Growing up, I seldom get to eat out as my mum and older sisters would tirelessly cook 365 days a year for us all. As they never liked ' diversification ' in their cooking, we got to eat only almost the same types of vegetables everyday - year round. Having left home to be on my own for many years now but being not adventurous myself when it comes to cooking, I have unconsciously picked up their ways of cooking and become a monotonous cook - just like them. Whenever I went to either the wet market or supermarket, it would always be those same types of vegetables that I would pick up and load into my shopping bag or cart every time. I had no interest at all to even hang around a while longer, look for or at , what more try other available vegetables that were on sale. 

Though cooking has never been my passion, nor would it likely become one in the future, I ought to somehow, diversify and be more receptive when it comes to using other types of vegetables in preparing my meals - if I want to be a healthy vegetarian.

My interest in using other types of vegetables in my cooking started last year after my visit to Taiwan. While I was there, I had had the taste of some very exciting vegetables like the Bird's Nest Fern ( Asplenium nidus ) ( which I had blogged about HERE sometime back ), Chayote ( Sechium edule ) fruits and shoots, Hongfeng Cai ( Gynura Bicolor ), Madeira Vine ( Anredera cordifolia ), White Bitter Gourd ( Momordica charantia ), and a few more. Most of them were totally new to me though we do actually have them back here in Malaysia. 

We may not have Bird's Nest Ferns for sale as vegetables at our every day market like in Taiwan, but we do have plenty of them around us. They could be found growing wild or cultivated as ornamental plants everywhere around our houses, jungles, parks and even roadsides. So, it is pretty easy to get some of their young fronds as vegetables.

Bird's Nest Fern

While it is very easy to find Chayote gourds ( fruits ) and shoots for sale at most Malaysian markets, it is most difficult to find its shoots ( especially ) for sale at my place in Ipoh - meaning that, if I want to eat its shoots while I am in Ipoh, I have got to grow the plant myself. My crave for its tasty shoots and leaves had made me, without much thought, sacrificed one good, fresh fruit some time back. I had had a whole fresh fruit buried into the soil at my backyard planter in the hope to have a plant up. But, sadly, nothing has comes up from it and I gave up completely on the hope to grow one since then. So, last week, when I saw the Chayote fruit which my fourth sister had bought the week before has sprouted on her kitchen floor where it was placed, I had the most happy surprise of my life! I will have it planted in the soil at my backyard the next time I go back. Hope it would still be fine to plant then.

The sprouted Chayote fruit. ( No picture of the plant to show yet )

Regular readers of my blog would have known that I have had Gynura bicolor and Madeira Vine planted at my backyard for quite some time now. The reason why I planted them is because they are not easily available - whether at my place in Ipoh or Kuala Lumpur. I have harvested them a good number of times since planting ( the Gynura bicolor leaves especially ). They may not be the most impressive vegetables of all in terms of taste and texture but I love them nonetheless.

The Gynura bicolor plant.

The Madeira Vine

Bitter gourd is one of the few types of vegetables I used to eat since young. I mean the green variety. I was totally unaware of the availability of the white variety. In fact, I had never come across it until I went to Taiwan last year. There, I had seen it being sold at most wet markets and on the menu of almost every Chinese food restaurants. Its pearl white, smooth-skinned fruits looked and still look very appetizing and pretty to me. Back here in Malaysia, I had not seen anyone selling its fruits until a few months back when I happened to stumble upon a family of three selling their limited White Bitter Gourd produce at the Taman Muda, Ampang, wet market. I had bought a few fruits from them in the hope to get some seeds to start my own plants. Unfortunately, all of them were not mature enough. I gave up on the hope to grow one until recently when my fourth sister was given a mature fruit from a very kind man near the market. The seeds from the fruit seemed mature enough and so, I dried and saved them all for later planting. Last few days, I tested with five of the many seeds to see if they are viable. And guess what? They have all sprouted! I have yet to ponder over what to do next with all these wonderful little SURPRISES!

The White Bitter Gourd sprouts. ( No picture of the fruit or plant to show yet )

All for now. Thank you for reading this! Bye!

Sometimes A Simple Mugful Of Fern And Moss IS ALL That Is Needed

I have been quite down and rather indifferent to a lot of things recently. I am pretty much aware that I need some kind of happy booster - to turn myself around - to be my usual cheerful self and keen on things again. 

So, I decided to get some fresh, new stuffs on my work table this morning. I went down the stairs to the garden below my home with a set of fork and spoon and an old lunch box in hand. I headed straight to the shaded, wet spots under the Manila palms where I have always sighted ferns and moss growing in abundance. I used the spoon to scrape a few patches of moss off the ground and guided them into the lunch box with the help of the fork. Then, I chose a small-sized fern, gently pulled it out from the soil with my hand and put it on top of the moss inside the lunch box to be brought home.

Back home, I took out a defective, white porcelain mug from the kitchen cabinet and filled it with some soil. I dug a small hole in the soil with the spoon and gently placed the fern into the hole. After that, I wholly-covered the surrounding bare soil with the patches of moss ( moss carpets ) using the set of fork and spoon. I spotted a worm or two wriggling on the underside of the moss. I let them be at where they were. They would not wriggle out of the mug as long as their food source is in there.  Finally, when all were done, I sprinkled some rainwater which I had collected earlier for my previously potted moss ( rainwater is best for moss growth ) onto the mugful of fern and moss. 

Then, I placed it on my work table with a smile on my face. I stepped back and admired my new, simple little creation. My heart sang a little in joy just then. Who would have thought that a simple mugful of green fern and moss could be that ' refreshing ' - to me, at least?

Even Happy Plants Failed To Cheer

I was very much in a mixed of emotions when I went back to Ipoh last week to vote in The 14th. Malaysian General Election ( GE14 ). I was very excited about the long-awaited election though it was not my first time voting. In the midst of my excitement, my heart was somehow, still saddened at the loss of someone whom I have always regarded as my teacher, who passed away two days before the election after battling with cancer for a few months.May he be reborn among the lotuses in the pond of the seven gems in The Land Of Ultimate Bliss - The Western Pureland ). The GE14 results which were completely out the next morning did lift my mood quite a bit but not much, it seemed. My heart still feels the pain and sadness.

At my backyard...

The two Winter Melon plants were very showy with some pretty, bright yellow, cheery blooms on them. I could be getting some fruits if I'm lucky since they do not need to involve pollinator insects or other manual interventions to pollinate and set fruits.

The two Butterfly Pea Plants had already found and trailed up the fence. There were some pretty, bright indigo-blue blooms here and there though there is only one visible in the picture below.

I had harvested some Basil leaves and brought them back to Kuala Lumpur for my fourth sister.

The Madeira Vine had finally stopped flowering. Lots of new leaves were formed. Hopefully, there would be enough for harvest the next time I go back.

At my front yard...

The Sweet Potato plants ( vines ) were growing very happily, it seemed. They spread very quickly and had covered-up almost the whole of the planter. I did not harvest any of their tasty leaves this time in the hope to get some big, healthy tubers some time later.

Some of the Turmeric plants had grown very well and were taller than the Sweet Potato plants; while some seemed to have ' drowned ' and were not visible at all from the top of the planter. Hope they are fine nevertheless.

I usually found solace in watching plants whenever I feel down. But not quite this time - even amidst all those happy plants at both my back and front yards. I guess I need a little bit more time to cheer up and feel alright again... 

Suntanning No More, Hopefully...

I often tell myself that if I do not want to get sunburn or suntan, I should go out and work in the garden, only when the rising sun is not yet hot or after the sun has set behind my back neighbour's house,  But then, time and again, whenever I managed to find the time to stay at home, I am often just too excited about the garden; so intensely excited that I would go out instantly whenever I feel like it, either to do some harvesting, planting, trimming or weeding or simply to watch my plants - regardless of whether the sun is scorching hot or not. 

I always let my impulse be excused FOR ONE LAST TIME. " Alright! Only for today. Never again tomorrow! " I always promise myself. But then, that one last time is never really the last time and that tomorrow never seems to come.

Even though it is merely thrice or so times each month ( being out there in the garden under the hot sun ), and has spanned less than a year so far, with each time lasting for only a short two to three hours,  it has somehow a rather, significantly and sufficiently suntanned my skin almost permanently. I am most worried that in no time I would be as ' black ' as a piece of charcoal ( a bit of exaggeration here though ) and people may mistaken me for someone from some similar colour-skinned race!

I have always loved and used to working in the garden wearing my usual, casual short-sleeved t-shirt and short pants. But since I find it extremely hard adhering to the more appropriate gardening time ( when the sun is more gentle ) and do not wish to be suntanned in any way, I have got no choice but to change my usual gardening outfit completely so that I would be more well-protected from the hot sun.

So, I unhesitatingly bought a big straw hat and took out some of my old, long-sleeved shirts and pants from my ready-for-recycle clothes wardrobe compartment yesterday - all of which would be brought back to my holiday home where my small backyard garden is sometime next week - FOR A COMPLETE CHANGE!

Hopefully, these new outfits and protection means would prevent my skin from tanning further...