Sour Fruits




















In the ayurvedic system, you are required to identify your psycho-physiological type and then to eat the kinds of of food that complement or enhance it. These foods then fall into the category of the six tastes, sweet, salty, sour, astringent, bitter and pungent. I've been reminded in the short time since I've returned how prevalent sour flavours are here in the diet. Apart from the frequent use of the local Calamansi limes and preference for eating both ripe and unripe fruits- things like mangoes are often eaten green and unripe and very sour, dipped in salt or salty soy sauce, there are also a number fruits that are used in cooking to specifically impart a sour taste.

On the right is Assam Belimbing or Averrhoa Bilimbing which I'm not so familiar with although its used in a variety of ways both cooked and raw. It has the acidity of a gooseberry and the mouth feel of a kiwi fruit. On the left is dried Assam Keping or Assam Gelugor or Garcinia Atroviridis which is much more prevalent and is used as a flavoring agent to make curries or laksas sour, particularly those that involve seafood. The most common sour fruit which I haven't photographed although I will do at some point is Tamarind, also known as Assam Jawa. You can probably deduce that the word assam means sour.

In the Ayurvedic pharmacology of sour taste or Amal Rasa, the properties of this taste stimulate the brain and digestive system. Translated into more western conventions, sour fruits are high in antioxidants and their acidic nature enables antifungal , antimicrobial, fat burning and even anti tumor properties.

Tropical Shift


Well. Things have taken an unexpected turn. Due to family circumstances I have returned home to Malaysia indefinitely. So The Occasional Gardener takes on a tropical twist. On my first outing with the camera I found some great subjects in my dad's garden- the crabclaws, and also on the street outside- the mimosa, a weed. Some things don't change- I'm drawn to both plants in the home garden as well as the plants that thrive without a gardener. I also hope to be spending some time in botanical gardens and snooping on neighborhood ones too.

Rose Barlow


I planted the seeds for Rose Barlow, last spring but she delayed her arrival to this one and it's been worth the wait. Tall sylph like legs and a pink puff of double petalled blooms, she's a marked contrast to the surly Black Barlow.

The clump of Black Barlow in the South West bed began petering our last summer - they seemed to have lost their vigor, barely making it to half their previous height. Moving a couple of the plants over to the North East bed seems to have re invigorated them- there's a couple of healthy new ones but I do miss the dramatic combination they made with the Spirea.

Rocking the Quarter Moon

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We finally did it- the quarter moon, a small quadrant patch that's been left for years unplanted mainly because I couldn't really figure out what to put in it is now 'done'. I finally figured out what to do with it after piecing together two things- the two stone/concrete planters pictured above, have spent a few years happily housing some succulents that thrived there on bare rock and a pinch of soil. Succulents it turns out are also Heidi's favorite plants, she always oohs over them at the nursery. It made sense then to just turn this whole area into a rock garden with succulents with the added practical addition of the woody herbs from the vegetable garden, that don't always make it through the winter. Two of them have done really well for a few years, the golden oregano and the lemon thyme and it hasn't escaped me that they thrive on the very edge of the vegetable beds which probably keeps their feet nice and dry. So dry + stony + succulents + woody herbs = mediterranean, desert-ish low maintenance rock garden.

Easier said than done, we had to dig fairly deep to make sure it was going to be well drained- this part of the garden gets a lot of water when it rains hard. Some frantic googling and reading to figure out how to prepare the bed for maximum drainage- and I wanted it to slope so- we had to wrap our brains around that. Then we had to get the stones and rocks. With Jim's expert guidance- I decided to mix 3 different kinds of stones to emulate the color variation that's occuring in the walls. It was no mean feat explaining to the nursery staff that we wanted to mix the stones and then only wanting 3/4 (not a half or a full yard which is 'how they do it"). Jim set the edging stones and I experimented with different recipes for mixing the stones- to get the 'look' right- its's amazing how difficult it is to get something to look 'natural'.

The planting was easy- herbs towards the front and succulents everywhere else. I echoed the range of color thats in the other beds a range between dark burgundy succulents and lemony lime greens. The result- it rocks- it finally finishes that part of the garden so at a macro level it works really well. What I didn't anticipate was the effectivenes of the scale- although I planned that it would be almost a minaiture garden, I didn't fully appreciate how attractive this would be and how it slows you down and makes you take it in more closely.
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