LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rosemary

If there is such a thing as comfort herb like there is comfort food, then rosemary must be it. How to describe the fragrance that comes off a sprig of rosemary with its essential oils drawn to the surface by the caress of sunshine and the kisses of the breeze. Unlike thyme, which clambers and falls in unruly heaps, rosemary grows in neat little bushes and stays resolutely inside its pot. If treated as it wants to be treated, rosemary rewards the gardener with new shoots everyday that broaden into fat leaves glistening with microscopic droplets of oil. Then, all a human need do is to brush the leaves lightly with a loving hand and the rosemary will impart its perfume willingly to that soft touch. 

It seems that these oils that humans so prize from the rosemary, are actually waste products produced by the plant's metabolism. In theory, oxygen is a waste product of plant metabolism too... and essential to human life! Rosemary oils are potent anti-fungal agents. As such, it may be used in a variety of ways to enhance human health. People with oily scalp tend to lose hair because a type of fungus that feeds on hair oil colonizes the scalp and puts many hair follicles out of active duty. For this reason, rosemary has been used in treatments for balding. A good wash with rosemary tea or diluted rosemary oil invigorates the scalp by killing the fungus that all have, but few are aware of.

Others are plagued with flatulence that arises specifically because of an overgrowth of the fungus called "candida albicans". The condition is named candidiasis. The symptoms are embarassing and uncomfortable, for no one likes to feel like one is breathing from the wrong aperture, but the cure is as simple as rosemary tea, 3 times a day until symptoms subside. It helps to eat yoghurt with live cultures at the same time. You see, yeast and bacteria all reside in our digestive tract. After a long course of antibiotics, the good bacteria in our gut, that competes for sugars with the yeast, get killed. Then the balance in our digestive system goes out of whack. The yeast get the run of the place and they multiply quickly. We all know that as yeast consumes sugars, carbon dioxide is given off - hence the embarassing flatulence. And not only is there flatulence, but the body begins to feel extremely tired as the toxins released by the yeast circulates in our bodies. No, no... too much yeast is no good for us. 

What is most unfortunate is that in women, the yeast that overgrows in the digestive tract, sometimes makes it into the vaginal tract. This leads to extremely uncomfortable sensations. Again, a good douche with rosemary tea can clear the fungal infection. Enter rosemary tea and a good dollop of unsweetened yoghurt 3 times a day, to be taken after a long course of antibiotic. This way, candidiasis is warded off even before it starts.

But the best use I make of rosemary tea is to feed a hungry family addicted to spaghetti bolognaise. You will be amazed at the fragrance of spaghetti sauce that is perfumed with a few sprigs of rosemary.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Whitefly

Whitefly are teeny weeny little white flying bugs that feed on plant sap. They look like nothing at all - small, white and innocent, but let me tell you that they have killed many of my plants. One adult whitefly lays about 300 hundred eggs, ALL of which hatch into hungry little wingless "nothings-at-all". For the plant it's like death from a thousand cuts.

Whitefly are little plant vampires. They swarm about their host and suck it dry of plant sap. It doesn't matter that you're a tall and majestic clump of bamboo. They'll still get you and draw the life sap outta you, slowly and hungrily. First, your leaves will dry up and look anaemic. Then, your leaves will drop. And as each whitefly feeds and lays more eggs on you, you will begin to look like you're covered in little white bumps. Each white bump a little whitefly baby suckling at your plant juice mercilessly. Then, you will die. When you do, the swarms of whitefly that lived off the last of your blood sap fly off to find another host.

I hate them little whiteflies and their babies!

I have declared war on them. I hunt down the little white guerrillas relentlessly with my spray gun filled with oil+soap+water mix. I examine the underleaf of every beloved plant for evidence of eggs and hungry whitefly babies. Anything that looks even remotely like a whitefly something gets thoroughly sprayed with the mix. The oily film sprayed on their bodies suffocates them and they die a horrifying whitefly death. I even mix up pails of tobacco tea and feed it to my plants so that any whitefly that sucks on their sap kicks the bucket from nicotine high. Better them than my plants, I say. But I never use tobacco tea with edibles because nicotine in high doses also kills humans!

I've been at war for months. I thought it would be quick victory with my air power (spray gun) my chemical weapons (nicotine tea), but these adversaries are still around. I cannot let my guard down, nor can I withdraw troops. Any slight lapses in my attention, and they gain ground on me. So onwards I march with my trusty spray gun, and by now, the people at 7 Eleven think that I am nicotine addict smoking 5 bags of tobacco leaves every week.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Kapok Tree


The Husband took leave today. Little Boy and I were thrilled to bits. We decided to give ourselves a day off too, and make like tourists in Singapore. We went to the Botanic Gardens. Now that we have a garden, the Botanic Gardens look different to our eyes. We notice how flowers are structured. We look at soil. We touch leaves. We open seed pods and examine seeds. And we can discern the different shades of green. To be sure too, the Botanic Gardens are far more beautiful today than 10 years ago. There were rock beds with running water, waterfalls, cosy cafes, manicured lawns, elegant ponds, fossilised tree trunks, fragrant herbs...

But what most took our breaths away has been there all along. For the first time in my life, I noticed The Kapok Tree. Oh yes... THE Kapok Tree. THE One that has been designated a Heritage Tree. I have a Kapok Tree in my garden but it sits in a pot and is about the height of Little Boy. THE Kapok Tree was enormous 10 times over. The height of its roots is twice The Husband's. To see the top of the tree, you lift your head up... and up... and up... and up again.

Ever since I started gardening, I sometimes think I can sense the thoughts of the plant. My little ones at home communicate to me their happiness or sadness or hunger for nutrients and water.
The Kapok Tree communicated a sense of wisdom and contented gentleness. It seemed happy to be there looking upon the world, basking in the tropical sun and simply just being BIG. It made me feel like going up to hug it, and pat it and tell it that I love it because it is all goodness and beauty and grand majesty.

But of course, The Husband thinks I am imagining things.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Batavia Salad

Salads are yummy. A bit of olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, salt, some drops of honey dribbled over crisp salad leaves and lunch is served. All by themselves, salad leaves make my mouth water. So, imagine my great pleasure when I discovered some salad seeds that could grow in our tropical clime. I was careful though. I placed them in a spot that gets the gentle morning sun, not the harsh afternoon sun. And this is what they look like now.

I look in on them every morning, and their perky leaves perk ME up too. It has been 5 weeks. I feel so impatient. There looks to be enough to make a meal but the instructions on the packet stated that they're ready to eat in 60 days. So, I have 3 more weeks to go. These days, the leaves look so attractive that I pop in on them twice a day. Once in the morning and once at dusk.

It is terribly hard to refrain myself from digging them up for dinner. Yes, very very hard.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Goldenseal

Our family has this really unorthodox method of throwing off a flu before it has a chance to start up. At the very first few sneezes, my husband will request for the family goldenseal treatment.This consists of having him lie down with his head tipped over the edge of the mattress so that I can look into his nostrils as I stand over him. I then use a dropper to drip diluted goldenseal tincture into his nose - 2 drops at a time into each nostril. The first 2 drops that touch the nasal membranes will smart... not as painful as when you put antiseptic on a cut, but not pleasant either. I try to put 12 drops into each nostril so as to be thorough. It is really extremely effective because the goldenseal tincture solution contains a substance called berberine, which has been shown to both kill bacteria as well as inhibit the adhesion of pathogens to the mucous membranes. On top of that, it acts to soothe already inflamed mucous membranes.

The first time I carried out the treatment, my husband needed a lot of coaxing. But only that one time. He was so happy that I had saved him from a full blown flu, with fever and chills that he has repeatedly requested for this really strange and unpleasant treatment.

I even experimented with goldenseal on some eczema I occasionally get. I had one patch of skin which stayed red and itchy for many weeks. I soaked a cotton pad with goldenseal and taped it there for 20 minutes. After about 6 applications over the course of 2 days, the itchy patch completely disappeared. My mother-in-law had a fungal infection on her skin that went away after consistent application of goldenseal. So too did my husband's itchy patch.

Goldenseal has become an important part of my family's pharmacopeia. 2 bottles sit in a privileged spot in my fridge like firemen ready to swing into action when my family needs to fight a new flu, or when anyone has conjunctivitis or eczema.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thyme


I love my pots of thyme. Not least because it is one of those plants that require great effort from me to grow in the Singaporean climate. Thyme hails from the Mediterannean countries. There, thyme tumbles all over the hill, intrudes rudely into prim flowerbeds, and generally can be a nuisance. Here, my pots are tended carefully. When there is sun, all the pots are carried out into the the golden light to bask like lazy cats on the hood of a Rolls Royce. When rain threatens, they are herded indoors so fast that not one drop of rain touches the leaves. They are watered directly to the roots, and the younger thyme seedlings are watered from under the pot so as not to risk any water damage to their delicate leaves. I consider every new thyme leaf put out my own personal achievement.

Pot after pot of thyme have died in my care. So now, I take no chances. And I am not satisfied when they simply survive a skinny and straggly existence. As such, whilst I know I should not fertilize them, I do anyway. So, they don't look at all like thyme should because the thyme that grows wild and strong and free looks lean and muscular, and clambers over rock to colonise poor soils and rich alike. No, my pots of thyme must look fat and lush, with stems and leaves that heap themselves over the pot edge to cascade onto the floor. They're like tough Roman soldiers made fat by good living.


But I like 'em that way.

Thyme is anti-bacterial and and anti-viral. As a teenager, I was given thyme essence on a sugar cube to help clear my stuffy nose. As a university student, I would brew myself thyme tea when I felt a flu coming on. I find its smell comforting and invigorating. It is really so nice to get home, brew a cup of thyme tea, kick off my shoes, sip the warm liquid, and slowly sink into the sofa.

These days, I am a mother and a wife. I use thyme to create the cosy feelings of my youth for my children and my husband. When the north east monsoon blows through the penthouse, my husband develops sinusitis. One mug of hot thyme tea throws it off. And yesterday, I made an infusion for my son, who was also starting to sniffle. It felt good to hear him comment "I am such a lucky boy you know. Because I have a mommy who knows about herbs and can make me feel better just by using plants."

I do hope that like me, they will associate the smell of thyme with feelings of comfort, warmth and general well-being.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Collecting Rain Water

A tropical rainstorm experienced from atop a penthouse is quite daunting. The wind howls through my house like the sound effects in a ghost movie. My frangipani tree, with its crown of deep green leaves embattled by strong winds, bends and twists. Jagged forks of lightning on the horizon can be seen in frightening sequence, followed by claps and growls of thunder. Sheets of rain crash onto my rooftop garden bruising the tenderest seedlings and leaves. I used to fight the urge to go hide under the blanket. No longer. I am quite used to it by now and actually rejoice because I have discovered the joys of collecting rain water.

I am quite amazed at the amount of water that I can collect in the torrential rains of a tropical storm. The outpour lasts 30 minutes to an hour, in which time, I can collect up to 100 litres of water. It is enough to water my plants and flush the toilets over 2 days. Of course, it's only enough if we follow the rule of flush i.e., "If it's yellow, let mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." And I feel like a good environmentalist, recycling precious resources, growing plants and living simply. Though of course, I would absolutely die if I had to live without air con, which by the way plays a very important part in my water recycling efforts. The water the air con extracts from the air is channeled into a pail in the garden, and added to the big pail of rain water. I wish I had had the foresight to design water collection points for all my air cons. Technically, that water is distilled water from the air. Very clean. I could even use it to wash clothes! Still, I manage to collect about 20 litres of water a night from my air con.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Quest

The Lemon Myrtle is mine. My Quest for the Lemon Myrtle has ended in a resounding success. I not only have the dried leaves in the freezer, and the seeds in the mail, I have the Lemon Myrtle tree itself sitting in a pot, in my garden. For the moment, it is going through the usual quarantine and sanitization procedures to confirm that it is free of insect pests or fungal infections that if left untreated, will spread to all my other plants. This is the culmination of 3 whole months of determined search and creative solutions.

I tried everything. I wrote a piece on the Lemon Myrtle for this blog. I emailed every Australian nursery I could find. I commiserated with like-minded people on the GCS forum. I called NParks. I called the Botanic Gardens. I activated relatives and friends and the families of friends. I yearned and hustled and despaired. Until today. A new forummer posted a query for me. She asked me if I would like to have some fresh leaves from her small Lemon Myrtle plant. I fought the desire to ask her/him for a cutting of her/his plant because I had noted that it was a smallish one. But I did ask where she/he got her/his plant. Which nursery? Where? Whom? How? When?

It turned out that an obscure nursery tucked away in Bedok opposite a Matsushita-Panasonic factory carried the plant. I dared not let myself hope. I told myself that it might not be it. BUT IT WAS! I held it and sniffed it and turned it over. I poked into the soil and examined the underleaf. Yes! Yes! I had found my elusive Lemon Myrtle! The bushman plant from Australia sits now in my garden, small and tidy and fragrant.

Mine.

Now, to find some crocodile so I can make Lemon Myrtle crocodile - a bushman delicacy.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Lemon Myrtle Roast Chicken


The Lemon Myrtle leaves arrived from Australia. They smelt like a cross between lemon and marjoram. For once, the whole family was unanimous in its praise of the roast. They liked it! And I have a wonderful new recipe to gleefully gloat over.

I took 4 leaves of lemon myrtle and crushed it into small bits. I mixed the lemon myrtle bits into 100g of butter and added 1 small teaspoon of salt. Taking a blunt butter knife, I gently detach the skin from the meat so that I have space between skin and meat to insert the herb butter. The idea is to distribute the herb butter evenly under the skin. This makes for an extraordinarily crispy skin with very juicy meat. The lemon myrtle has a rather intense flavour. It permeated the whole bird and oozed out onto the vegetables. The whole pan smelt of lemon and marjoram. It made me want to float.

I roasted the chicken on a bed of water-dense olive-oiled vegetables (zucchini and tomatoes) for 1.5 hours at 180C, turning after 45 minutes. The resulting sauce comprised of vegetable juice, olive oil and lemon myrtle butter was so good, my family asked for bread to soak it up. This is definitely a dish I can use to entertain.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Japanese Cucumber

My Japanese Cucumber project has been a most satisfying experience. I threw the seeds haphazardly into the "magic pot". I call it the "magic pot" because everything that we have put into that pot grows. Rubber trees, longan trees, salak trees, curry leaf trees and orange trees... That's a great many trees I now realise. The magic pot belonged to Little Boy. It was his very own pot for growing his very own garden. But seeing how magical the pot was, I devised a shameless scheme to get the pot for myself. And get it, I did. And now that we are eating my cucumbers at dinner, I find it very hard to even feel guilty about my shameless behavior towards Little boy.

Anyway, the little Japanese Cucumber seedlings grew about 2 inches a day and in 2 weeks were taller than I, crawling enthusiastically up the trellis occasionally glancing backwards at me as if to say "Look Ma, how high I have climbed!" Then they surprised me with a dozen or so little yellow flowers. Some had mini-cucumbers tagged on at the bottom. Others didn't. I then learnt that the ones with mini-cucumbers were the girl flowers and those others, were the boy flowers. I learnt also that I had to cut off the boy flowers, peel off its petals, and use its anthers to pollinate the girl flowers. Otherwise, the little mini-cucumbers will shrink quite away. Needless to say, I set about the job of artificial plant insemination... oops pollination... with great gusto! I made sure every girl flower had at least 2 pollinations.

Everyday, I watered with a dilute solution of fertiliser feed, because the gurus on my gardening forum say that is better to feed often, but with very dilute feed. After feeding, I would sit down in front of the "magic pot" to admire the growing cucumbers, and count them. The whole family has made much fuss of my big cucumbers. We have eaten 2 with much ooh-ing and ah-ing. Now, I feel inspired to move forth into even greater farming exploits - batavia lettuce, brinjal, okra, capsicum.

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Woman's Beauty

I did not write this. But it speaks to me.

"One of the highlights of spring in Washington D.C. is the short period during which the cherry blossoms are in full bloom. With literally hundreds of trees in flower... the sight is breathtaking. But the spectacle is also very brief - particularly if a hard spring rain comes along at the height of the season. Under the best of conditions, the blossoms are at their peak for only a few days. Like the physical beauty of youth, the cherry blossoms are temporary and fragile.

After the blossoms' brief and sensational parade comes the hard work. If cherry trees are to survive, the roots - out of sight and unheralded - must push down into the soil, penetrating into the dirt, stones and muck to extract the moisture and nutrients the tree needs to live. The branches and twigs must reach upward, lifting the budding leaves to the light in good weather and bad. All during the long hot days of summer and into the fall until the frost comes, the roots, branches, and leaves must do the grubby, ordinary, day-to-day work to sustain the life of the tree and prepare it for bringing forth the next spring's blossoms. Though less dramatic, these life sustaining processes are no less miraculous and certainly no less essential than the fertilization phase that was initiated by the blossoms with their outrageous, glorious, but transient, display of beauty."

The following is what I think.

The above just about sums up a mother's life journey. We were all physically beautiful once. Every one of us. Then the children came, and some of us leave the workforce and go out of sight where unheralded, we push bravely through the diaper changing muck and children's vomit in order to hold our children up to the light... come what may. Fathers work and earn a significant place in the world. Mothers are the roots of the home. We clean the toilets, patch up the knees, listen to hurtful comments and push and push and push, to extract as best we can, moisture and nutrients so that we can bring forth the next spring's blossoms - our children. We live very undramatic lives filled with the mundane and the boring. All that mothers do after our brief season of youthful beauty in the sun is less dramatic BUT more essential than the outrageous, glorious, and transient display of youthful beauty that once defined who we were.

And then we realise that we have another sort of beauty - that of laugh wrinkles and soft eyes, that of steely resolve when storms hit the family, that of compassion and love and gentleness, and encircling arms.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Little Boy Emails The Someone

Little Boy emailed The Someone faraway in England. And The Someone replied kindly to Little Boy. It was all of an exciting occasion you know... because Little Boy has never had a real email correspondant before. Mommy, Daddy and Big Sister's emails don't count as real correspondance because we all live in the same house and he knows that our emails are meant to humour him.

This time, it's different. The Someone now lives in England and was happy to share his observations about charming old buildings. This is proper and necessary email correspondance because The Someone lives in England, and Little Boy lives here. Little Boy put great effort into drafting his email. He made sure he checked the spelling of every word. He thought long and hard before he found a suitable topic. He took pains with sentence structure and grammar. With all that effort though, Little Boy completely forgot to start every sentence with a capital letter, and he forgot to change the title of his email when he changed his topic. And when he clicked "Send", it was done with an exuberant sigh of satisfaction, and an enormous grin that showed two missing front teeth.

And when The Someone replied, it was yet another joyous occasion. Little Boy rushed to the computer upon waking, and logged onto his email account. A big squeal burst from him upon noting that there was ONE new email in his inbox. Then, he squirmed onto his chair to devour the correspondance with shining eyes and a pleased grin. Little Boy has a long way to go before the days when he will dread emails... when the email inbox is crowded with 200 messages that must be processed or else... For the moment, Little Boy feels good to be a little more grown up than he was yesterday. Because you see, a big boy gets good and proper emails.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Hercules the Frangipani Tree

The Husband bought me a frangipani tree. The Husband doesn't do things in halves. Me, I would have bought just a small manageable tree that I was certain would fit through the doorways en route to the roof terrace. The Husband bought instead, Hercules, the frangipani tree. I was afraid, unsure, uncertain and most apprehensive that Hercules would not fit through the doorways but under the watchful eyes of The Husband, and his gentle but strong hands, Hercules came through every doorway unscathed - all 3 metres tall and 2 metres wide of Hercules.

Hercules is a most superior tree in every way, not to be compared to the lesser plants dotting the landscape in our neighbourhood. It is taller than most and has leaves of the most pleasant dark colour. I could tell that it was somewhat apprehensive at the first, with its droopy leaves and hesitant air, but it has since settled in quite nicely into its giant pot, which used to hold what The Husband called "our mosquito of a guava tree".

The man at the nursery told us that Hercules will bear white flowers with a faint tinge of yellow. Though I would have preferred deep red blooms, I refrained from criticizing The Husband's choice. It wouldn't do to have him change his mind about his gift to me, of a tall and handsome tree. And I rather think that colour was the farthest thing from The Husband's mind. "Well, of course it will bloom, my dear" he says. "A frangipani always does, no? That is its job. What is most important is that the tree is strong, healthy and therefore best able to do its job." So, The Husband peruses all the frangipani trees at the nursery with a critical eye, and picks Hercules, the strongest and most healthy looking of the lot.

The Husband looks now upon me with the expectation that I will not only keep dear Hercules alive, but that I will get it to bloom in abundance. And I like that tree so very much that it is exactly what I will do. Hercules gets its leaves sprayed every morning with diluted milk. Hercules gets fed a fertiliser potion with generous proportions of potassium, which as we all know, is what every tree needs to build strong plant cells from roots to stem to leaves to flowers. Hercules' few rust spots are lovingly bathed in a weak solution of tea tree oil and soap flakes. Hercules is a most pampered tree. A 3m by 2m baby of the family.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dandelion Tea

When we lived in the USA, the lawn outside our home would often get crowded with dandelions. Dandelions have yellow flowers which ripen into puffs that children love to blow on JUST to see the seeds float off with the wind. Wherever a seed settles, another dandelion will grow, much to the dismay of people who like immaculate lawns.

I love dandelions. The French call them Pissenlit, literally PeeInTheBed. The French know what they are talking about because dandelions do help you clear water from your body. Not only that, they stimulate the liver to clean the blood of toxins. French people can buy dandelions from the supermarket in big bunches and they eat them too, in salads with a variety of interesting viniagrettes... and you wonder why French women are slim and have lovely complexions?

The first time I had dandelion tea, my body's response was violent. I had diarrheoa about three times that night. I suppose it was because there was so much dirt in my bloodstream because ever since then, it has not happened again. I felt good though, after the purging. I felt lighter and clearer headed. And ever since then, I've taken it every month to clear excess oestrogen from my bloodstream and preempt the tiredness, moodiness, water retention, aches and pains that come with many women's monthly cycle. Sometimes, I forget. In those months, I suffer greatly because of the excess oestrogen in my bloodstream. Clearing waste on the morning after the months's first dose of dandelion always feels like having a fever pass from my body, a feeling of tense heat carried away by a concatenation of corrosive acids all lumped in one black mass with yesterday's foods. And my body feels cool and clean on the inside. Friends with gout have taken dandelion with good results. And I believe my regular intake has contributed to my very low cholesterol levels despite a diet high in animal protein.

The best thing though is that dandelion is cheap and easily grown. If I was sure my lawn in USA hadn't had all sorts of herbicides and pesticides poured on it, I would have eaten every bit of dandelion faster than it could grow! Now, I live in the tropics and I have no lawn. So I have to buy something that God gave us in abundance because He knew that it was good.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gotu Kola


I have 4 pots of gotu kola and one clump that sticks busily out of my pond. Our family eats this herb everyday. All adults and adult-sized kids get 8 leaves (with stems) and the kid-sized kid gets 4 leaves. We microwave the leaves in a bit of water at the bottom of our mugs. Then we chew the bitter leaves and swallow. The taste is absolutely revolting. The first time we had it, I wondered if it was poisonous.

But it isn't. It's really terribly good for health. I first came across this herb in a herb encyclopedia, describing clinical trials in the USA on retarded children, and how extracts helped these children concentrate better on cognitive tasks. I searched for pictures but was unable to match anything in the nurseries to the images I downloaded from the internet. My search took me into various chinese pharmacies wherein I gesticulated and tried my best to explain this herb, its uses, its latin name and its supposed chinese name. But to no avail. Then, I came across its Malay name, which lead me to its Indian name - vallarai. So off to Little India I traipsed, The Husband in tow. I found the herb in generous bunches of $2, but no roots. I bought the bunches, fried them in garlic and no one ate any. It was the most awful tasting green mass I had ever cooked. But, it's really good for health.

Then one day, The Husband chanced upon little pots of it at a plant nursery, and like the good Husband he is, he bought them for his wife, who was so remarkably grateful that she was nice to him for the rest of the day. And it was then, that it began - my gotu kola cultivation. 3 little pots were put into one big pot where they soon multiplied. I transplanted a minuscule bunch and that grew to fill another big pot, and yet another and another.

The therapeutic effects of this herb are quite amazing. The herb builds connective tissue. It speeds up cell rejuvenation in blood vessels, in the brain, in the skin... basically, anything that is human meat, benefits from the effects of gotu kola. After the first week, both The Husband and I began to have very vivid dreams. After two weeks, my morning arthritis in the fingers disappeared. My complexion has become brighter because skin cell rejuvenation has improved. Hair growth is sped up. My teenager daughter shared that she feels less sluggish and more alert when studying.

It certainly tastes like poison, but we love it still the same.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Elusive Lemon Myrtle

There is a plant I desire to distraction - the lemon myrtle or the backhousia citriodora. My mind's nose can smell the citrus tang clinging to the crust of a beef roast. The flavours rise in wispy tendrils of soft steam waltzing into my face, from the dripped juices pooled at the bottom of the roasting pan . I have never smelt the leaves of this plant, but my imagination tells me that it is the flavour that will change my cooking from banal to divine. With this plant, I shall be able to create heaven in your mouth.

But this plant eludes me. The internet flings at me recipes for stews, soups, cakes, custards, pies and salads that are all livened up with lemon myrtle leaves. It has a "refreshing spicy lemon taste" they say. It's "flavourful possibilities are endless" they say. It is one of the most versatile flavours they say. There is a recipe for Tasmanian Salmon with Lemon Myrtle Rub. There's another recipe for Lemon Myrtle Crocodile. There's even a Lemon Myrtle laksa recipe! Besides, "Katie's Kitchen" ONLY cooks lemon myrtle dishes. But me, I have not a single leaf to cook with and I am miserably frustrated.

The plant is native to Australia. Bushmen who moved from sea to land to gather in winter; and land to sea to fish in summer, used it to flavour their meals. Australians grow it for its beautiful flowers. How can such a wonderful plant be found only on one continent in a day and age where globalisation is passé, and transworld exploration is the new tomorrow? I am certain it'll grow in Singapore - positive! But no one seems to have it here. If you have it, let me know. All I ask is a little tip of a stem that I can put in soil, make it root and tend it till it grows strong and sturdy. Anybody?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

When Seeds Sprout

There is something magical about the way plants grow. One day, there is black soil and the next, little dots of green like twinkling stars in a pot. For people who visit with their plants everyday, it is always amazing to see how fast these little living things rooted in compost and perlite take on girth and vitality. When I looked yesterday, each Japanese Cucumber seedling had only 3 leaves. Today, each seedling has sprouted another leaf. The Thai Basil has progressed from little puny nothings to perky mini shrubs just inviting me to cut and eat them!

It took me some time to realize that plants actually convert gas into leaves and stems. You see, carbon dioxide is made of 1 atom of carbon and 2 atoms of oxygen. We all know that the oxygen is given out into the air but what of the carbon? Well, it becomes a part of the plant. After all, plants are carbon-based beings... and so are humans. Except that we don't invent ourselves out of thin air. Plants do. So, I realised that every new leaf that sprouts on my plants means just that much less carbon in the air.

Maybe others are already aware of this but for me, it was a moment of epiphany.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Grow. Grow. Grow.

There are exciting times ahead. After so many years of killing plants, I am coming to a point where they are more likely to live than die at my hands. The lovely people at GCS gave me a tiny pot of thyme. It is so tiny it looks like almost nothing at all. But every leaf is perfectly made and if you sniff at it, it already has a fragrance that promises the invigorating aroma of the adult thyme. And in my hands too, was placed a whole dried-up and withered okra. But you mustn't understimate that okra, for its seeds will grow into a vine that will provide shade to my garden and food for my table. Until the okra has withered, its seeds cannot grow. And have I said anything yet about the Gac seed? The fruit is bright orange with skin like dried kangaroo leather. Open it up and you will discover little slabs of fruit that look exactly like sliced beef, but it tastes of avocado. And the seeds! What about the seeds? Those seeds were sculpted into a rough pentagon and on it were little markings like that you find on museum exhibits. Oh, to think that God made seeds that look like Mesopotamian amulets! What sculpture? What art? What jewelry? There is no art that man has conceived that God did not do first!

And I met lovely people too. All with eyes shining with love for all things green and growing. Some with a passion for all things growing. There was so much to talk about, so much to share, so much to learn.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Our Pond

There is a pond in my herb garden. It sits in a corner and is home to about 5o colourful guppies with long showy tails. They strut like models on fish parade with their bright colours standing out against the black depths of the pond. I didn't actually want the pond but The Husband was adamant. I thought I would have had to look after his pond, you see. But it turned out otherwise.

I like the pond now, mostly because I know it has done good for my plants. When it fills up with rainwater and threatens to overflow, I use the excess water for my plants. My plants love the yummy fishwater. They drink and look satiated. Then they grow big green leaves and beautiful flowers for me. I put a pot of laksa leaves inside the pond, sitting on a brick so that the pot is only half submerged. The laksa leaves look so grateful to be sitting in their very own spa. Then, I added a grape, with a quarter of the pot submerged and that too seems to tell me that it feels blessed. The clump of gotu kola has grown to twice its size and the floating water lettuces just keep multiplying. I had three. I have fifteen.
The children and the grandparents also gravitate to this corner of our home that has the pond. Grandma does yoga stretches. Son feeds the fishes. Teenage daughter breezes in, sniffs the air and exclaims "Oh! So cosy!" and then she breezes off to do what teenagers do with their time and energy. So yes, that pond has turned out to be a really good idea.