Wake Up!!!

I am retired so most of the times there is no strong motivation to wake up early and prepare for the day but one reason that encourages me to get up early is gardening, specially these days when it gets so hot by 10 am. Thanks for the rain last night, it’s a bit cooler this morning but I can already feel the humidity.

My small garden is thriving well! The birds are singing, serenading me while I sit on our back porch drinking coffee. They sing louder when I put their morning seeds in their feeder, so it seems. I noticed that there are actually Chipmonks that share with the birds. I saw the other one coming from our neighbor’s yard run toward the feeder while the other one that lives in our backyard was already feeding.

One of these days I will buy a bird Cam so that I can get a good photograph of birds/Chipmonks that come to our yard. I can’t take good photos of them up close because they are wild and skittish. As long as I sit still they continue to feed but any slight movement will cause them to go away.

I have harvested fruits twice already from my Roma and Red Beefsteak tomatoes. The Roma tomatoes are doing excellent despite the fact that they are planted in a flower pot and only getting 4-5 hours of direct sunlight.

Roma Tomato
Two Roma tomatoes planted next to the wall.
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Harvesting Lemon Grass

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Now that the weather is cooler and I know that the temperature will drop at any time to where tropical plants will not tolerate,  I have made a decision to harvest my Lemon Grass and keep them in my fridge to use in my cooking this winter.

Before starting this task, I put on denim pants, long sleeved shirt and gardening gloves to protect my skin from the sharp leaves of these plants.

I would say that harvesting Lemon Grass is labor intensive, at least for me.  I need the physical exertion so I did not mind this rigorous activity.  I planted all my lemon grasses  in big pots this year due to having learned through my friends experience that planting lemon grass in an open field is not such a good idea.  It was almost impossible to dig the whole clump because of the dense sturdy roots it sends down through the soil underneath it.  The photo below shows just how dense the roots are!F1132580-A78F-4C09-860F-ED01FD5A5BE7.jpeg

The technique of getting the root ball out of the pot depends on what kind of pot the Lemon Grass is planted on.  The photo above shows that I used a black nursery pot to plant the Lemon Grass in and it was easy enough to get the whole root ball out.  All I have to do is tap the sides and botton of the pot then shake the plant loose and it came out easy.  If the plant is planted in a pot that has a water reservoir at the bottom of the pot, the water reservoir tray has to be removed first and the roots that extend to the water reservoir tray has to be clipped before I can successfully remove the clump out of the pot.  See photo below.

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Once I cut the roots that extend to the water reservoir tray,  I can tap the sides and bottom of the pot and shake and pull the clump out of the pot just like I did for the one planted in the black flower pot.

Once the clump is out of the pot, I used a shovel to remove the dirt surrounding the plant and at the bottom of the plant.  See photos below.F1132580-A78F-4C09-860F-ED01FD5A5BE7

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Then I separate each plant by pulling each plant apart from the clump until all are separated from each other.  See photo below.

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The next step is to cut the leaves off each plant with the use of sharp scissors and also clip the roots with the use of sharp limb clipper.  Then remove the dead or dried leaves.

Wash the individual plants thoroughly using rubber gloves or disposable gloves to protect hands from cuts as the edge of the leaves and stalks of the plants are sharp.  Spread the cleaned plants on a dry towel.  See photo below.A2DC321E-BA6F-431F-95CA-ED46D8C0796C.jpeg

Once the plants are free of excess water from washing,  put them in a big plastic bag and place inside the fridge.  See photos below.

 

The photo on the left shows young plants which I will use as seedling for next year.  The photo on the right shows mature plants which I will use for cooking and give away to friends.

How To Clean Bitter Melon Seeds

The Video shows how to remove the gelatinous coating of Bitter Melon 
seeds.  

Part of Fall season gardening activities is gathering seeds for next planting 
season.  Some seeds are easier to collect than others as they come out dry but most
of them are coated with some gooey substance that has to be removed from the seeds.  One
of these seeds is the Bitter Melon seed.  Each seed is coated with a brightly red 
gelatinous substance.  I surmise that this substance attracts ants which eat the sweet,
mushy substance but leave the seeds alone and usually some of the seeds will sprout in the 
the coming year but very late in the season so it is best to collect the seeds instead of 
leaving them in the ground.  The seeds need to be cleaned and air dried at room temperature so
so that mildew or fungus will not harm it.  When they are very dry they can be wrapped 
in dry paper towel then placed in a plastic bag.



Lemon Grass

Since I planted Lemon Grass on my back patio, I have not noticed any gnats or mosquitoes hovering over me when I’m outside.    Maybe it’s too early to tell.  I would know more about it when the temperature drops down to a cooler one at the onset of Fall.  I’m really very pleased at how my Lemon Grasses grow so well in containers.  These are started from three single plants last winter, which I bought from an Asian grocery store.  I chose ones that have visible intact bud at the base of the plant and stuck them in a flower base half filled with water.  I kept them under flourescent light in my bathroom winter through spring.  They developed roots and leaves all through these two seasons in my bathroom and even produce pups or young plants around them.

When the weather was consistently warm this year, around May or Jun, I transplanted them to flower pots.  As you can see from the photo above that they almost fill up the pots that they are planted in.  It is very sensitive to cold weather so it has to be placed inside a garage or unused room inside my house.

WARNING:   THE LEAVES HAVE SHARP EDGE AND IT CAN CUT SKIN VERY EASILY.

 

Pork Stuffed Bitter Melon

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I remember a vietnamese friend of mine who made a pork stuffed Bitter Melon Soup.  I love the taste of that soup so I have the craving to make some, specially that my Bitter Melon plant had produced enough fruits due for harvesting.

Warning:   If you are pregnant or planning to get pregnant, or breast feeding, please, please don’t consume this fruit.  For those who have never eaten this fruit before, just be cautious and or totally avoid it. Negative reaction upon ingestion had been cited in some articles that I read here in the U.S.

The fruits and leaves of Bitter Melon are commonly eaten in most Asian countries.  It is shuned or feared in the U.S. due to inconclusive research done by a lot of pharmaceutical companies.  The possible inconclusive benefits such as anticancer, antidiabetic, antiparasitic effect etc. are overshadowed by the plant’s abortifacient and other teratogenic effects.  It is ironic that countries whose populations eat the fruit or other part of the plants  produce more children.

Ingredients I used

Meat Stuffing

1/4 tsp basil

1/4tsp parsley

1/4 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp garlic – minced

!/4 cup onion – diced fine.

1 oz rice Vermicilli – soaked for 10 minutes then cut in 2 to 3-inch long strands.

1/8 tsp salt or more if more fluid is added.

1 oz black olive – sliced and drained

1 egg

1/4 lb ground pork or chicken

1 large bitter melon or 2 to 3 small ones.

 

Soup

2 cups water

1 cup chicken broth or chicken bone broth

Green onions – chopped.

Preparation

Slit Bitter Melon lengthwise without cutting the middle part of the other side of the melon.  Cut a 1 inch slit at both ends of the other side just enough to pry open the melon. Remove the pulp and seeds with the use of teaspoon or its end.  Set aside.  Beat the egg until eggwhite and eggyolk are well blended.  Set aside.  On a medium size

Place the meat in small mixing bowl and sprinkle it with one of the spices.  Using your hand, mix the spice into the meat thoroughly.   Repeat the same process for each remaining seasoning or spice until all of them are used.

Add the drained Vermicille noodle, black olive, salt  and egg to the mixture.  Mix thoroughly.  Stuff the mixture inside the Bitter Melon.  Do not pack the stuffing mixture too full inside the bitter melon as the rice vermiccilli will expand.  Use a cooking cotton cord to tie and close the bittermelon shut at both ends and middle.

If there is extra stuffing, shape them into balls and add to the soup

Making The Soup

Place the stuffed Bitter Melon in a  kettle big enough to accomodate all ingedients.  Add the  2 cups water and the 1 cup chicken broth.  Place the Kettle on stove top and turn heat on high setting.  Cover the kettle until liquid start to boil.  Let lid vent so fluid will not overflow.  Cook until bitter melon and meat are done about 45 mins.

When meat and Bitter Melon are well done, add the green onions and turn off the heat.  Cover completely for 10 mins to cook the green onions.  If a big Bitter Melon is used in the recipe, cut it across in 3 to 4 serving portions.  Serve warm.

The soup is good for 3 to 4 people.

 

 

Gardening In The City – II

D65AB5F9-31B9-4908-B064-1944D0E147EDThe photo above shows the young Butternut Squash fruit.  The flower petal had dried off and ready fo fall off the fruit.

Vegetable Container Gardening is fun and the fact that most vegetables adapt well in unusual environment makes this type of gardening a pleasant and healthy hobby; in addition to the joy of watching plants grow, you get to harvest, cook and enjoy the flavor of whatever vegetable you planted.

I have never grown this type of Squash before.  I was extremely pleased that it can bear fruits even if it’s grown in a pot!  The leaves are huge — the size of a big dinner plate, I’m sure the reason for this is because the pot it is planted on is on a semi shaded area, which  get direct sunlight only in the afternoon.  Plants are so adaptable, which is wonderful!  The seeds came from the grocery bought Butternut Squash which I have washed/cleaned  and dried the previous year.

This type of squash bears male and female flowers in the same plant so that one does not have to worry about planting two each planting season.  Ideally, this Squash needs a lot of space so that it’s many vines can scramble all over the place.  In my limited garden area, I let it climb on trellis or fence.  It does invade all available spaces if left alone, so if you have plants that you don’t want to be shaded from sunlight by the squash’s  huge leaves, make sure to guide the squash vines away from them.

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The Photo above shows a very young fruit with the flower still blooming.

 

Look at that glorious yellow color!!!  58A3914E-C3E6-498E-8869-EFD91894F8B7.jpeg

 

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The photo above shows two maturing fruits and one on left, I harvested.  Note the difference in color.  The mature one has orange tint coloring while the two young fruits are light green in color.

 

Gardening In The City – I

It is good to know that even if we live in a condo facility I can still garden.  However most of my plants are in containers.  The Condo facility where we live allow an individual homeowner to garden in a limited space behind the home, as long as it’s taken care of by the homeowner.   Home owners are also allowed to use flower pots placed in entry way only so that it does not get in the way of maintaining/landscaping the front yard.  Below are photos of my garden this year.

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The plant climbing on a trellis is a Bittermelon (Ampalaya, in Tagalog; Amargoso, in Bicol dialect).  As the name implies, the fruit is bitter but it has lots of medicinal value such as to fight or prevent diabetes and cancer.  The leaves are lacy and beautiful.  It is easy to control and train to stay only in areas where you want the vine to stay.  You simply guide the plant towards the area where you want it to cling.  If it clings to forbidden area, just pinch the tendril or clinger and move the vine away.  It will cling to anything on its path but the good thing is that it is easy to redirect the errant branch.

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The Bittermelon bears both male and female flowers in the same plant.  Above photo shows the front view of male yellow flower.  It has yellow orange anther which holds the pollens.

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The above photo shows the side view of the male flower.  It does not have a fruit nodule at the base of the flower as compared to the female flower.

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The above photo shows the female flower which has closed, I assume, after having been pollinated and ready to develop the fruit at its base.

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The above photo shows the immature fruit.

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The above photo shows the mature fruit.

It is good to note that there are several varieties of this plant that bears fruit in varying sizes depending on the variety.  The above plant bears a medium size fruit ranging from 4-inch to 6-inch in length.  The size is also affected by how rich the soil that the plant is planted in.

My favorite seed source for Asian Vegetable seeds: Kitazawa Seeds Company