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.

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’.

The proverbial British weather Part 2.

The weather has, to put it concisely, been mind focusing. On wednesday 2nd February

it was Candlemas day, in the USA it is called Ground Hog Day.  There are numerous sayings regarding Candlemas ; ‘If Candlemas day be fair and bright, Winter will have another fight. If Candlemas day brings cloud and rain, Winter won’t come again.’ and ‘If Candlemas day is bright and clear there will be two winters in the year’.  As you are probably all aware it was bright and clear!!!

Today as I sit here writing this  blog watching the snow flakes silently settle

I am pondering where we are going to put next weeks potting. So all you gardeners, who do not have a glasshouse or warm propagation house,  close up your sheds, put away your hoes, get the gardening books out and wait. Your turn will come in March and then you will be running to make up time.

Despite the weather  it  been full steam ahead  on the herb farm , potting up and sowing seeds .

 All the newly potted stock has been placed under horticultural fleece  to keep it warm.  While we have been doing that Hannah,  Annabel and Graham, our web guru,  have been putting the finishing touches to our new website.

It looks great and I especially like the seed section in the on line shop as Graham and Hannah have magically transferred my information into simple clear graphics, so you can see at a glance when to sow the seed,where to sow, under cover or in the garden, and when to harvest.

So please visit it next week when it should go live!  and do let us know what you think and more importantly if you find any snags.