Monday 16 May 2016

Happy Teacher's Day

It is the 16th day of the 5th month of 2016 already and this blog has seen no progress...
But today is National Teacher's Day, so here's wishing all teachers wherever you are, a very Happy Teacher's Day!

On a wider and more inclusive note, what would we be without people to teach and encourage us throughout our lives... beginning with our parents for whom we took our first steps. School teachers who kept us in line, lecturers who guided us into our professions, managers who showed us the way in the work place. Also friends who grew up with us. We all learned something from people around us... so thank you all!

Friday 18 December 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Pineapple

Scientific name: Ananas comosus
Common name: Pineapple
Malay name: Nenas
Family: Bromeliaceae
Origin: South America

The pineapple, of which there are about 2,000 species, is a herbaceous perennial and seem easy enough to grow (from the crown cuttings) in containers in the urban garden. But flowering and fruiting does take time - two years and more.

It is more than two years but I have yet to see any flowers on the two plants I have, grown from crown cuttings of pineapples I bought in Johor and a local supermarket. I guess my source of pineapples will remain the markets, both farmers' and super (markets).

Of course the pineapple has many uses as a fruit that may be consumed fresh, cooked, juiced or preserved (jams, compote, etc). This fruit has many health benefits including the enzyme Bromelain which has anti-inflammatory, anti-clotting and anti-cancer properties.

In the Philippines the leaves are made into textile fibre or pina, the material for the men's Barong Tagalog and women's Baro't saya, also shawls.

Wednesday 2 December 2015


                                          The South China Sea at Paka, Trengganu

I have been away from this blog for five months already (since my last entry on Trengganu, 06/06/15), distracted by Instagram. But I will try to get back and do backdates as best as I can with notes from my diary/journal.

Monday 23 November 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Velvet Bean

Scientific name: Mucuna pruriens
Common name: Velvet bean, Cowhage, Picapica, Cowitch
Malay name:
Origin: Africa/India

The Velvet bean is a climbing flowering plant with flowers the colour of white, light purple or dark purple. There are loose hairs covering the young leaves and seed pods (hence the name Velvet bean) of the flowers and these can caused severe irritation of the skin when contacted.

I was given four beans to grow but only three thrived. The plants grow rather quickly and there were flowers which I did not have the opportunity to capture with my camera. Hopefully the beans can be documented.

Actually it was only out of curiosity that I grew this legume plant, whose major use is as manure and animal feed. As a minor food rich in protein, the beans can be a garnish, condiment or vegetable (not unlike soyabean, cowpea and groundnut). But the beans must be cooked to get rid of some toxic chemicals that they contain. The beans also contains serotonin and nicotine that can be mind altering substances.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Bunga Telang

Scientific name: Clitoria ternatea
Common name: Butterfly pea, Blue pea, Cordofan pea, Asian pigeonwings
Malay name: Bunga Telang
Family: Fabaceae
Origin: Tropical, equatorial Asia

This is a perennial herbaceous plant which grows as a vine usually. The flowers are a beautiful vivid blue with light yellow markings. (There are varieties that produce white flowers.) The fruits are flat pods that are edible when tender.

Throughout Southeast Asia, the blue flowers are used to colour food. Like the blue in our Nasi kerabu from Kelantan and the blue in our Nyonya kuihs. (In Thailand they make a blue drink and fry the flowers in batter too.)

I grew my plants (above) from seeds given to me by B's teacher friend Santhi. There are four plants growing together, though you cannot really tell from the picture. But they are not doing too well because I tend to over-water (and sometimes the rains aggravate the problem). But I do hope they do well enough to produce some blue flowers for me in the near future.

The weather in early October was rather wet and there have been thunderstorms. But then the 'burning forests' in Indonesia still make for unhealthy air pollution indices. Like today, the API is an unhealthy 339 at 4.00 pm (299 at 5.00 pm). So the smog is still very much upon us!
(2 Dec 15)

Monday 19 October 2015

Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijk

We went to see the Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijk theatre at the Istana Budaya on the night of October 17th and liked it tremendously. The cast of popular actors of our Malaysian small screen was a good move of the producer/director to reinvigorate the theatre scene. We hear it was nearly full house most nights.

Amar Bahrin and Nabila Huda played the romantic tragic couple well enough to have some in the audience reach for their tissues. Was I affected in the same way? You bet!

4 Dec 2015

Wednesday 23 September 2015

SA Garden Catalogue: Portulaca Oleracea

Scientific name: Portulaca oleracea
Common name: Purslane, Moss rose
Malay name: Ros Jepun
Family: Portulacaceae
Origin: South America (?)

The Purslane in my little urban garden is of the Portulaca oleraceae, a small semi-perennial fleshy herb bearing showy flowers in many colour variants, ranging from yellow to orange to pinks and reds. The two containers I have bear yellow flowers only.

The plants are free-flowering throughout the year, but get moribund (near dying!) rather quickly and need to be renewed by cuttings. I have done this and so multiplied the single container of these plants my good neighbour gave me to two.

The bright pretty flowers are radially symmetrical with four to six petals. They open in the morning (at about 9 o'clock) and close in the afternoon (at about 5 o'clock from my observation). Flowers that go to work 9 to 5! They grow well in full sun on well-drained soil, and are easy to propagate by cuttings.

Note: The Portulaca oleracea differs from the other common Purslane Portulaca grandiflora in having broad instead of narrow leaves and the flowers are multi-layered. Once upon a time in Pulau Pinang we grew P. grandiflora in many colours on our lawn. Maybe I should try growing it again. Anyone with cuttings for me?

The weather in September saw some rains but the air pollution index in Shah Alam was sometimes above 200.
5 Dec 2015