Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sunflowers Flower

I grew a big patch of sunflowers and I was very proud. But I as disappointed I didn't grow a big flower. In Singapore, I grew some. My friend B commented that she didn't have go to Japan to see Sunflowers. She only had to look out of her kitchen window to my garden.

Now in Auckland, a stroll in the suburban will show you 10 inch wide sunflowers.

Sunflowers in Aotea Square, Auckland Town Hall.

I placed my hand to show how big the flowers were.

Dumb Cane, dieffenbachia.

In South East Asia, we have a plant called Dumb Cane, dieffenbachia. The Chinese call it WAN NIEN CHING, translated to ten thousand years green. This is an auspicious plant as it's name refers, it is for ever green, and never dies. Business like to grow them in their office. Some are just green, others green with white spots, and others are pale green.

I used the grow them in Singapore. They are easy to grow, and I present this to friends who are new to tropical plants. Dumb canes are so hardy that they simply would not die. The sap makes one very itchy, and parents warn children not to put them in their mouth, the mouth will glue together and they become dumb. The cells of the Dieffenbachia plant contain needle-shaped calcium oxalate crystals called raphides. If a leaf is chewed, these crystals can cause a temporary burning sensation and erythema.

Once I was chatting away with my girl friend B while we were tidying our plants. She pulled of the semi dead leaves of her Dumb cane, and in no time, she was scratching away. I cut a leaf of my aloe vera, and it was a soothing balm for her.

This is a fake plant. I didn't want a child come to my house as I know it is a poisonous plant. Poisoning can occur if you eat the leaves, stalk, or root of this plant.

  • Burning in mouth or throat
  • Damage to cornea of the eye
  • Diarrhea
  • Eye pain
  • Hoarse voice
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Swelling and blistering in the mouth or tongue
Blistering and swelling in the mouth may be severe enough to prevent normal speaking and swallowing

Oleander: Poisonous plant

At the corner of my garden, is a huge Oleander bush. I sing the Chinese song, "Lu Bian De Ye Hua bu yaw Cai." Road side wild flowers do not pluck. This is a grown plant, not wild, and looks is deceiving. The whole oleander plant is poisonous right down to the nectar. It is said that even the smoke from burning the plant is toxic .

These Nerium Oleander look so beautiful, yet they are so deadly. All parts of this plant is highly toxic.
There is a folk story where a good but not very beautiful woman who was bullied by her husband. She tolerated his abuses until he became unfaithful and planned to divorce her. She made kebabs for husband. She used Oleander stems to skewer the bits of meat before barbecuing the kebabs. The unsuspecting man ate the kebabs and died straight away.
The moral of the story is do not abuse the person who loves you, even nature will not approve your actions.

Suicide tree (Cerbera odollam)

. Suicide Tree (Cerbera odollam)


Cerbera odollam suicide tree, grown in public areas in Singapore. when I first arrived oin Singapore, I thought they were mangos. They told me that they were not, but is a poisonous fruit. I was appalled why the council would plant these poisonous plants. Why plant poisonous plants in a public area is beyond me.

 After living there for 16 years, I found out that people are not allowed to pick council HDB, and they didn't want to plant edible fruits. By planting this poisonous fruit, people would not steal the fruit.

 Quite a silly policy. Won't want to imagine if kids pick up and fruit and ate it.

Suicide tree (Cerbera odollam)
Suicide tree (Cerbera odollam) Photo: Noppharat
With a name like that it is little surprise that this tree is probably responsible for most deaths than any other plant. In the Indian state of Kerala alone it is thought to be responsible for around 50 deaths a year. Despite being called the suicide tree the toxins work equally well for murder and the flavour is easily hidden in a bowl of spicy food.
It is in Madagascar where Cerbera claimed most victims. Referred to as ‘ordeal poison’ it was used in the process of ‘trial by ordeal’. Basically, if you survived you were innocent, if you died you were, well, dead… It is estimated that around 3,000 people a year died in these trials, many willingly submitting themselves to the process believing it infallible. Trial by poison was finally abolished in 1861 by King Radama II.
It is the seed inside the fruit of this plant that is highly poisonous. It contains the powerful alkaloid, cerberin, which is similar to digoxin in foxgloves. These both work by disrupting the heart’s rhythm often with fatal results.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Glutinous rice Zhung.

My kind of Quang Ning Cantonese, we eat our Zhung on all auspicious celebration. My Ah Kung tells us, got food to eat, and clothes to wear. I make my version of his Zhung.

split skinned mung beans, Chinese Chestnuts, little Chinese mushroom. ( If you prefer a vegetarian Glutinous rice.

No soya sauce pork, browned by caramelized sugar.

This is a lazy modern day person's concoction of Zhung Zhi. The Cantonese call it NOI MAI GAI. I use pork in mine, so it is called NOI MAI FAN or glutinous rice.

To make my caramelized pork, I had to email my sister Margaret.
Heat up the wok until hot and then you put in the sugar until it melts and turned brown. Depending on the degree of browness you want, then you add in the pork . Ýou have to be very vigilant, otherwise you end up getting charcoal.

Glutinous rice is also called sweet or sticky rice. It is used in this recipe as you need the rice to stick together. In Thai restaurant, you often get a pudding of sweet rice and mango cubes and coconut milk.

Instead of wrapping the rice individual with bamboo leaves, I make it like a pie. Soak the rice for at least 4 hours.

In a casserole dish, line a layer or soaked glutinous rice, put the pork, and vegetarian mixture in the middle, cover with rice, and you should have the filling enclosed in the rice.

Steam in a wok for one hour.

Alternatively you can cook in the microwave for 15 minutes. Add boiling water into the casserole dish.


In fact, the Zhung my family are not tetrahedral shaped, they are like a six inch pillow. Zhung takes about 3 hours to steam. I am making the simplified version. The Purists would shake their heads especially when I do the mircowave version.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Revisiting Foodsale Charity

 Korean Sweet Potato noodles

Chinese green pea  aka Tang Hoon Noodles.

When I was living in Singapore as a faculty wife, a few like minded friends started a charity for the Deaf in Kenya. For 4 times a year, we have a big cook out, and invite other faculty wives to come and buy our food.

I did a lot of marketing and public relations for this. One day, two Korean friends came and donated their beef noodles. I was busy and didn't price the food, and it was mistakenly priced as the cheap Chinese Tanghoon. which was about a fifth of the Korean noodles. The noodles were quickly snapped up. I apologized to my two Korean friends.

I saw this made in China Korean Noodles, and I remember my two friends.

Cassia fistula or Golden shower tree.

Cassia fistula or Golden shower tree. This is a flowering tree of my youth.

When I was five, we moved down from a small town to Sibu. We lived in the Government quarters off Race Course Road. In the section across the road, there was this big tree. When it bloomed, it had big flowing sprays of yellow flowers. When the wind blew, the petals will drop to the ground. Sometimes, a whole spray will fall. This is why it is called a Golden Shower tree.

In Sarawak, the tropical weather meant an afternoon shower everyday. People did their laundry everyday and we didn't have driers or washing machines.

My sweet memories of this tree was my sister Margaret and I would jump across the creek when the wind blew so we could retrieve those sprays. We played brides using them as wedding bouquets. My mum would scream at us to help her bring the washing in before the rains came. We didn't listen, playing was more important to us.

I took this photo when I revisited Singapore last July. When I saw the tree in full bloom, I was so happy.

if I remember from when I was a kid, the pod is black, 1 and 1/2 inch diameter, 18 inches to 2 feet, lots of black smelly seeds. the pod itself is very hard