Balcony potager in August … Indian pennywort …

I had been wanting to write and to share photos of my Indian pennywort for quite some time now … but I could not find the motivation to complete the entry and get it published even though I had started on it months ago.

But after I had realised how my Indian pennywort was thriving in the wet and slightly chilly summer weather here in Lausanne upon my return from Singapore two weeks ago … I felt that I simply had to make an effort to do so.

My first attempt at trying to grow Indian pennywort (or pegaga in my own mother tongue) started nearly two years ago. The desire to try and grow this herb on our balcony was sparked after I stumbled upon articles enumerating the health benefits of eating (or drinking) this salad herbs, which then brought back to memory how I used to pick the pegaga leaves that grew wild at my grandparent’s home in Malacca when I was still very young, … and of how I enjoyed eating them as ‘urap‘ (a kind of salad mixed with grated coconut).

I tried looking for the herb when I went to Singapore for homevisit two years ago but I failed to find any. Not to be deterred, I asked around if any of my gardening buddies had any of the herb or its seeds to share with me, but they did not. So I then surfed the Internet hoping to buy the seeds online. I managed to find a seller located in Spain who was selling the seeds on ebay and promptly ordered the seeds. But I had to wait for more than 2 months before I finally received my seeds as the first batch which the seller claimed to have sent failed to reach me.

So last year, I tried to grow the pennywort seeds. I had read that it is harder to grow from seeds than from runners … but as I was not able to lay my hands on the herb itself, I just had to try growing the seeds instead. Well, I tried twice … but both times the seeds failed to germinate even though I waited a long time.

Disheartened but still determined to grow some Indian pennywort … earlier this year when I went back for homevisit, I made it a point to try and search for the herb again. And this time I was luckier. I found the herbs by chance at two different markets that I visited to get my dried and frozen foodstuff to bring home … finally!! :-)

To raise my chances of bringing them home alive … I planted the first bunch that was bought at least a few weeks earlier in a pot and kept the other that was bought a week before my departure in the fridge … while waiting for the time I could fly home with my precious finds.

SAM_4874.BThis was the first bunch (A) that was planted in a pot. I uprooted the survivors just before leaving and wrapped them in wet newspapers.

SAM_4878BAnd this was the other bunch (B) that had been kept in the fridge. Both were handcarried in a freezer bag to ensure their survival. Once home, I quickly planted them into pots.

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Four days after planting, the runner plants from the first bunch (A) were doing reasonably well.

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However, the same could not be said of those from the second bunch (B). They looked as if they were finding it a struggle to stay alive. Poor babies! :-(

Pots of pegaga

One and a half months later, the As in the black pot continued to grow well. As for the Bs in the brown pot … only a few of the runners survived and the survivors were growing very slowly.

Pennyworts

My two pots of Indian pennyworts, a.k.a pegaga … two weeks later. The ones in the brown pot had finally started to take off … albeit slowly. By June (about 3 months after I had planted the runners), I was finally able to pick a few leaves from the ones growing in the black pot. My first harvest of balcony-grown pegagas … finally! :-)

However, when I suddenly had to leave my babies to go back to Singapore to see to an important matter at the end of June … the survival of the Indian pennyworts during my absence became a concern to me. I did not want to lose them after having gone through a lot of trouble to try and get them. But apart from hoping that the ‘water guy’ would try his best to take care of my babies … there was not much that I could do.

Happily enough … my two pots of Indian pennyworts survived my absence rather well … thanks to the wet July weather while I was away.

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The ones in the black pot were growing out of the pot and had even set roots in the container below it … which means that I now have 3 pots of Indian pennyworts growing on our balcony.

PegagaBut the unexpected surprise came from the ones growing in this brown pot. They looked so green and were simply thriving in this little corner of the balcony just outside our living room.

DSCN2211.BAnd just look at the size of the leaves …  they are quite large, are they not? I had never expected the leaves of this variety of Indian pennyworts (called pegaga kampung in my native language) to grow this big because the ones that I normally saw back in Singapore/Malaysia are much, much smaller.

But hey … I am not complaining. If this is the outcome of all the trouble that I had to go through to get this precious herb salad … then I reckon that it was more than worth the effort! :)

Indian pennyworts

Almost five months later .. the two pots of Indian pennyworts or pegaga (which have given birth to another pot) … spotting a reversal of fortune. Whereas the ones in the black pot on top (A) are now looking a little straggly … the ones in the brown pot below (B) are now looking so lush and healthy!

Hmmm … nature’s imitation of our human lives … do you not think so? ;-)

Previous entries on balcony potager in August:

 

 

 

My forage jaunt in summer …. plum treats in the neighbourhood …

Apart from blackberries and wild herb plants, I also spotted other edible treats during our walk on Swiss National Day. But for a number of them …. summer is not quite the season to be picking them … so I must learn to be patient and to wait for autumn to come before I shall have the pleasure of picking them from the trees.

And as I was strolling home along a stretch of street (while the hubby had to rush home) …

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… I chanced upon this small cherry plum tree at an old block of flats that has been earmarked for redevelopment … but which has lots of fruit trees growing within its small compound.

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I could not resist stopping so as to snap several photos of the lovely looking cherry plums (although I had to refrain myself from trying to pick any as the tree is in a private land even if most of its residents had already moved out) … and, while I was doing so, I was reminded of the small cherry plum tree that I had spotted closer to home just 3 months earlier.

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This was how the small cherry plum tree near home had looked like at the end of May. The branches were literally covered with mini plums. So I was just bidding my time … waiting for the plums to ripen before I would come and pick some to taste.

Unfortunately I was very, very late in coming … having had to make an unplanned trip home to Singapore for more than a month. When I made my way down the small street below us last week to check out on the cherry plum tree …

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… not a single cherry plum (ripe or otherwise) could be seen on this small tree! What poor luck … haizzz. :-(

Still … if one is fated to eat plums, then he or she will! And I believe that I was meant to find and eat free organic plums that day.

While I was looking for some clumps of wild thyme that I had spotted growing around the area before I had left for Singapore almost two months ago, I saw something else that got me all excited.

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I saw this tree just a few metres away from where I was looking around for the wild thyme …

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… and then I caught sight of this. Jackpot … wohooo!!! :-D

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The colour and size might not be the same … but they are still the same kind of fruit … and they are free and they are organic! What more can I ask! hehehe …

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When I approached the tree, I saw that there were quite a number of plums that had already fallen to the ground and some were still in very good condition. So I decided to collect these instead of picking fresh ones from the tree as it would be a pity to leave these to rot. Even while I was picking those on the floor, some fresh ones were falling all on their own from the tree.

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I did not pick a lot … but just enough for us to try … as I knew that I would be going back again to the tree to gather more plums.

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The orphan plum tree as seen from our balcony. All these years that we have been staying here, I had not really noticed nor did I know that this is a plum tree. I had thought that there was no more plum tree in the neighbourhood when the one tree that I had discovered was felled more than two years ago with the rest of the apple trees that had been growing in a small orchard below.

However, I was wrong. And this tree was not the only one in the neighbourhood.

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This is another plum tree … which I found while I was looking at the elderberry trees growing next to it.

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However, unlike the other tree, there are not as many plums for picking from this one. And the tall grasses growing underneath it were also a bit of a turn off. Nevertheless, if I had not found the other tree, I am quite sure that I would still have had a go at picking the plums from this one! :-)

So two days later, I came back to the same tree with proper utensils … and with the hubby in tow.

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While the hubby worked at filling the burlap bag with fresh plums plucked from the tree …

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… I chose to pick those that had fallen to the ground. It would be tempting to ignore them and try to do some plucking of my own … but … they are still good enough to eat and some of these had only just fallen while the hubby and I were gathering the plums. So … why waste, right?

The hubby would have lurved to continue with his picking … but the sky was starting to turn grey and I could feel the humidity in the air, thus indicating that the rain would be paying us a visit soon.

So we reluctantly went home with our small little bounty.

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Okay, not quite a small bounty … as we gathered and picked about 7kg worth of purple plums. :-)

The hubby and I are quite eager to go and pick more plums … but, first, I have to make sure that those that we have picked will not go to waste and left to rot. So I have been surfing the Internet for all the different ways of using these plums and to find out how to store and preserve them.

To date, I have tried my hand at freezing some of them and I have also made plum cake, plum salsa and plum jam. But there are still a few more ideas to try … which should prove quite interesting.

I cannot wait for my next trip down there as I simply lurveee foraging, not you???! :-D

Other entries on foraging

 

My forage jaunt in summer … checking out the berries … !

1st August was Swiss National Day … and as the day was sunny enough, I decided that it would be a perfect day for me to go and do a little foraging. I missed not being able to do so while I was away in Singapore for several weeks … although I have to say that I was very happy to discover two ‘nature’s treasures’ on my recent home visit which are free for the taking! :-)

Anyway, when the hubby told me that he intended to go to Signal de Sauvabelin (a lookout point) to enjoy the lake view from there on Swiss National Day, I decided to come along … so that I could do a little foraging in the nearby woods while we were in the area. Summer is the perfect time to forage for certain fruit and berries … and since I could no longer enjoy picking raspberries from our balcony as their season has finished, I decided that I should try my luck in the woods of Sauvabelin as I had seen a lot of blackberry plants in the midst of flowering when I went there in spring to forage for some elderflowers.

(And if you wonder whether or not I managed to find any elderflowers during my spring forage in the woods … indeed I did. But after having spent hours searching for elderflowers in the woods, I came home only to realise that there were a few elder trees in the midst of flowering growing hidden closer to home! ish, ish, ish … :) )

So, armed with plastic containers to put whatever berries that I might find during my forage, we set out on our walk to Signal de Sauvabelin.

I did not have to walk far before I spotted something that caught my interest very close to home.

No, not berries … but they were also free for the taking, nevertheless!

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I had not noticed them in this particular field before … but after having learnt to identify this particular herb during our excursions to see the narcissi in spring … I am now able to spot this herb a mile away! (errr, okay, that is an exaggeration … but I have no problem spotting and identifying them easily now! ;-) )

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These little plants are wild thyme. Their little lilac flowers are a dead give-away at this time of the year when they are in full bloom.

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I spotted more of them when we were at Signal de Sauvabelin.

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Close-up of the wild thyme in bloom at Signal de Sauvabelin. I just adore the smell of this herb. In fact, I had uprooted some when I first spotted them during our walks to the mountains to check out the narcissus (I went a little over-excited when I first realised what the plant was!) … but the plants did not take off when I planted them in the pot. I tried again when I uprooted some from the ones I spotted in the open area below our place and they did not take off either! Haizzz … so maybe I have to leave them to grow in the wild as their name suggests lah! :-(

And then just before we entered the woods of Sauvabelin, I caught another plant growing on the sides which piqued my interest.

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Covered with small lilac blooms (almost similar to wild thyme), this plant looked very familiar … because I had seen them when I was looking up pictures of wild thyme to verify the identity of the herb that I had spotted.

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And upon smelling them … my guess was right. I had finally managed to find the elusive wild marjoram! What a treat … :-)

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It was tempting to uproot the plant and bring some home to grow but I decided to leave them in peace … for now. Now that I know where to find them, I can always go back if I want to pick them! hehehe …

So did I find my berries on that day?

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Indeed, there were plenty of blackberries … only that most of them had not yet ripen! Except for one or two small bushes.

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But as long as I was able to find some to bring home … I was one happy forager!

SAM_8453AAs this particular bush with some ripen berries was on a steep slope … the hubby had to come to the rescue and he helped me to pick them. But I got to pick some when we found several along a newly discovered path.

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And this was my blackberry bounty for that day. Although they were not that many … but, to me, the day had been a most successful foraging day … because I had found other great stuff as well. In addition to the wild thyme and wild marjoram, I also spotted other nature’s treasures. But that story (and the photos) is for another entry lah.

I think this year has been and will continue to be THE year for foraging for me … as I have spotted a lot of good and free stuff all within walking distance from home! The question now is finding the time and motivation to share the story and photos of all the free treasures that I have been blessed to enjoy this year. However, I shall try my best to do so.

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