Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fruit of the Month - Black Jack Figs

It is that time once again, to drape the net over the fig tree. The birds are pecking at the fruits even as the skin of the fig fruits are starting to split, signaling time to reduce water to the plant. The Black Jack Figs plant is one of the most prolific fruit plant in my garden. It produces 2 crops a year. I rooted 2 cuttings in early spring for my garden in the new house in Temecula. (Incidentally, the wall garden  for my tropical garden in the new house is up !) I was surprised the other day by a delicious purple fig at the top of one of the cuttings. Yes, it is that easy to propagate a fig tree. The Black Jack Fig is a large purple longish purple fruit with a strawberry red flesh - sweet and juicy. Figs in the market is never as good as from your own garden when you can pick it when it is fully ripe. I like to pick it when it almost falls into my hand when I pluck it ..... but as you can see I am not able to wait sometime. The problem with waiting for optimum ripeness is that the birds might beat you to it even with the net over the tree. For me in San Diego it fruits from July through October and sometimes November. The beauty of this plant is at summer end, when all the eating is done, baby embryonic figs form like bumps on branches, letting you know here's your next crop. In spring it swells up with warmer temperature.

I recently read in an Italian cookbook I bought, how the author's mom used to pluck a fig leaf and use it to stir warm milk making a soft cheese. The `milky sap' of the fig tree acts as a renin used in cheese making. I am going to try it soon!

8/7/11 Tree laden with fruits

Fruits of Neglect

A garden is both resilient and fragile at the same time. Luckily for me, although 2011 is probably the year I most neglected my garden in the past 10 years, it continued to reward me with fruits and seedlings. Notably missing this year is my Manila Mango which was setting fruit during the heat wave while I was away. Most of the fruit did not set. However, my garden's rewards is motivating me to steal time form my impossibly busy schedule to get my hands dirty.

Thompson grapes

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tomato Coconut Drumstick Curry

Lucky me! I was about to walk out of the Indian grocery store when I saw a beautiful sight - a gorgeous pile of drumstick (botanical name: Moringa Oliefera) My Indian friends call them -Munaga Kaaya). They were absolutely fresh and long- possibly the longest drumsticks I have ever  come across! I grew up eating drumstick in Malaysia. My artichoke before I knew about artichoke.

Drumstick is the seed pod of a tropical tree. The seed pod are long. Some of  the pods I purchased this time were over long as 3ft!! Longer, than any I have ever seen in Malaysia. The vendor tells me in India, they have even longer drumsticks. The pods have a triangle cross section, splits open to 3 sections with a pulpy interior with winged seeds. When cooked, you scrap the delicious pulp against your teeth like an artichoke leaf, discard the hard outer skin. I remember a rented house we lived in for awhile, where the landlord would come each month to harvest the drumstick and collect the rent. You know me - at this point, I am not just thinking about eating the drumsticks but growing them!! A healthy bundle of drumstick followed me home............

Normally, I would cook the drumstick in a sambar/ dhall type curry. I decided I wanted to try something a little different. I remembered a tomato based drumstick curry I used to eat in Malaysia. A quick harvest of curry leaves from my garden, tomatoes purchased from the Farmers Market a few days ago and frozen grated fresh coconut from the freezer and I was on my way. I served it with Basmati Pilaf

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tuscan Kale Chips

I was at the Farmers Market two weeks ago when I saw some gorgeous Tuscan Kale. I decided to finally try making Tuscan Kale Chips that have been popularized by Bona Appetit magazine. I am sharing the Bona Appetit link but really it could not be simpler. It is literally: -

12 Tuscan Kale leaves, rinsed, dried, cut lengthwise in half, remove center rib and stem, toss in 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, arrange in single layer on 2 baking sheet, roast in preheated 250F oven for 30-33 minutes. Thank you, Bona Appetit - it is ingenius!

I love that this healthy snack is baked instead of fried. During one of last trips back to Malaysia, I snacked on Fried Spinach (Bayam) chips. Spinach leaves were deep fried- utterly delicious but not so healthy. I think I will try to bake some Spinach leaves next and see how it compares with the fried version. For your information, the Baked Tuscan Kale Chip has the texture and taste a bit like Nori (seaweed).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Flowering despite neglect.........

I realize that I have not posted anything for awhile but I just wanted to share some pictures of the beautiful Dragon Fruit Flower in my garden this morning. I had vaguely noticed that the Dragon Fruit ( Pitaya) plant was sprouting some buds recently. This morning, I took a quick stroll through my neglected garden and was rewarded with this breathtaking display. The plant had actually fallen down during a windstorm recently, and I had yet to upright it. Despite the neglect, it has numerous buds on it. So far, despite flowers previous seasons, it has yet to form the Dragon Fruit. Hopefully, this year will be the Year!