Sunday, 13 March 2016

Water-Loving Laksa Leaf

I rarely buy a potted herb on impulse… there are some herbs which will run rampant through a garden, given half a dose of water… I am thinking members of the mint family at the moment… whereas others will ‘turn up their toes’ if their growing conditions are not absolutely correct, leaving you with a patch of shrivelled brown.

In establishing our garden fish pond three and a half years ago, I wanted to grow one Asian aquatic plant which could be utilised in the kitchen. After a lot of reading, I decided to experiment with daun laksa (Vietnamese Mint) … and the experiment has been largely successful.

Daun Laksa (Persicaria odorata) will survive in a fish pond. However, in a filtered fish pond, the plant might not find sufficient nutrients for its needs. This is indicated by the development of small leaves, lacking the true colours of the plant. In fact, in its micro-environment in our garden, the plant grows most healthily where it has escaped the pond, running on to the pond margins, under the cover of a native grevillea.

In recent weeks, I have continued the experiment with the laksa leaf, by taking cuttings. The first cuttings were placed in small pots with the addition of some organic fertiliser and put into a shallow area of the pond. These cuttings failed.

A second set of cuttings, however, were successful. They were potted identically and covered with an up-ended halved water bottle and left in a shady area. These were given daily water until roots formed. New vegetative shoots indicated that the plants were succeeding. Only at this time were the little plants placed in the pond where they continued to send out new growth… The strongest plant has since been transferred to our kitchen garden where it appears to be living happily with a rice paddy plant, kangkung, lemon grass and chives. Under the shade of a kaffir lime tree and given daily watering it should grow happily in its new location.

For us, the daun laksa is largely an ornamental plant, due to its striking, green and chestnut lance-shaped leaves. In the past we have used it to make the famous laksa of Malaysia and a Thai salad which requires the leaf. In addition, we sometimes use it as one of the ingredients of rice paper rolls (popiah).

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

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