Sunday, 30 August 2015

Young Celtuce or Wo Sun Plant
Spring Celtuce Harvest

Last year we discovered a pack of interesting seeds for a Chinese vegetable in a small Asian grocery store. Of course the seeds left the store with us... No regrets. The first crop of this splendid Asian green was a delight and lasted but a short time in our garden.

This season represents our second season of growing celtuce. Sadly, our packet seeds were no longer viable but we were saved by the emergence of two plants, which self-seeded in our gravel pathway (of all places!) in the autumn. These plants are now ready for picking.
Notice the emerging stem

In their first incarnation we harvested the plants while still young in a similar way to Yau Mak or Choy Sum. However, we have learned from a recent culinary experience in China that celtuce plants can provide two vegetables. Rather than pulling the young plants, the leaves can be harvested as required and, as the stems lengthen, the mature vegetables can be trimmed, sliced and then cooked similarly to celery.

The plant grows relatively easily but it appears that the seed needs to be relatively fresh to germinate effectively, sprouting best in the autumn months. Celtuce is known as Wo Sun in Chinese. 

Needless to say we will be returning to that Asian grocery store to buy a new seed packet of this tasty vegetable.
Ready for the pan

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Is this the Tastiest of Vegetables?

Can't wait! The little heads of green are starting to develop! 

I am referring to Yau Mak, a type of small lettuce which make the most anticipated stir-fried vegetables. Stir-fried yau mak is common throughout the restaurants of Malaysia. Luckily, here in Australia, we can purchase the seed stock of this delicious vegetable... Simply seek out Little Gem lettuce seeds. I have purchased these on-line but they can also be found in a leading hardware supply store. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, you cannot purchase the fresh lettuce heads of Little Gem in supermarkets or fruit shops.

Yau Mak is easy to grow. Simply keep it well-fertilised and weed-free, and it will reward you with small, tight hearts of its crisp, sweet leaves. At this time of year, it will require plenty of sunlight to produce its best plants, but succession crops in the hotter parts of our year will appreciate the morning sun and a little more shade. As your crop matures retain your best plant or two. Allow the plants to self-seed, and you will receive a bounty of new yau mak seedlings when the time is right for seed germination.

So, how to cook it? There is a plethora of simple recipes on-line. Our favourite is to stir-fry the leaves
with garlic and a little salt so that you can appreciate the wonderful flavour of the crispy leaves. Furthermore, the addition of a little oyster sauce is a great option. 

When our picking season begins I will post a simple yau mak recipe.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

First Signs of Spring
The grip of winter is beginning to loosen, and with the warming weather the first little grevillea flowers are beginning to show. This planting of grevillea shrubs might seem a strange choice for a Malaysian-style sub-tropical garden. However, we planted these as a means of attracting native birds and animals to our small garden.

G. 'Mini Marvel'
G. 'Red Clusters'
Included in this blog article is a selection of smaller grevilleas which provide late winter colour to the garden. Given the chance to grow unimpeded, these plants would make sizeable shrubs of up to about one metre in height and spread. However, we clip our grevilleas after flowering at the end of spring and again at the end of autumn. This regular pruning maintains the compactness of our plants and reinvigorates them, producing plenty of new leaf and two flushes of intense colour each year: the plants are given no chance to become sparse and woody in nature.
Grevillea lanigera lutea

Other than regular pruning, grevilleas require little other maintenance. Just keep them weed free. For us grevilleas grow well in our heavy clay soils where other native wildflowers have failed. For this reason we intend to seek out other smaller grevillea varieties as understorey plants. Let's hope our local birds enjoy our little grevilleas just as they enjoy our larger varieties... a blog for later! 


G. 'Woolly Bush'