Sunday, December 21, 2014

Cabbage head troubles

My first attempt at growing cabbage has turned out to be quite a success. The heads are already forming and they look gorgeous.

But when I went to take a peek at them yesterday, my heart almost broke into two. Two heads were infested and nibbled. There were thousands of tiny green eggs inside. I'm not sure what bug they belong to but I doused the heads with plenty of water and then smeared minced garlic all over to prevent future infestation. Not sure if this will work though.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lemon balm surprise

Look at the lemon balm! You wouldn't believe they were almost dead and bald just 2 months ago. I saved them from the trash bin and plonked them in a large pot in a corner of my patio.

They continued to look miserable for weeks. I almost gave up on them and even stopped looking that way. Then yesterday, I was shocked to see how lush they have become! The rainy weather must have done wonders to the dying plants. I'm so thrilled that they're doing so well.

If you have never grown lemon balm before, you're really missing out. The leaves, when rubbed, smell zesty and so refreshing, just like a lemon. If you're wondering what you can do with the leaves, this blogger has all the answers for you - 12 things to do with lemon balm.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cabbage in Singapore

I feel like showing off my cabbage because they can be difficult to grow in our hot weather.

They've been growing in my pot for a couple of months and are just beginning to look like cabbage now.  They're so pretty, they really are the show stealers in my garden. I doubt I have the heart to eat them when they're ready.

Rocket is the best

If you can manage to grow rocket (arugula) successfully, treat them well and you'll get to harvest the leaves for a long time.

The plants I have are already many months old and they're still going strong. New leaves will grow as you cut the old ones. In fact, I tend to forget to harvest them until the leaves are so big and peppery.

I like to add them to my pizza for that extra kick.Needless to say, they are great in salads too.


When I was at our neighbourhood pet shop recently, I asked for a handful of sunflower seeds. These are big ones that are used to feed hamsters and guinea pigs.

I sowed them in a pot and even though several of them germinated, only one managed to do well. Due to the size of my pot, the plant grew to about my height and produced a beautiful flower.

For an entire week, the flower gave me so much joy each time I looked out the door. It was prettiest in the mornings when the gentle sun lit up the petals.

Now, all the beautiful petals have fallen off and the bees and ants are busy doing the pollinating work. I'm just waiting to collect the seeds so I can grow a field of them!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Swiss Chard

Lately I have been having great fun growing lots of exotic vegetables. Those living in temperate climate might not understand the fuss about growing vegetables like swiss chard or beet in our hot and humid weather but I like the challenge.

I know we don't really eat kholrabi here but that didn't stop me from growing them. The red kholrabi grew so well in my garden!

Currently I am growing kale, red beet and swiss chard. What I have noticed is they grow really slowly. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the heat, but I find that the best way to overcome this problem is to harvest them when young.

In fact, growing babygreens has many advantages. You don't need much space as they can be grown on shallow trays. Growing them as baby greens also mean you do not need to deal with pests as they can be harvested in 2 weeks. They can be organically grown too.

The photo below is swiss chard that is ready for harvest.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tomato and mango salsa

 The tomatoes may be small and sour, they were perfect for making salsa. Adding sweet mango makes it even better. Toast some thinly sliced baguette and spread the salsa on top to make bruschetta.

The recipe for salsa is simple:
1. Dice tomato and mango.
2. Mix balsamic vinegar (or lemon juice) with olive oil and finely chopped garlic.
3. Toss in some chopped onion.
4. Pour dressing over the salad and garnish with coriander and black pepper.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Tomato story

Having grown cherry tomatoes (Roma variety) and regular tomatoes (seeds from Bangladesh), I find growing Roma is more rewarding because the plant stays strong and keeps producing fruits for more than 6 months.

While the latest attempt using seeds from Bangladesh was quite successful with about 20 tomatoes on the plant, it started dying soon after. Now, I'm left with many fruits on a dead plant.

Unlike the crisp and sweet Roma, these tomatoes are sour with thick skin. That explains why the deep red tomatoes are still on the plant!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Growing tomatoes

Knowing how much I love to grow my own food, my dear friend Hakim brought some tomato seeds back from Bangladesh for me. Even though I've not experienced much success growing tomatoes (except for the Italian cherry tomatoes), I sowed the seeds in several pots and crossed my fingers.

All the seeds germinated. Some seedlings died and I was left with three healthy plants. One started to wither after bearing one fruit. I removed it after it dried up completely.

I continued to tend to the two remaining plants and voila, they're producing tomatoes! Each time I see them, I spot new fruits emerging. The first one is beginning to turn orange and I can't wait to taste it.

Growing coloured greens

It has been a while since I posted but in case you're wondering if I have given up... well, no. I'm still growing vegetables at home! In fact, I am growing nice coloured 'red' greens (what an oxymoron) like red mustard and lettuce.

This company in Singapore ( imports an interesting range of seeds that germinates easily and grow well in our climate. As you know, freshness of seeds is important as it translates to a high germination rate.

Take a look at some of the plants growing in my balcony right now.

This is red bak choy. As you know, we're always told to eat more coloured vegetables, so I'm very excited to be able to grow them organically at home!
 Despite our hot climate, the red romaine lettuce (below) grows well too. They even survived the heavy downpours that we've been having lately.
The best looking ones are the red mustard. The leaves may look delicate but they're really resilient. After a heavy downpour, I was dismayed to see them flattened by the rain but to my surprise, the leaves sprung up shortly after and looked even more fresh than before.

I harvest the larger leaves for salad and let the plants continue to grow new leaves. They're my current favourite - pretty and tasty.
 I sowed some kai lan seeds too. At first they were growing slowly, but after I transplanted the seedlings to a bigger pot, they began to flourish. I went away for 4 days and was surprised to see how much they have grown.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A salad fairytale

It reads like a fairytale. Buy salad, eat the leaves, grow the stump and eat more leaves. Well, it happened right here in my patio.

The robust regrowth of new leaves is quite amazing. I made a large salad out of them. In fact, I find the new leaves more tender and tastier after the regrowth.

Salad leaves with tomato, sauteed onion and portobello mushroom, walnut, raisin and parmesan.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014


Have you ever wondered what capers really are? You know, the sour and salty stuff pretty much like miniature olives usually served with smoked salmon or carpaccio?

I always thought the little pickled thing is a fruit until I came face to face with them in Sicily. They are actually the unripened bud of the flowering plant! They grow wild everywhere in the rocky valley of Scicli. The best thing is, they're free for anyone who is diligent enough to pick though it can be back breaking work!

Reading David's post reminded me of my encounter with this fascinating plant few years ago. If you wish to know how the buds are prepared for eating, he describes it very well here.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Regrowing lettuce

One of the lettuce stumps rotted away after a week but the other one kept producing new leaves. I am so pleased with how the experiment is going!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Regrowing vegetable stumps

I like experimenting with plants. I've tried growing different kinds of edibles from seeds and cuttings in my patio. My recent experiment with a salad green that I purchased from the market was a success.

The salad vegetables came with healthy roots. After cutting the leaves for salad, I planted the remaining heads in soil. On the second day, new leaves were seen sprouting out from the stumps.

Day by day, the leaves grew taller and larger. The photo below shows the stumps exactly one week after I've planted them. At the rate they're growing, I will have a new crop of salad greens in no time.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Growing mustard greens

I know, not many people can appreciate the bitter taste of the oriental mustard green but they're so lovely to look at. The leaves are big and showy and they grow so quickly, they can really perk up any garden. Just give them plenty of sun light, fertiliser and room to grow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Growing fig at home

Fresh figs are expensive at our stores simply because they are too delicate to transport across the globe. Eating fig is almost a luxury here. Not only are they rarely available, they are usually not lusciously sweet.

Before my friend gave me his fig plant, I had never imagined they'll do so well in Singapore. The plant I have is just about 1.5 metre tall and it takes up very little space. It doesn't require any special attention or care. In less than a year, I have harvested about a dozen plump and delicious figs.

If you're a fig lover like me, you should start growing your own plant at home.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Vine-ripened tomatoes

I leave my tomatoes on the vine until they have turned a deep shade of red because that is when they're so unbelievably sweet and delicious.

I don't pick the fig until it is dark and almost cracking. That is when the flesh is honey sweet and succulent.

Being able to savour my own organic sun-ripened fruits is what makes gardening so rewarding.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Using herbs

What do I do with all the herbs that I grow? I use fresh basil leaves in salads, pasta and pizzas to give the dish some kick!

Herbs like thyme, oregano, sage and rosemary are perfect for marinating roast chicken. Pound a handful of fresh herbs together with garlic, and mix with salt and olive oil to form a paste for rubbing all over the chicken. Let the marinate do its magic for few hours or overnight before putting the chicken in the oven. The chicken will smell and taste fabulous!

If I have too much herbs growing in the garden, I make herb oil and vinegars. It is easier than you think. Just put some fresh herbs in a jar and pour olive oil (room temperature) or warmed vinegar (red wine vinegar or cider vinegar) inside. Shake regularly and they will be ready in 2 weeks.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Four kinds of basil


I normally have Thai basil growing in my patio. They grow so quickly in the hot weather and are useful in Thai dishes like stir fried minced meat.

Recently a friend gave me some sweet basil cuttings (also called Mediterranean basil) and I was surprised they're soing so well in my garden. The recent cool air must have played a part. I should harvest some leaves for making pesto.  With herbs, the more you cut, the bushier they'll get.

The red and green holy basil cuttings from another friend are coming along nicely too. It helped that I let them acclimatise slowly in the shade. Now they're strong enough to go under full sun. These are great with stir fries and have lot of medicinal value if you know how to use them.

It is the first time I have four kinds of basil growing side by side.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Pretty Vegetable flowers

I don't always harvest the vegetables that I grow. If I leave them in the pot long enough, they start to produce flowers. You'll be surprised at how much flowers a small cai xin plant can produce! They so pretty, they really brighten up the garden!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Growing rice

I've always wanted to grow rice at home and wondered if anyone grew rice in Singapore years ago? Afterall, rice farming is practiced in all the neighbouring countries.

I know it's impossible to grow enough for eating in my little backyard but that didn't stop me from trying. I managed to get hold of some rice grains and promptly sowed some in a container at home. The seeds germinated within days and now I have a tiny pot of rice growing at home. It's a dream come true.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Fig is ready

I think I'm just impatient. I keep checking on the figs and waiting for them to ripen that I lost count of the number of days they've been hanging around. It has only been a couple of months since the fruits developed.

While waiting for them to ripen, new ones began popping up along the trunk. Now I have more than a dozen fruits to watch over. Finally, one looks quite ready. It feels a little tender and has turned a shade of pink. I hesitate, wondering if I should wait another day but decide to pick it anyway in case the birds beat me to it.

Now I have one precious fig waiting to be savoured but I'm still thinking how I should eat it. Maybe with cheese and wine? It's so small it'll be gone in a pop.