Gac, Momordica cochinchinensis, is a tropical fruit related to bitter melon (M. charantia). I saw my first gac on sale in a tea plantation in Srimangal, Bangladesh. Native from SE Asia and China through Indonesia to far northern Queensland, gac is a traditional food and medicinal plant.
A taste of summer from Bellis, a sustainable house and garden in drought-affected subtropical Brisbane: 108 edibles available for my kitchen.
“Dear Jerry, my cocoa plants are infected with black pod disease. They are cropping OK, but can I do anything to improve their health?”, asks Peter in Townsville, Australia.
Hi Peter, Phytophthora is primarily a root rot disease and it can spread throughout a plant using the vascular system. Some plants are more susceptible than others and there may be multiple host plant species in your garden.
Certain types of Phytophthora can devastate entire landscapes (like Jarrah dieback, P. cinnamomi) and ruin orchards. This disease is recognised by conservationists as a key threatening process, it cannot be eradicated so you manage it.
If you want protein-rich pigeon peas by the bucketful, grow them in drought. And plant pigeon peas for food, shade, shelter, forage and bees. Grow them in a school food garden to discover which species of native bee live in the vicinity. Use this food plant as a school science project!
Help! The fruit on my lemon are distorted and covered in ugly warts. What’s gone wrong? Can my tree be saved? Is there an organic remedy? Answer: An infectious fungal disease called lemon scab is responsible. And yes, this infection can be defeated organically and in more than one way.
Pandan (Pandanus amarylliifolius) has long been a staple in tropical food gardens in South and South East Asia. Its leaves impart a unique aroma and flavour to drinks, rice, cakes and desserts. As with all garden produce, the quality of freshly picked pandan surpasses that of the dried or the frozen equivalent. Fortunately, pandan is easy to grow in a subtropical or tropical climate, they make an attractive display, it is an easy plant to propagate and maintain in a kitchen garden.
“I decided to note down the 111 different things currently on the menu from my 300 square metre subtropical food garden. Ongoing drought has affected fruit production – I made just 340 jars of jams and marmalades this autumn instead of the usual 800…Whatever the weather, there will always be winners and losers in a garden, the key is growing a variety of useful, climate appropriate plants so there’s always food on the table”.
“Let’s keep planting the right lilly pillies for trouble-free hedges and a diversity of Syzygium species to enhance our environment and keep our culinary traditions alive.”
When cooking in a hot kitchen doesn’t appeal, there’s a flavour-filled alternative: king’s salad – Vietnamese style. Popular in Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia. Whatever you decide, the complex, zesty flavour of king’s salad is delightful on its own. Use it for breakfast, lunch or dinner…
“I planted Aloe vera so I can use its juice to soothe sunburn. It grows effortlessly in my nature strip. People also use it to relieve the itching caused by eczema. I also enjoy cooked Aloe vera as a dessert.”
Question: A Brisbane landscape supplier sold me soil for my raised vegetable beds. All my vegetables keep failing. I did a soil pH Test and the result was pH 9. Is there any hope I’ll be able to grow spring crops successfully?
Thuan’s market garden: 1,500 sq m of alluvial, sandy loam in a flood plain of the Perfume River catchment, Hue, Vietnam. Fruit, vegetables, herbs, spices, flowers, poultry – and incense – in a prolifically productive, wet, inland subtropical climate.