Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone!

It’s already half way through January and I guess everyone has either kick started strong with the new year resolutions or is still struggling with hangover from NYE. My husband and I had a great Christmas in Sydney with the family and then zipped back to spend New Year in Bangkok.

xmas in Sydney

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xmas feast-Salmon

After gaining a few kilos over the festive season, we have decided to do a complete detox following Martha Steward’s website. We went through this relatively easy last year so we thought why not!  Well, this time was I wrong… Just cooking and eating vegetable for someone who loves preparing different dishes is painful!! I kicked and moaned and threatened my husband that I was going to quit but here I am in week three of the detox and now starting to enjoy it a lot more as we can eat  fish, grains and beans now.  Hallelujah!

detox

Anyway, enough of my detox. After spending 4 weeks in Sydney, most of my babies in the balcony, especially tomatoes, have dried up but I was happy to see the parsley, basil and mint are still going strong.

The weather is very cool(almost cold!) 23°C in the Bangkok mornings at the moment so it’s an ideal temperature to plant seeds. So here we go…. I have planted Italian zucchini, cucumbers, rockmelon, a few variety of tomatoes, eggplants and lettuce.

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  • Heirloom Rockmelons

rockmelon

  • Japanese cucumbers sent by my reader from Singapore (Thank you!)

Japanese cucumber seedling

  • Italian zucchinis seed that I bought from my last trip to Italy

Italian zuchinni

The second project is to start growing micro plants. I hope to harvest these within 7 days and add them to my salads. After day 6 though, there’s not much happening. Perhaps the seeds are too old or kitchen paper towel as a base was not a good idea.

seeds

pink cabbage1

As far as cooking classes are concerned, I am back teaching at Korean Tourism in Singapore from February. Classes will be on 14th and 17th February and I will be teaching Jjapjang bap and pollack soup. If you would like to register for the class, please contact Korean Tourism direct (+65 65330441).

I hope everyone has a very exciting 2014 and Happy New Year once again!

 

 

 

 

 

Bangkok Balcony gardening update – harvest time!

Bangkok Balcony gardening update – harvest time!

It has been the nicest weather in Bangkok for last few months but looks like someone switched off the cool weather last week.  As of last week, it’s hot and humid. Before I complain about the crappy weather and my wilted garden, here are the results of my hard work and vegetables that were harvested.

All the radishes were harvested and we just ate them raw. They were so fresh and tangy. I was hoping to cook the leaves but there were too bitter. Some were a little soft which meant I left them in the soil too long.

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radishes

 

I had about 11 long beans harvested and lightly cooked them with garlic, oyster sauce and fish sauce. It was so different to the beans bought from the store. I remember reading somewhere that fruit and vegetables have it’s best nutrients if they are eaten within 4 hours of harvesting. My balcony to the kitchen and to our dinner table took less than 2 hours and I am so looking forward to more of these beans.

long beans

 

 

long beans cooked

 

 

My latest creation  – There is  a man selling coconut juice in front of our condo every morning. My husband and I asked if we could have some of the empty coconut shells. He told us to take as many as we could because he doesn’t need them after the juice. I decided to use them to grow seedlings for sweet basil. Unfortunately, the shell is not too deep so I need to transfer them when they are big but for now it’s fantastic for my little seedlings. Best of all, it’s free and biodegradable!

 

basil

 

 

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My updates on my babies…. Well, they have grown so tall it was starting to worry me. They were supposed to be only 50 cm tall but now 1.8m!. I googled to see what I was doing wrong and  found out that it was a combination of the  hot weather and too much water. I stopped watering them every day and now only water them every 2nd or 3rd day. Also I have pinched all the side shoots to stop any more branches growing so  all the energy can go to flowers which then turn into tomatoes.

 

tomato bushes

 

As of today, there are 19 little cherry tomatoes growing and slowly ripening… It’s like watching wet paint dry, soooo slow! So far, we picked two little ones and had a taste test. They are sweet but the skin was too thick.

 

tomato harvest

 

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Here are some photos sent by one my readers. I can’t believe how heathy the plants are.  The seeds were grown from store bought Jalapeno peppers.

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Thank you all for sharing your Balcony gardening problems with me. It inspires me more to grow varieties of things and it really makes me happy seeing your photos. Happy Gardening everyone and next post will be on my visit to Korea. Yes, I am about to visit friends families and pig out and get cultured!

 

 

 

 

 

Balcony garden journal 4

Balcony garden journal 4

My last balcony garden journal was in June. I guess everyone’s been wondering what’s happened in the last 3 months?

So since June, nothing much survived except a few plants because May to August is the hottest time of the year here in Singapore. After almost 8years(OMG!!) in Singapore, I should be more tuned with the different seasons in Singapore, right? Most people don’t realise that Singapore does in fact have seasons (although you would be hard pressed to recognise them!).  During November – January it is hot during the day but amazingly pleasant in the evening. For the rest of the year it is simply hot, hot, hot with the worst months being May to August. So for those of you like me trying to grow a variety of vegetables during the hottest months, try hardy plants such as different basils and mint. Remember to keep them in a shaded area and water regularly!

Some of the plants that survived well in the heat are Italian parsley and thyme. I am amazed that they made it through the extreme heat and humidity. I succeeded in growing them from the seeds for the first time! Now when I need some for my pasta, I just walk out to my balcony a grab a few handfuls of fresh herbs. It’s heaven….

 

 

And then here is my Florentine tomato which has gone wild! You might remember the little seedlings from my last blog in June. It’s about 1.2metre high and its stems are thick and healthy.  What’s interesting is the top part of the stems are all joined together as you can see below. There are 4 tomato flowers and hopefully a lot more to come. I am hoping to pick some juicy tomatoes in a month or so. Cross my fingers and toes!! Sadly the Italian Roma tomatoes are not doing so well. They are looking pale green and the leaves are turning purple.

The basil growing in the same pot is also from Italy and I have been giving these as gifts to friends to grow themselves. Unlike the ones from the supermarket, it has fantastic aroma. I have been using a lot of this basil to make bruschetta. All I need is some big juicy home-grown tomatoes and it will be an authentic Italian bruschetta!

 

 

 

 

Here are the photos of my real garden plot. Some of you have seen a glimpse or two in my previous blogs. Again, I gave up due to the heat but amazingly everything is doing well. I have picked at least 8 eggplants. A few pumpkin plants have also cropped up in a pile of compost and the basil has flowered attracting a lot of butterflies and bees.

The only one sad thing about this garden is that it is now shadowed by a construction site and not very pleasant to potter around.  Men at work next door…

 

 

My crops always look huge in the photographs. This eggplant is actually only the size of my palm. If I can harvest three, it’s good enough for my dinner as stir fry vegetables.

 

 

Now this is remarkable. I have a little compost bin which I put all my food scrap. When the bin is full, I dig a hole in my garden and fill it with the compost for the worms to eat. Among the food scrap, there must have been some pumpkin seeds. After a month of being buried in the garden, these little baby plants appeared out of the food scrap!

 

 

No matter what I do, these basil continue to flourish. All the basil flowers attract a lot of little flying creatures which are very good for my vegetables. If you look closely, you can see a bee collecting honey.

 

Finally a new addition to my garden is Malabar spinach from a Farm Tour organised by the Vegetarian Society of Singapore a few weeks ago.  Since it’s so hard to grow lettuce in the heat, I can use this Malabar spinach as a replacement in salads. The Australian Malabar spinach that I grew previously from the seeds were growing very well initially and then just started to flower before I had a chance to pick any leaves for my salad!! Hopefully, these local ones will supply lots of leaves.

 

 

I just planted a few more parsley, thyme and basil seeds yesterday to keep the supply going throughout the year as well as a few more variety of tomatoes for the cooler months ahead.

If you have any questions on growing vegetables in Singapore, drop me a line! I’d be happy to hear from you 🙂

 

Balcony Garden journal 2 – baby plants

Balcony Garden journal 2 – baby plants

There have been a lot of activities in the balcony garden last two weeks. More seeds arrived from Korea and I have been busy planting. Now I have baby chicory, broccoli, kale,  Chinese cabbage,  red cabbage, and raddish. It should only take 2-3weeks to grow and I can add them to my salad.

They are really simple to grow. All you need is a piece of kitchen towel, a bowl and some water.  In the instruction packet, it said to water them 2-3 times a day with water spray. I started off with baby radish first. Only a few more days to go and these little baby sprouts are going into my salad!

Next one is baby Chinese cabbage, like the ones used in kimchi. Instead of growing in a bowl, I am growing them in soil to see how big they get. I am curious to see how they will  look in 3 weeks.

Now some updates on the ones I planted in the beginning of February.

  • My Thai cucumbers are growing really well. It’s ready to be transplanted to bigger pots. I just need to find some space on my balcony.

  • The Korean perilla plants are looking really healthy. The outer leaves are almost ready to be picked  but I am going to resist and wait for them to grow a little taller. A little creepy crawly got to one of my leaves already which taught me to check the back of the leaves more frequently. I thought I was only one eying the perilla leaves…

  • The most exciting result this week is my cucumber. I harvested one cucumber  already a few days ago. When I cut it in half, the skin looked and felt really thick but they were sweet and refreshing. According to my research, you need to pick the first vegetable early, so there will be many more. The name tags keep falling off  so I not sure which cucumber this is exactly but from memory  I think  it’s the seeds I bought from Malaysia.

  • My information appears to be correct because after I picked my first cucumber, a few more started to appear.  In the past, I haven’t had a lot of success with cucumbers in Singapore. I thought it was just the weather but now I think I found the secret. Cucumbers need lots water and calcium.  I learnt that crushed egg shells are a great source of calcium. All you need to do wash and  dry them and put them through a  spice grinder to turn them into powders.

  • Cucumbers have both male and female flowers. The cucumbers grow from the female flowers. To help them along, I have artificially hand pollinated the female flowers by cutting back the surrounding petals of male flowers and dabbing it inside female flower.  The picture above is two days after the female flower has been hand pollinated. Today I had a look at  the cucumber and it’s now half the size of my hand.

  • Finally, I have been picking lots of cherry tomatoes from my garden. It’s not enough to have a salad with but it keep us smiling everytime we get to taste a real tomato straight off the vine.  🙂

Balcony garden 101

Balcony garden 101

For my birthday I received five books from Korea and one of them was on how to grow any kind of vegetable on a balcony garden. It seems more and more people in Korea are becoming interested in healthy living and with cost of vegetables going through the roof, growing vegetables and herbs at home is not only a healthy choice but also fun.

This book is written by a Korean blogger who started her balcony garden a year  ago and has now published a book providing tips on how to grow various Korean vegetables in a small balcony. So here are a few ideas I learnt from the book on how to get started without costing you an arm and a leg.

First, visit your local gardening shop and ask for a bag of good organic soil. Tell them you are going to grow vegetables or herbs. I highly recommend organic soil as there is no chemical in the soil.

Next stop is Daiso, a Japanese store which sells everything from kichenwares to clothing for only S$2. Pick yourself up a shovel, garden fork and garden hoe.

For planter boxes, I recommend using recycled items such as  empty milk cartons or  plastic bottles, detergent bottles, or baby milk powder container. Cut these items(bottles only) in half and put 3-4 holes in the bottom. You can also use a rubbish bin by inserting a plastic bag with a few holes.

Let’s get started! The first vegetable I would recommend is either spring onions or leeks. All you have to do is cut the fresh leek stems into about 3cm long and plant them. You can do the same with the spring onions. One thing to remember is to buy leeks or spring onions which have the roots still on them. Below is a picture of leeks I bought from one of the wet markets in Singapore.

I wouldn’t bother trying to grow anything from seeds as they need a lot of care and you might get discouraged straight away if you don’t have success. With the tropical climate of Singapore, I have found it is impossible to grow leeks from seeds.  I tried many many times hoping for a miracle but never got the seeds to germinate.

Isn’t this great? I simply dug a small hole, stuck the leeks and watered them. The following morning, there were already small shoots coming out. By the third day they were 10cm tall.

Another easy way to start your garden is to use clippings of basil. Grab some fresh basil (sweet or Thai) from either the supermarket or local wet market. Fill up a small bottle or cup with water and stick the basil in. Make sure to pull the leaves off around the lower part of the stem so that no leaves sit in the water and rot. After 4 or 5 days,the roots will start to grow around the bottom part of the stem. You can continue to grow them in the water or transplant them to a planter box with a soil after a few weeks. I’ve had a lot of success with this method and now have lots of basil growing on my balcony. The fragrant smell is just amazing!!

Here are some of my other little projects on my balcony. I had a friend visiting me from Korea a few weeks ago and she brought me some Korean vegetable seeds including some perilla seeds. Yeh!!! 🙂

Two types of Korean cherry tomatoes and perilla leaves seeds.

Chinese chives and Korean radish.

Here are some of the seedlings growing in various containers.

  • Radish seedlings in a bucket bought from Isetan department store for only S$3.50. The seedlings are about two weeks old.

  • Perilla leaves in a recycled mesh box.

Happy gardening! 🙂