Tuesday, 12 November 2013

So what is Cassava?

I love cassava. I love growing it, I love eating it, I love looking at it. I also love tapioca, yuca and manioc - although it doesn't really matter as they all refer to the same plant.

Freshly harvested cassava

 How cassava is usually available in Australia - frozen

The attractive foliage of the cassava plant

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, cassava is the world's third most widely grown source of carbohydrates, after rice and corn. Millions survive on this plant alone everyday. It is drought, heat, wind tolerant and will grow in very poor and polluted soils, making it invaluable to communities around the world. Yet despite its popularity worldwide, it is relatively unknown here in Australia.

Cassava is grown primarily for its tuberous roots. These roots are boiled, baked, fried or ground into flour. It is used both like a potato and as a dessert ingredient in many regional dishes. In fact, one of the most common uses for it is fufu, the cassava-equivalent of mashed potato (see the recipe below). 

Cassava has a wonderful taste, slightly nutty and richer than potatoes. 

French fries .. with cassava. This is how it's done in the Caribbean. Yum!

Anyone who has lived in the tropics for some time will be familiar with this plant. It has an attractive, dark green pinnate leaf which is held on the plant by a contrasting bright red stem (it almost has the appearance of marijuana!). The plant grows to about 2 metres tall very rapidly. Cassava is bushy and makes a great ornamental garden subject, even if not grown to eat.

I first became familiar with cassava while living in Cuba, where it is known as Yuca. There it is often boiled and eaten as a side dish to meat in place of rice.

I have cassava plants available for sale in Sydney. They have been growing here for several years and are thus more acclimatised to cooler weather. Plants can be sent interstate when required.

 
A selection of my cassava plants for sale. They can be mailed interstate.

Fufu Cassava Recipe (from the Congo, Africa)
  • Place peeled cassava (it's easy to peel, just split the skin with a knife and it peels off easily) in large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil and cook until the cassava is soft (maybe half an hour). Remove pot from heat and cool with running water. Drain. Add butter. Put cassava in a bowl (or back in the empty pot) and mash with a potato masher, then beat and stir with a wooden spoon until completely smooth. This might take two people: one to hold the bowl and the other to stir.
  • Shape the  resulting mixture (fufu) into balls and serve immediately with meat stew or any dish with a sauce or gravy. To eat it, tear off a small handful with your fingers and use it to scoop up your meat and sauce.

 Traditional way of preparing fufu with cassava - certainly one way to catch up with friends!

Friday, 4 October 2013

Growing Pandan in Sydney

I first grew Pandan in Cairns before bring cuttings down to Sydney. They can be grown here but need extra care in the cooler months.

Basically, the first winter will be the hardest on them as they have not had time to adjust to cooler weather. It is important to keep them very dry and as warm as possible - such as under the eaves on the north side of the house. The leaves will yellow, but that is just a response to cooler temperatures, and will still be good for use in cooking. Some of the older leaves may even go a bit brown and die off. That doesn't matter, as long as the roots and growing tips are OK, they will sprout back when the weather is warmer.


Some people even bring them in the house over winter. A bright spot in the bathroom is ideal.


Pandan is used primarily in Asian cooking. It has a fresh, nutty and delicate fragrance and is popular in many desserts. Another trick is to cut off a leaf, tie it in a knot, and throw it in the rice cooker when you boil rice. The leaf is removed after cooking and it really enhances the taste of the rice.

Additionally, Pandan leaves can be thrown in a kettle and made in to a tea (very much like tea leaves). The only difference is that Pandan is best used fresh and does not have to be dried. 

Pandan has various non-cooking uses too. A leaf tied to the airconditioner  in the car will provide a nice fragrance, and the leaves are often left in wardrobes to absorb bad odors while simultaneously releasing an attractive one!

If you are interested in Purchasing a large Pandan plant here in Sydney, please contact me on 0420 597 796.

                                                             Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

That time of year again..

It's that time of year when the heliconias start flowering.

In my garden, Heliconia angusta 'Red Christmas' is always the first one to flower in spring. This works out well, as it provides some much needed color while the other heliconias are recovering from winter and sending out new growth.


The plant is easy to grow here in Sydney, and the flowers are very long lasting, often for several months. I find that it prefers cool, moist spots - if treated like a fern, it really thrives. (I previously had it in a hot, sunny spot and it never looked very happy - only flowering once!) 


I try to keep it moist, and although it often dries out, the plant requires very little in the way of care or attention to look good. This plant is about 2 years old, and was quite small when I got it.It is a clumper, not a spreader, and gets to a height of slightly over one metre while maintaining a compact form. Unlike the psittacorum heliconias, the flowers tend to be at foliage level, not protruding above it.

Happy gardening!


Saturday, 7 September 2013

The winter that never came..

I haven't posted in a while and that's because the garden has kept me very busy over 'winter'. We had a warm and very dry winter in Sydney so things kept growing and wilting...necessitating mucho work on my behalf.

Looking great at this time of year is the King Orchid. An Australian native, this orchid flowers in late winter with sprays of creamy-yellow blooms with a distinct nutmeg-like scent (interesting it is much stronger early in the morning).


 The King Orchid can be grown in a tree as it does in its natural environment. It can also be planted in the ground or a pot if preferred.




The King Orchid prefers a subtropical climate - it struggles in the persistent heat of the true tropics and dislikes the cold. It blooms copiously with little care - tough as old boots.

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Crazy for pineapples

While the garden has been slowing down, I've taken a well-deserved break and concentrating on interior design. Here is a sample of some of the things I have got.



First is an embroidered cushion. The artwork is derived from a postage stamp from Costa Rica. My Spanish comes in handy here and the words translate to: "The national agricultural, husbandry and industrial festival in Cartago, 1950". The motiff is a beautiful pineapple plant bearing fruit. It is a beautiful feature cushion.


Secondly, I got my hands on this gold-plated (that is gold color, not actual gold!) vintage pineapple plate. I am unsure if I'll put it on it's own little stand or find a cosy spot above a doorway for it :)

I always ensure my home decor reflects my passion for the outdoors and tropical plants :)

Monday, 10 June 2013

Palm removal

A few days ago, we awoke to a flurry of activity in the street. Before long the noise of chainsaws pierced the usual morning tranquility (when its not otherwise pierced by planes flying to the airport). I followed the sound to a neighboring palm tree (Syagrus romanzoffiana) where the palm was being prepared for removal.


 

(Note the figure in foliage)

Below is a visual of the palm removal:

Fronds are removed one by one


 



The growing tip is removed




The trunk is removed in sections

The Queen Palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) is a very resilient palm and thrives everywhere from the far north to the island of Tasmania. Although widely planted throughout last century, their copious production of seed and habit of holding dead fronds mean they have lost popularity. Fruit bats have dispersed the seeds in bushland in South-East Queensland and Northern New South Wales, and as a result the palm is regarded as a weed there. As the palm has basically fallen out of fashion, magnificent specimens are being removed from all over the city. Its a shame; the palms add height and structure to the skyline and pose little real threat to our biodiversity when compared to things such as land clearing and construction. 

Fashions come and go and for now, the Queen Palm is out.

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Typical Sydney houses

The garden is settling in to winter-mode and it means I can take a break from the big projects I've done over summer. It's a nice break. So today I'm taking a break from the garden to show you something else that I really enjoy - architecture, especially anything heritage and historic. I really want to talk a little about the typical Sydney terrace house because there doesn't seem to be any blogs talking about them and I want to show visitors from abroad how we live here. Oh and I almost forgot - I live in one and they are really great!

Most houses within a 4 kilometre radius from the Sydney CBD are terrace houses. They look like this:


Note the balcony balustrade is what we call "iron lace". The eaves are also decorated with a line of (smaller) iron lace.



Some have rear lane access, but for those that don't, there are practical considerations, namely "where can I keep my garbage bins?"

On the footpath, of course


  Single-storey terrace versions (and these are considered fairly wide - double windows!)



This morning Mr. J. and I decided to inspect an open house not far from ours. It is the second from the right in the photo below:


Inside, there were a lot of features typical of Sydney terraces, such as fireplaces..


 

Beautiful archways with ornate moldings (if you look close enough they are bunches of grapes, actually)

Old light switches with VJ walls and more iron fences


The rear of the property.You can see at least 5 other properties in this photo.


These houses were built in the late 1800s house mainly for poor workers. They were often crowded and soon became known as 'slums'. Attempts were made to demolish most of them (in fact after 1900 terrace houses were banned from being built) but due to their superior construction (double brick) and desirable locations, most have survived today. Actually not only have they survived, they have become Sydney's most desired and most expensive homes. 

Australians from outside Sydney (along with foreigners) often wonder why the new settlers, surrounded by some much space, decided to build houses that were so narrow (many range in width from 3.7m to 5.5m). Back then transport wasn't readily available and people needed to live close to where they worked, and these houses took up little space.

On that point, here is the outline from the house we saw today, which is pretty typical of terrace design (this one is 3.7m wide):

There's something almost obscene about paying close to and over $1million for places that were once two-room slums. But that's the Sydney property market. The terrace house is unique in Sydney (few exist elsewhere in Australia) and it oozes charm with its ornate, 1800s Victorian-features. A very typically 'Sydney' way of living.

Hope you enjoy seeing the local architecture!







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