More herbs and spices for the garden
by PU Chien. Posted on August 5, 2012, Sunday
FRESH herbs and spices from the garden will help to make home-cooked meals even more tantalising. Here are some to consider planting in your home garden.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Turmeric or yellow ginger is a herbaceous perennial from the family Zingiberaceae. Although it is native to India and parts of Asia, many of us still don’t realise it is good for our health.
Turmeric contains 5 per cent essential oils and 5 per cent curcumin – a polyphenol that makes turmeric a natural yellow. It has been medically investigated for possible benefits against Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, arthritis and other clinical disorders. British researchers also found that it can improve drug response in patients with advanced bowel cancer.
Traditionally, turmeric has been used for cooking curry, as an insect repellent and anti-fungal aid as well as insecticidal treatment. Other commercial uses have been in cosmetics for anti-ageing, skin treatments and even sun creams. It is a good yellow fabric dye, which is often seen in Indian and Bangladeshi clothing as well monk robes.
Interestingly, when used with alkaline food, turmeric will turn red, while acidic food will make it yellow.
Turmeric can be propagated using its thick knobbly roots or rhizomes with side shoots or fingers.
Select fresh plump and juicy looking roots from raw turmeric fingers sold for food or spices. Choose rhizomes with tooth-like buds on the fingers.
Lay them with the ‘teeth’ upwards in a seed tray or a mixture of seed compost and grit (sand).
After around three weeks, shoots will emerge. Plant in direct sunlight for good growth.
Use peat soil and add in fertiliser once every four or five days to boost growth.
Check for red spider mites and occasional leaf eaters. Get rid of the pests before the problem becomes too serious.
The lance-shaped leaf stalks can rise to one metre tall when given good treatment for growth. The light yellow torch-like blooms can last a whole season.
Known botanically as Leucaena leucocephala, it is from the family Mimosoideae, which is also the family for mimosa plants. It is also commonly known in English as horse tamarind and white lead tree.
The small tree is native to southern Mexico and other parts of Central America. The beans are similar to the actual petai (Parkia speciosa) but are much smaller. This tree is used for its fibre and also as livestock fodder.
The green beans are encased in long and hard capsules. The plant can be a small shrub or widely branched tree. Its upright growth habit allows it to reach a height of five metres with angular branching and narrow open crown. Its bark is grey-brown with rusty brown vertical fissures.
It is a highly invasive occupier of any ground – the seeds will easily germinate. The plant will grow vigorously and form dense thickets that could crowd out some weaker local plants, hence is considered an invasive species.
In Indonesia, the young leaves and pods are eaten as ulam (salad).
Misai kucing has become quite popular among senior citizens as a herbal tea with medicinal value. Orthosiphon stamineus belongs to the family Lamiaceae, which makes this plant part of the mint family.
All herbaceous plants require good humus or peat soil conditions for healthy growth. This is a perennial flowering plant that can reach two feet high and three feet wide if allowed.
The multi-branched stems have opposite ovate leaves five centimetres in length with fine serrated or toothed margins. It is the terminal floral stem that carries whorls of white flowers with protruding purple stamens. This characteristic gives the flowers the appearance of cat whiskers. The attractive whitish lavender or orchid-like flowers with long protruding stamens carry nectar to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
These flowers are harvested for herbal teas that are said to be good for treating kidney stones, urinary ailments and even diabetes. Others claim it can also give arthritis relief. To treat rheumatic pains and coughs, drink tea made with 15 to 20 leaves once or twice daily.
This tender perennial is a tropical plant that can be planted in full sun or partial shade areas. Choose soil that is slightly alkaline, fertile and well-drained.
Ordinary garden soil can be made fertile by working in three inches of organic matter. Add slow release fertiliser sparingly.
Replanting can be done using softwood cuttings or seeds from seed pods when the flowers fade and are allowed to dry.
For details send me an email. Happy gardening.