Thursday, 24 November 2016

Chekur: A Ginger Experiment

So, what is the favourite herb of the Better-Half?

It is Chekur (or Cekur).

Chekur (Kaempferia galanga) is a member of the ginger family of plants. Unlike common ginger root, Chekur root is very difficult to locate in Sydney… In fact, we have never seen it in any Sydney market or fruit-and-vegetable store.

Therein lies the basic problem for a woman of Peranakan heritage: you cannot have Hainanese Chicken Rice without the Chekur: for her, it is just not Chicken Rice.... although common ginger will suffice.

Necessity being the mother of invention, the Better-Half found a solution. During our holidays in Malaysia over the past few years, she has ventured to the Klang markets to purchase a kilogram of her precious ingredient. The Chekur is then fried, until fragrant, in a goodly amount of oil, with a little salt added, and bottled for the return journey. In line with Australia’s strict quarantine laws, upon declaration, cooked gingers are permitted entry through Australian Customs, whereas the unprocessed roots are not: they will be confiscated.

This spring, we discussed the purchase of a growing Chekur root from a Queensland tropical herb nursery. In deciding to go ahead with the purchase, we surmised that the Chekur should sprout just like our other gingers, largely unaffected by Sydney’s cooler weather. So, ahead we went, adding a root of Thai Krachai to the interstate shipment.

The dormant rhizomes arrived in September. We immediately potted them up, keeping them relatively dry during the cooler weather of September and October. When the warmer days of November rolled along, the Chekur was planted in its growing position under our jackfruit tree. Even then, we could see that the little knobby buds were beginning to develop on the rhizome… anticipation of things to come!

A Chekur rhizome with its first buds apparent

Over the past week, the Chekur has put out its first rosette of ground-hugging leaves… and every morning, I go out to check it, only to find that it has been buried under a layer of mulch by our marauding blackbirds, seeking out juicy garden worms. The ‘demulching’ of the Chekur has become a morning ritual, requiring an innovation, the construction of a little mesh cover to prevent damage from the scratching and scrounging of the blackbird family.

First shoots appear

Exhibiting some 'scratch' marks, but nevertheless quite healthy

With some good fortune, we will have plentiful supplies of Chekur in years to come. Not only is it an important ingredient of the famous Hainanese Chicken Rice, but also a valuable component of stir-fried and roast chicken dishes… Ground Chekur is also an excellent partner for pork.

A temporary cover to dissuade the marauding blackbirds

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Asparagus Pea

A recent experiment in our garden was the planting of Asparagus Peas. Apparently, Asparagus Peas originated in North West Africa. However, they will grow readily in temperate climates similar to Sydney's as a spring planting. They are a low growing spreading plant, useful not only for their pods, but also as a pretty, red-flowered ground cover or border plant.

Asparagus Peas can be used as a productive ground cover or edging plant

Ours were planted last spring, dawdling along and producing few pods. With the advent of spring this year, the plants burst into renewed vigour, producing a multitude of attractive red flowers and tasty pods. Beware… you must harvest the little pods when they are young and tender. Otherwise, they will become pale in colour and rather hard, tough and stringy, past being crunchy and delicious.

Plant your Asparagus seeds when the weather improves in Spring

Flavour-wise, they are like asparagus, as their common name suggests. I found them enjoyable, simply microwaved with an added dollop of melted butter and some white pepper.

As the season progresses, allow some of your older pods to mature and dry. Then, collect the seed for next spring’s planting.

The attractive flowers of the Asparagus Pea

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden...

Saturday, 5 November 2016


November is an exciting time in the Sydney garden. Planting of summer vegetables takes place, there is an abundance of spring vegetables and the mango trees complete their flowering and set their fruit.

In the case of the mangoes, the season is a little delayed in this area. Our trees are still in heavy flower as a result of two less than usual events in recent months...

Panicle of Maha Chanok seedling tree in heavy flower... November 3.

Firstly, in June, after some unseasonally warm weather, bunches of precocious flowers were removed from our Maha Chanok seedling tree... fearing that the tree would attempt to set fruit in the middle of winter! Regardless, the tree has been in very heavy flower this year, its fifth year since planting.

Conversely (and secondly), throughout early Spring (September and October), we have experienced cooler weather than recent years. As a result, our mango trees are still under heavy flower, in the first stage of fruit set. This contrasts with the past two years when the Maha Chanok seedling tree had set many juvenile fruit.

First fruits setting on Maha Chanok seedling tree... November 3.

Encouragingly, our Harumanis seedling tree is enjoying its first flowering, three years from planting. A sturdy young tree, with a little luck, the Harumanis may set one or two fruits in its first season... time will tell!

Harumanis seedling tree enjoying its first flowering season... November 5

Harumanis seedling tree... November 3

For a comparison between this season's flowering and the past two seasons, check the mango label above, and scroll to past 'Mango Flowering' posts. 

Wishing you hours of enjoyment and contentment in your garden…