The magnificent herbs and spices of South East Asia ( part 2)

We sailed in the MV Voyager  from Singapore to the port that serves Kuala Lumpur, we then hopped onto a bus which took us to the most interesting Forest  Research institute that, at the turn of the Millennium, started work on the official establishment of the Kepong Botanical Garden.

Forest Research Insitutue

The Forest Research Institute Malaysia  ©Jekka 2014

This botanic garden has a very interesting collection of Malaysian plants from the wild including this Cucumber tree which I had not seen or eaten  on my previous trip to Malaysia.

Cucumber Tree

Averrhoa bilimbi, Cucumber Tree  ©Jekka 2014

The fruit of the cucumber tree is edible, it tastes rather like Granny Smith’s apples.  It is eaten raw or cooked and then added to curries.

Interestingly they had not had rain for 6 weeks which is, I am led to  believe, is a hundred year record. This was very noticeable when we went on to see the Orchid and Hibiscus gardens which were certainly suffering from the lack of rain.

Platycerium bifurcatum and Platycerium superbum Stag Horn Ferns at the Botanical Gardens Kuala Lumpur ©Jekka 2014

This was made up for by this amazing Platycerium bifurcatum and  Platycerium superbum Stag Horn Ferns

The next day was a relaxing day by the sea  in Langkawi where I saw for the first time Catharanthus roseus growing wild along the seashore.

Catharanthus roseus, Madagascar Periwinkle growing wild

Catharanthus roseus, Madagascar Periwinkle growing wild ©Jekka 2014

This herb is extremely important in so many ways as it is used in traditional medicine to treat malaria, diarrhoea, diabetes and cancer.  Interestingly one of the passengers on the ship was a Surgeon and he told me that they used extracts from this herb in the treatment of child leukemia at Great Ormond Street.

Catharanthus roseus, Madagascar Periwinkle

Catharanthus roseus, Madagascar Periwinkle ©Jekka 2014

After our relaxing day it was off to Phuket where, with friends, we found, purely by chance, the Botanic Garden.

Phuket Botanic Garden

Phuket Botanic Garden  ©Jekka 2014

It was great fun, with the plants divided into rooms, for example Fern, Aromatic and of course, Herbs where we came across this interesting edible vine.

Cissus quadrangularis, Edible Vine

Cissus quadrangularis, Edible Vine   ©Jekka 2014

It is cooked  as a vegetable and eaten throughout Asia.   Medicinally it is used rather as we would use Symphytum officinale, Comfrey, to help heal broken bones

After these three contrasting days we had two days at sea before arriving at the unique Port Blair in the Andaman Islands which will be in the next part of this blog  .

Here at Jekka’s Herb Farm, spring has arrived and the Herbetum is flourishing.

 

Rosmarinus officinalis and Rosmarinus officinalis 'Foxtail'

Rosmarinus officinalis and Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Foxtail’ ©Jekka 2014

We are looking forward to welcoming all those coming to Jekka’s Herb Garden Design Master Class this Saturday.

Please note all the photographs are  ©Jekka 2014.   We would  appreciate if you would kindly respect this.

The magnificent Herbs and Spices of South East Asia ( Part 1)

When the RHS asked if I would like to lecture on the Voyages of Discovery aboard the MV Voyager sailing from Bangkok to Mumbai I immediately said, ‘Yes Please’. This being the first cruise in partnership with RHS Garden Holidays.

MV VoyagerI have always wanted to visit Thailand and India and see the Botanic Gardens and the new Garden by the Bay in Singapore.  So this was a chance not to be missed despite the fact that I am seasick  even when the boat is in harbour!

BANGKOK

Wat Phra Kaew

©Jekka 2014

In Bangkok we visited the  Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew  where we were surrounded by the Tamarind Tree, Tamarindus indica,  which were not only lining the streets but were also  trained and pruned.

Tamarind tree plus fruit

Tamarind Tree plus fruit                                                                                    ©Jekka 2014

The young shoots and leaves are edible and are eaten dipped in ‘sambal’.  They are also used in the preparation of curry and other food in Asian cuisine where they add the sour taste.  Tamarind is also medicinal, the fruit, leaves and bark are all used in various ways  to treat many ailments.   I have seen this tree before in Malaysia, but never have  I seen them pruned and trained.

Trained Tamarind

Pruned Tamarind                                                                                                ©Jekka 2014

Our next port of call was SINGAPORE.  We started our visit at the Botanic gardens which is renowned not only for its Orchids but also for its Ginger collection.      At the entrance I saw this Costus speciosus

Costus speciosus

Costus speciosus                                                                                      ©Jekka 2014

which is native to Malaysia . It is used medicinally to treat fevers and many skin diseases.  It is also reputed to have magical powers including protection from evil spirits.

Once inside it was, for me,  an exciting treasure trove.

Torch Ginger

Etlinger elatior                                                                                                       ©Jekka 2014

This magnificent Ginger is Etlinger elatior, Torch ginger, a  native of Malaysia where it is used in traditional Malay cooking; the flower bud, flowers and flowering stem are all used.

Sadly our time there was far too short as we had to visit the stunning ‘Gardens by the Bay’.

Gardens by the Bay

Gardens By the Bay                                                                                               ©Jekka 2014

It is difficult to imagine that this is all on reclaimed land and that this garden was only officially opened in 2011.

The cloud forest dome

In the Cloud Forest Dome                                                                                    ©Jekka 2014

The Cloud Forest Dome  has the best living wall I have ever seen, it left me speechless.

However my favourite part, from purely showing how imaginative and innovative these gardens are , was the Super Tree Grove

Super Tree Grove

The Super Tree Grove                                                                                    ©Jekka 2014

The Supertrees  are very impressive; they are embedded with environmentally sustainable functions like photovoltaic cells to harvest solar energy and they are connected with sky walkways which give a wonderful view across the bay to Singapore.

In my next blog, after our open days which start this Friday 4th and Saturday 5th I will describe the next part of our journey from Singapore to Sri Lanka via the Andaman Island.

Please note all the photographs are  ©Jekka 2014.   We would  appreciate if you would kindly respect this.

Jekka’s Herbs at Canton Tea Co

LEMON GRASS

Mention Lemon Grass, Cymbopogon citratus, and it immediately conjures up the aromas and magic of the East.   Here in the UK only the stems are available from supermarkets for use in the kitchen.

PC43 stems

Lemon Grass Stems

It was not until I started growing Lemon Grass at the Herb Farm that I discovered how amazingly useful and flavoursome the leaves are both in the kitchen and for herbal remedies.

Lemon Grass leaf

Lemon Grass leaf

Lemon Grass is indigenous to Southeast Asia. Records show that the Persians were using it as a tea in the first century BC.  The first time I drank it as a herbal tea was when I visited Malaysia, it was served cold, which was surprising, but once drunk, one realised that it was a truly refreshing drink that cleared the palate and helped one unwind after a long journey.

All of us at Jekka’s Herb farm are extremely excited that we have joined forces with the Canton Tea Co to launch a range of Herb infusions, one of which is Lemon Grass.

IMG_6717

Lemon Grass tea from Jekka’s Herbs at Canton Tea Co.

Canton Tea are very resourceful at sourcing their teas and this is no exception.  I was very pleased to receive from them the following photographs which depicts  the Lemon Grass plantation at the Amba estate in Sri Lanka

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Amba Estate Sri Lanka

and not only shows the immense care that is taken in growing it organically but also how carefully it is harvested.

About 50% of the crop is rejected after sorting.

Harvesting lemon Grass

Once harvested the grass is cut by hand, which takes time, but ensures a beautiful product. So you can be assured that this is the best Lemon Grass tea you will have ever drunk.

Hand cutting

Hand cutting lemon grass

This herbal tea is immensely beneficial, it is a weak sedative and a stomach and gut relaxant, so it is ideal for drinking after a meal. It is also a good antidepressant and helps lift the spirits especially when one is in a bad mood.  But whatever your mood I can guarantee it will tantalize your taste buds and lift your spirits.

Caribbean Herbs

This time last week I was sitting outside eating my lunch of  prawn salad and freshly picked avocado, it was a delicious  28°C (82F°), I was in Paradise.

Prawn Salad

That is one of the pleasures of travelling to different countries.    Just recently I was lucky enough to spend a short time on the magical island of Nevis.

Nevis, is a very unspoilt Island, which was a privilege to visit.

While there I found some very interesting herbs, some I knew and grow in the UK, for example the Plectranthus amboinicus.

Broad leaf thyme, Cuban Oregano, Basil, are many of the common names used to identify this herb

Plectranthus amboinicus , Broad leaf thyme, Cuban Oregano, Basil, are many of the common names used to identify this culinary and medicinal herb.

and some like the  Blighia sapida I have never seen before.

The Akee tree was brought to the Caribbean in the 18th Century. The aril is the only edible and only when the plant has turned red and split open, when unripe or overripe it is poisonous!!!

Blighia sapida, the Akee tree, Egg Yolk, was brought to the Caribbean in the 18th Century. The aril is the only edible part and only when the plant has turned red and split open, when unripe or overripe it is poisonous!!!

The Mango. The fruit is well known, the leaves produce a yellow dye and the bark of the tree provides a tannin

Mangifera indica, the Mango. The fruit is well known, the leaves produce a yellow dye and the bark of the tree provides a tannin

Gardenia taitensis , used medicinally to treat fevers and coughs.  The flowers are used in perfumery

Gardenia taitensis , Tiare Flower, used medicinally to treat fevers and coughs. The flowers are used in perfumery

Annona muricata, Soursop, The fruit is oven served as a cream or as soursop ice-cream.

Annona muricata, Soursop, The fruit is often served as a cream or as soursop ice-cream.

Tamarindus indica, Tamarind, the fruit is used as a seasoning for fish amd meat dishes, it is also added to curies.  It is one of the main ingredients in Angostura Bitters it is also an ingredient in Worcester Sauce.  Medicinal used as a mild laxative.

Tamarindus indica, Tamarind, the fruit is used as a seasoning for fish and meat dishes, it is also added to curries. It is one of the main ingredients in Angostura Bitters, it is also an ingredient in Worcester Sauce. Medicinally used as a mild laxative.

Sterculia foetida,Java-Olive, Skunk tree, Poon tree. Some sources report the seeds to be edible raw, but other sources state should be roasted first

Sterculia foetida, Java-Olive, Skunk tree, Poon tree. The flowers smell awful hence its botanical name.  The seeds are high in oil, some say they can be eaten raw, but others say they  should be roasted first; so please double check before eating!!

The last time I saw Couroupita guianensis, was in the botanical garden in Penang, where they have a spectacular example which made an indelible impression. So I was fascinated and pleased to find a smaller specimen of this rare tree on the island.

Couroupita guianensis, The flowers of Cannonball Tree have a wonderful smell and can be used to scent perfumes and cosmetics. The hard shells of the fruit are sometimes used as containers.

So if you are lucky enough to be visiting the Caribbean look out for these stunning plants for ‘Nature is amazing’.