Related Posts with Thumbnails

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.