rainbow chards stems.
Snowball turnip is not something that I can grow well because I don't lavish them with enough water. Yesterday, we harvested a yellow bell pepper and our first cherrytime capsicum. We waited that cherrytime capsicum to turn red since last April. All those red chillies were given-away to my husband friend for the nice traditional cake that were shared.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Winter June Blooms

Not many flower plants blooming in winter at our small garden now. But there are few self-sowed and perennials blooming in this sunny weekend which got confuse that it is spring at the moment. Self-sowed pot marigold and corianders blooms in the shade.
A few perennial geranium blooming.
Confused perennial polyanthus blooming.
Happy that the cheerful sunflowers still providing food for the bees. The bees in winter are much more bigger than the ones in summer.
Tree dahlias continue to provide food for the bees too.
We had a very Sunny Saturday yesterday. Spent the whole day in the garden yesterday and finally finished tidying and organising our backyard container garden. We also got to plant some excess vegetable and flower seedlings near our neighbour side driveway to our house. So happy that she agreed that we can plant vegetables or flowers there since it is only growing weeds. Hopefully transplanted seedlings grow well there.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Container Gardening (June)

Our garden containers in early winter month are still not that much organized. We still have many summer plants left growing and have not decided whether to pulled it out or not. The ones that we have tidied are fill with little seedlings. This corner of our container gardens at the back rows are sweet potatoes, leeks and newly sprouted carrots.At the front in the middle wong bok suddenly has so much growth this month it is monopolising this space shared with earliball cabbage. I am not very good at following spacing rule. Well the wong bok can be harvest anytime soon, so the earliball cabbage will have it own space later.
Komatsuna,purple giant mustard, turnips, chinese broccoli, shallot and garlic at this corner in our backyard.
Newly transplanted leeks seedlings from veggie gnome. So far, beetroot and parsnips are growing nicely in this containers.
Different kind of root vegetables growing in this corner.
Yellow cherry tomatoes keep on producing that it won't give me a chance to pull it out. At the centre of  tomatoes plants, bitter gourd plants are still there.
A few minutes more its Saturday, finally has the chance to do something in the garden this weekend. 
Have a nice weekend everyone.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Angled Luffa Life Cycle

Angled luffa is also known as Chinese Okra but in my native tongue it is known as petola or ketola segi. When I did some googling in Japan its name is hechima. But I never saw one in any Niigata prefecture market or maybe did not notice it. I enjoyed growing angled luffa very much last summer because I don’t have to look after it and it thrive in Adelaide summer. Contrary to belief in temperate region, angled luffa grows really fast and produce within 8~10weeks. Angled luffa also grows very well in container. Angled Luffa likes mild weather. To my surprise, our angled lufffa managed to produce until end of May (end fall). The last angled luffa fruit produce when the weather day average temperature was 18 degree Celsius. Newly sprouted angled luffa seeds. Similar looking with cucumber seedling because they belong to the same cucurbit group.


Angled luffa first set of true leaves. I have a habit of planting seeds and forget to label them. So this is for future reference so I can differentiate it with cucumber.When I do label them but my sons like to collect the label like sticks.


More growth. Although angled luffa is said to be heat-loving vegetable. They will prefer a little bit of shade if you have really hot summer or grow them which receive only morning sun.DSC09871

We put on clothes for our angled luffa fruit during very hot weather. They grow much better. This also help predator to hide on the look out for their favourite snack (pest).


Angle luffa flesh is like sponge. When you cook it in stir-fry or soup, angled luffa absorb the flavour easily.  Although when you touch the skin it is hard, the flesh inside is very soft.


I have also noticed that unlike cucumber, summer and winter squash that we were growing, angled luffa is not easily susceptible to powdery mildew when we had damp weather. Our little inspector inspecting weather this angled luffa is ready to be harvested for its seeds.


When the seeds are ready to be collected, you could hear rattling sound when you shake the dried fruit.


Okra has five chambers when you slice it. But angled luffa looks like it has 3 chambers. Have to cut more to make sure whether this is true or not next time.


73 seeds were inside this dried angled luffa pod. More than enough for next planting. Angled luffa fibre is really coarse and tough in dried state. No wonder it was use to make soles for beach sandals. Will test it as a sponge for washing the dish.


Monday, June 20, 2011

White sweet potatoes and shoots with coconut milk dish

This winter we are growing many vegetables that are new to us and we don't have any idea on what best cooking method to prepare them. Any advise are most welcome and will be deeply appreciated. We harvested our first rainbow chard and baby beets (thinnings) last Monday. Both of these vegetables are new to us and will be our first tasting experience. There were 2 rainbow chards growing in the same pot, so I harvest one because it is getting crowded. Other vegetables that were harvested was tomatoes, giant purple mustards, snow peas, capsicums, chilies and corianders. Join in and see what other gardeners are harvesting all around the world in Harvest Monday hosted by Daphne.
Rainbow chards and other vegetables were chopped. They danced in the wok for the making of salted dried mackeral fried rice dish. We like rainbow chard and will plant some more again in spring. I still don't know what suitable dish for beetroot and how to prepare it since it really bleeds. Boiled those baby beetroots together with Rayyan's porridge. It was a really bloody dish especially after using the mixer to chopped them into pieces. We tasted Rayyan red porridge and it was sweet with beetroot blend together. 
We grow dill for the first time and I keep on forgetting that I planted them. Out of curiosity, Lenay keep on reminding me of those dills because we never used dill in our cooking before. So snipped some for the kitchen. We also harvested some baby leeks, capsicums and chilies last Saturday.
I was clearing up some containers and areas in the veggie patch. From that we got some onion leaves which did not bulb last year, ginger rhizomes and our last beans. Our wong bok were looking really bad with caterpillars and snail attack that we harvest some of it. It took a lot of washing to get rid of snail and slug hiding in between these wong bok leaves. We have not enjoyed any wong bok since last year and Lenay was really missing it. After she experience growing brassicas especially wong bok and cabbage and know they are so difficult to grow 100% organically due to pest, we keep on reminding each other never to buy brassicas again in the market. When we passed by organic market, we still see sign of minimal spray used on those cute cabbages. Ours might not be a beauty but at least it does not contain hazardous chemicals. Cut some of wong bok and onion leaves to make a vegetarian fried rice noodles for Saturday breakfast.
With the newly fresh harvested ginger and dill, I made stir-fried ginger chicken for Saturday dinner. Usually we used boneless chicken meat for this dish but they were only chicken wings in the freezer so we had to improvise.
Last weekend we harvested all of our daikons. The ones which is not forky or broken due to digging it out were shared with other generous gardeners. I did not preserved any daikons this time.  Hopefully there will be another empty space in our veggie patch this month to sow another small batch of daikon. We also harvested some chilies, peas and sweet potato shoots.
We harvested some white sweet potatoes this month and I wasn't sure how to prepare it since I never tasted one before. Cikmanggis my cooking guru gave me some nice tips. So with her help I cook the sweet potato and sweet potato shoots with coconut milk. In Malaysia, this kind of dish is commonly known as masak lemak putih.
Ingredients (this is roughly what I did)
White sweet potato (one bowl cut into chunks)
Sweet potato shoots (one bowl-washed)
4 medium size garfish (boil in 1 litre water with just a little bit of slice ginger, keep the boiled water)
Red onion/shallots (I used 1 Red onion)
Black pepper
150ml coconut milk

Take only the meat from the boiled fish and in a mortar mash it with red onion and black pepper.
Heat the boiled water again and add in coconut milk, the mashed fish with red onion and black pepper and white sweet potatoes. Frequent stirring.
When the sweet potato is almost tender, add sweet potato shoots and stir well. Add salt to taste. Done.

It was really delicious, I had many servings and I was a satisfied cat.This will be my comfort food. White sweet potato has the sweetness that I like and it is a bit starchy. It reminds me of young tapioca that I had in my childhood. Hopefully with our next white sweet potato if we have good harvest, I would like to try Cat-in-Sydney suggestion of making pengat (Malaysia traditional cake). But I need some lesson on how to make it. I think mama showed several time how to make banana pengat a long long time ago but I forgot. My knowledge in making traditional cake is very limited.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Growing yam bean in Adelaide

I wasn’t sure whether we were able to grow yam bean or also known as jicama here in Adelaide as it is said to need a long growing season. But like angled luffa I was sceptical. So jicama was a new challenge for us growing them in our small little garden last warm season. Adelaide weather for me is a bit strange the weather change dramatically and temperature fluctuation is really high. Day and night temperature can sometime differ more than 10 degree Celsius. The normal summer will be blazing hot. So I expected many days of really hot weather and night which I won’t be able to sleep that much. During summer we always camp in the living room to sleep. However, we had only few really hot days and not a single night sleeping in the living room through summer.

I have never seen a yam bean plant my whole entire life. End of November I direct-sowed the seeds and when it sprouted it made me panic at first. I thought all my new jicama seedlings have been nibbled by pest because they were no leaf. if you use the camera and zoom in they do like small hands waving at you. But the naked eye view they look like it has been chomped by critters.


So it was a relieved to see their true leaves form. So next time we know what to expect from newly sprouted seeds.


More growth…DSC08195

When the first heat-wave came, all of our yam bean plants growing on the front yard veggie patch died. I did not have a very deep container to sow yam bean seeds because it was full with other plants. So without any thought of success I simply sowed some seeds in 25cm depth container and 5 seeds sprouted. Well I have to console myself if it did not give me any tubers, we still can treat them as green manure. So it is still a win-win situation. Yam beans are legume relative of beans and lupins. Unlike beans and peas which the pods are harvested, yam bean pods are toxic and other parts as well. The only edible part is actually the root (tuber) which is deliciously eaten raw.

polystyrene gardening (1)

Middle of February and jicama growing together with kailan.

kai lan

Early April of jicama progress. Jicama is a half-climber but needed help with climbing lesson on the okra plants. Suddenly we had ginger and nasturtium sprouting in jicama container some time during summer. Just to take note, we harvested the ginger and it was actually growing more rhizomes compare to the previous ginger harvest.

April container garden (4)

Our jicama plants did produce some buds at the end of summer but it never bloom. I suspect it is due to cold nights. I was hoping to collect some seeds and of course sharing it with other gardeners. Nope it won’t give me seeds.


This is how the plants look before we decided to quickly harvest all of them. I had to ask Lenay to help because I was too busy this week at school. Moreover, I just read that jicama tubers are very sensitive to temperatures below 12 degree Celsius it will start to rot. Believe it or not this is true. I should have harvested them earlier, yes sadly most of our tubers were rotten! JICAMA TUBER IS VERY SENSITIVE WITH TEMPERATURE. I had a bad feeling last week because suddenly nights were really cold because my husband who goes to work before 4AM told me several days when he entered the car it is 2 degree Celsius. The plants were still not looking that bad 10 days before we harvested them. Suddenly last week our jicama plants completely withered.


A lot of rain won’t cause the tuber to rot but please remember temperature is important factor to consider. Why do I say this because Lenay mother grows jicama plants in tropical weather (Borneo island) and after the plants died she just left all the tubers on the ground for months.  When Lenay went back to her mother place end last year she followed her mother to her farm. They dug some yam bean tubers to bring back home and some were almost as big as a soccer ball. She said one plant can spread to 5m2  of many yam bean tubers. Needless to say, Lenay was not impressed with our jicama harvest. Although some got rotten, I am getting excited on growing jicama again next spring because at first I don’t think we will actually got to see tubers.


Hooray! We can grow yam bean here in Adelaide and it is also possible to grow them in containers. I had one plant that were sowed early January which was grown in container. The harvested tuber were the size of medium size apple.  Just giving them 5 months to grow before harvesting should be fine.


This was the first time I tasted fresh home-grown yam bean. I think this is a plant worthy to grow and wait for 5 months. Definitely will plant much more next spring. Yam bean after washing out the dirt. See some got rotten?


We sliced those yam bean and dip it in Rojak sauce.


So happy to know the true flavour of yam bean. No more store ones for me. Can’t make a promise though, I might have cravings.We are growing kohlrabi for the first time this cool season. I read some comments that kohlrabi taste a bit like yam bean. Hope this is true and looking forward to taste it.