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26 Aug 2019

The Pains and Joys of Growing Soursop (Durian Belanda)

One of the more expensive local fruits we have is the Durian Belanda.  Both the fruit and the leaves have good nutritional and therapeutic values.  I have been growing the trees for about 7 years now and to date and currently we have 8 trees of various ages ranging from 3 years to 5 years.  Many have asked me many different questions hence this article covers my experience and each growers experience can be different.

Although it is a tree that can grow to over 8m in height, the growth can be controlled and it needs a space of a circumference of 2 m.  Giving the right conditions and care, it can produce many fruits.  Let’s start with the basics: the soil.  At the farm, we have different sections with different soil types ranging from high clay content to rocky and high sand content.  We have experimented planting them in various areas and find that it does best is soil that contains a significant amount of sand (around 30%) and does worst in high clay content soil.  It needs soil with good drainage with good content of organic matter to a depth of at least 1 m.  If you are living in a development area that was developed in the last 10 years, and you find that your tree keeps dying, check the soil.  Many of these development had used construction and other wastes as landfill.

This tree is well suited to our tropical climate with frequent rain with some dry periods.  In young trees, it will need to be watered.  Once a tree has established itself, it will no linger require manual watering.  The roots tend to spread out relatively neat the surface of the tree and the root doesn’t grow as deep as other trees of similar height and girth.  It does not like for its roots to be disturb hence for this reason, we refrain from planting any plants around the base and keep the grass and weeds controlled by cutting the down to surface level.  This serves a dual purpose: adding organic matter which as it decomposes adds nutrients to the soil and to keep the soil covered to help retain moisture.

Our farm is totally organic so we do not use any chemical pesticide, herbicide or fertilisers.  To this end, the environment of the farm is such that we plant many different types of plants and trees that encourages many varieties of insects, some of which are predators to insects that attack the leaves and fruits.  This helps to keep the trees relatively free of insect attacks.  Having a healthy tree also helps it fights these attacks and diseases.

To support the growth of the tree, we address the soil health as well as the plant health.  In order to ensure that we have the necessary
nutrients to support flowering and fruiting, we use goat and chicken manure fertilisers.  We also use diluted fish amino acids mixed with EM-1 on a quarterly basis.  The tree can flower year-long so keeping it well-fed is essential.  The bell-shaped buds are green in color with the point facing downwards.  There can appear singularly or in multiples.

As the bud develops, you will see it turn to a pale yellow flower with petals.

An interesting aspect of the soursop flower is that it blooms at night hence pollination occurs at night.  Once the outer petals are open (as in the picture), it will bloom that night.  At the farm, our environment encourages night insects as well as there is often night breezes which contribute to a good pollination rate.  We do not hand pollinate.The presence of wind and night insects is important to increase the success of pollination. The degree of success of the pollination will also affect the fruit size and shape.

Once the petals have fallen, you will see a stub-like with :needles” left.  Some have mistaken this as the dried-up flower and removed it.  At this stage, it is still unclear if pollination is successful so it is best to leave it.  Over the next few days or a week, you will see the beginnings of the fruit if pollination is successful,  It doesn’t look like the fruit yet but a brown mass of pins.

From this stage, it will take several weeks before you begin to see the fruit in a shape more familiar to the mature soursop.  You can see that the fruit will h

ave a nice shape and size when mature from the shape the fruit “bud” is as well as the number of “needles” present.  Even when it is flowering and fruiting, we continue to fertilise the ree in accordance with our schedule.  We also on a bi-annual basis, spread a handful of coarse salt around the circumference of the tree about 1 m away from the base of the trunk.  Apart from supplying additional minerals, it also serves as an “antibiotic” against harmful bacteria.  

 

In general, the fruit is heart-shaped or oval.  The fruit is ready to harvest when you see the needles are well-spaced apart and pointing horizontally an
d the skin of the fruit has smoothen out.  The fruit will feel firm.  At this stage, it will be sweet and sour with lots of juices.  This is, to me, the perfect time to harvest if you would like to eat it in slices.  I tend to just cut it into the slices, revealing the creamy-white flesh inside, without peeling and eat the flesh off, leaving the seeds and skin.  Once it has reached this stage, it will go soft within days but the intensity of the sweetness will increase and the flesh will still remain creamy-white.  However, it will then be suitable only for making blended drinks.

Often, when you buy at the market, the fruit will still be hard.  Do check that the fruit have the “needles” almost horizontal and widely spaced apart with smooth skin in between.  This will indicate that the fruit was mature enough when harvested.  Often, people will wait for their store-bought fruit to soften and when they cut it, they find that the flesh inside is brow/black indicating the fruit has rotted.  This could be due to the preservatives applied post-harvest to keep the fruit looking nice on the outside but it has started to rot on the inside,  Hence, by the time you feel the fruit has softened, it has rotted all the way through.

PS>> This will be one of the fruit trees that I will detail out from planting to harvesting to what you can do with it more in my book.  Not sure when I will complete it though 🙂

 

 

29 Jul 2019

Torch Ginger – keeping it handy

Torch ginger flower is one of the regular condiments used in flavouring our local food.  There are a few colours – red, white and pink – with variation in shades dependent of soil and nutrients.  I have found that there are several factors in having a healthy torch ginger plant and having it flower.  The first factor is space.  This plant needs room to spread as the leaves and flowers grow on individual stalks/stems from the rhizome.  Hence in order to have more flowers, the rhizome needs to be able to grow horizontally from which the stems/stalks will emerge.

 

The second important factor is availability of water.  You can find them growing naturally along the riverside as well as in jungles that get a good rainfall.  Hence, if you are growing them in your gardens, apart from space, you need to ensure that the soil has good water content.  On the other hand, it doesn’t seem to flower should it be frequently submerged in water, leading to the third factor: the soi

It loves well-drained soil but with good organic content so that the soi

l can retain moisture for it to access but not causing the roots to be “flooded” with water.  Just imagine that in natural setting

, decades or even longer, of natural decomposition of natural organic matter being added to the soil, hence this is the type of optimum soil condition.  Hence, it doesn’t do well in heavy clay soil.  You can always improve the soil condition by adding sand as well as organic matter.

The main target is to get lots of flowers as this is what we harvest to consume.  In nature, it is naturally fertilised by animal droppings as well as from de

composition of dead animals over a period of time, which contains calcium, magnesium and other minerals.  So at the farm, we use animal manure such as chicken and goat manure as well as using fish amino acids (FAA) which we produce at the farm.

Having the above factors, the one other remaining important factor is sunlight.  It does best in full sunlight but a minimum of 6 hours should be fine.

The torch ginger flower can be harvested at different stages.  Commercially, you will find the buds of the torch ginger.  However, I find the flavour of the torch ginger is better when the petals have started to open.  If I want to consume them fresh, I will place them in a vase in my home, treating it like other fresh cut flowers but not adding anything to the water as I want to consume it,  I rarely keep them refrigerated.  I find that the torch ginger is a good addition to hot, plain rice.  Just slice them thinly and add to the rice.  The aroma and flavour makes it an enticing rice dish.  As many of you know, it is also a good addition to nasi kerabu as one of the ulam used.  To the asam pedal and laksa asam connoisseurs, you know that it is a must ingredient to the dish.

If you are into taking baths, the flowers are also a good addition to the hot water in your bath, creating a herbal bath that removes bodily odours.  It is also good to combine it with citronella when creating a herbal aromatherapy bath.

Being flowers, there is a limited time before it decays and becomes no longer consumable.  The best way that I have found to retain all the flavour and nutrients is to dehydrate them.  I do not sun-dry them or expose them to the open air surroundings as I do not want it to be contaminated not make the drying process weather-dependent.  The petals are separated before placing them in a dehydrator to dry.  This way, it can last for at least 6 months and if stored correctly, longer.  For the purposes of dehydrating, I use full-bloomed flowers – the stage before it starts forming the seed pods.  The flavour is highest at this time.  It can be stored in air-tight containers at room temperature and be readily available for the laksa, asam pedas and many other dishes.  You can also add the dehydrated petals to your hot bath water instead of the fresh petals.

27 Jul 2019

Keeping the soil healthy

I am of the mindset that you leverage off nature to keep your soil healthy.  With this in mind, and with the underlying principle of keeping it toxic chemical free, we have certain practices in place to keep it natural and organic.  Being situated in an area with many rivers, streams dried up streams and

where big floods have occurred, our land is peppered with river stones and rocks.  To top that, we have found debris from demolished structures,  We continue to clear what we find, putting the rocks and stones by the banks of the river that cuts across the land and finally, we have it relatively clear of it.  We have always cut the weeds or grass, performed manual weeding, composting the vegetation wastes and manual tilling.  In return we find that the land has continued to be fertile.  This month, we finally experimented using a  petrol-powered tiller and it has definitely cut down on the time needed to prepare the soil for planting.  Before using the tiller, we first used the weed cutter to cut down the vegetation to a few of inches or cm above the ground.  This enabled us to mix the soil with the vegetation waste as we till the soil.  This in effect acts organic matter to the soil, improving drainage as well as adding nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.

In the last three years, we have relied only on farm-produced fertilisers with the addition of EM-1.  Before we plant, we will add our fertiliser mixture to the planting area in accordance to what will be planted, mixing it in the soil.  We have basically two types of organic fertilisers: one used for fruiting plants and trees like tomatoes, chillies, pulasan, cempedak, etc. and the other for greens such as leafy vegetables.  However on certain plants or trees where both the fruits and leaves are harvested, I would alternate the type of fertiliser applied.  As we are situated in a rain catchment area, it often rains hence we only need to water the plants if it hasn’t rained for a couple of days.  We plant many types of plants and trees with the emphasis being local non-GMO varieties.  We experiment with local companion planting ideas such as planting green spinach in between our cili padi plants, etc.

We also have our own plant rotation cycle hence we have carefully selected where we plant long-term trees such as rambutan, cempedak, coconuts, soursop and many others,  We consider banana plants to be mid-term plants as we rotate where they are planted every 3 years and we will totally clear the plant all the way to the roots.  This is done with a view to keep the soil healthy and to allow rejuvenation of soil naturally as plants use soil nutrients differently and releases different nutrients to the soil.

As we progress, we continually study what else can be done to improve the soil condition naturally and what is suitable for application at the farm.

05 Mar 2019

A humble leave herb: Curry leaves

Curry leaves are not a stranger to us.  When we cook curry, it is not considered complete until curry leaves are added to it.  To make fried chicken tastier, try adding a few curry leaves to to the frying oil so the aroma and taste gets infused into the chicken.  But did you know that the young shoots of the curry leaves can be eaten as ulam or added into salads?  You can also infuse edible oil with dehydrated curry leaves and have the aroma in taste in it which you can then use to create other dishes.

So, it that where the story ends?  Of course not!  There is more to the curry leaves.  It is rich in iron and folic acid hence a good choice for those who are anaemic.  It contains a powerful antioxidant, kaempferol, which when combined with vitamin A and C(which are both present in the leaves), protects the liver as well as improves its function, has anti-inflammatory properties which in turns provides many therapeutical benefits to the body.  Curry leaves affects the insulin activity in the body as well as alters the way the body absorbs fat in digestion helping with controlling sugar and fats in your body.  There are many other benefits so it would be a good item to add to your diet within your normal meals.

By dehydrating the leaves, we ensure maximum nutrients retention which makes it easy to store and have readily available as well as making it easy to transport.  We have turned it into a product within our dehydrated herbal range.  It is packed in a resealable pouch making it easy to transport as well as store.  Each pack is RM 15 and available via mail order.

This is definitely one herb that I will increase consumption of as it can be added to your meals in many ways from cooked dishes to raw salad as well as using it as a seasoning.  Another of nature’s bounty.

01 Mar 2019

Ginger Power – Bitter Ginger (Lempoyang)

Whenever I encounter a local rhizome herb that I do not have in my collection, I tend to get it
even though I do not know its powers.  I figure that I will get around to researching about it.  This is the case with Lempoyang (Bitter Ginger).  It be belongs to the ginger family, one of the many varieties that we have native to Malaysia.  Its botanical name is Zingiber zerumbet.  It has a slightly bitter taste hence the English name of Bitter Ginger.It looks similar to other ginger plants although it is a bit taller than regular ginger.

The soil type, care and maintenance for this plant is similar to all other ginger plants.  If there is sufficient rainfall such that the soil doesn’t totally dry it, then no additional watering is required.  As it grows well in tropical climates, it is grown in other countries with this climate such as Brazil where a a significant amount of research has been done.  In Malaysia, it is mainly what is passed down from generation to generation verbally with little scientific documentation with the main study conducted by UPM on cervical cancer (http://psasir.upm.edu.my/id/eprint/9323/).

The outer skin is reddish-brown with the flesh a cream color.  The flesh has a less pungent ginger aroma.  As with many of my rhizomes, it is not possible for me to consume them all when it is harvested so I will dehydrate them and convert them to powder form,retaining maximum nutrients possible, enabling me to store it for a longer period of time and available for use at any time.  What is interesting is when you dehydrate the finger and mill them to a powder, the resulting color is a pale slightly green-yellow.

From a usage perspective, this variety of ginger is of interest due to its many therapeutic properties relating to its effects on the gastrointestinal system as well as for cancer.  There is substantial information available from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0102695X16000259 as well as other biotechnical sites.

The rhizome of ginger has been extensively used with remarkable therapeutic effects for the treatment of inflammation, diarrhea, stomach cramps, bacterial infections, fever, flatulence, allergies and poisoning (Tewtrakul and Subhadhirasakul, 2007, Okamoto et al., 2011, Prakash et al., 2011b, Sidahmed et al., 2015). Powdered rhizome is used to treat ear infections, toothache and, in the form of tea, to treat stomach disease (Ghosh et al., 2011). The leaves are also used in therapies for joint pain. The juice of cooked rhizome was reported to be effective in combating worms in children (Somchit and Shukriyah, 2003, Ibrahim et al., 2007). The creamy substance present in the mature inflorescence, is rich in surfactants and serves as a natural shampoo (Yu et al., 2008b).  Hence its other name of Shampoo ginger.

With all its many therapeutics use, I decided to produce our dehydrated powdered Lempoyang (Bitter ginger), a new addition to our product line and will continue to grow them.  It is packed in packs of 30gm of pure bitter ginger with no additives or preservatives added,  As with our other products, it is produced from bitter ginger grown organically at our farm.  It is available via mail order.

 

 

12 Feb 2019

So which is really Pisang Emas?

Pisang Emas is often sought after as THE banana to eat raw here in Malaysia.  The size and taste makes it a great choice to add to your breakfast, either on its own or sliced to add to your bowl of cereal or simply pan-roasted.  Often, sellers claim that they are selling pisang Emas when it is actually pisang lemak manis to make it more marketable.  Often, the buyer doesn’t know but is only aware that Pisang Emas is great so when they are told it is Pisang Emas, they buy it and then continue to think that what they bought is Pisang Emas when it is something else.  They then tell others that is Pisang Emas and the misinformation continues.  This really bugs me……hahahaha…..

So what is Pisang Emas.  First, they are not big with the size being under 6cm in length.  We don’t normally go to the market and bring a measuring tape or ruler, so how do we measure?  A simple way is to compare it with you pinky finger – you can measure your pinky finger and just remember whether it is 6cm or less.

Next check the outer fruit.  The fruit shouldn’t have any edges but be rounded with a smooth yellow skin.When you peel the banana, the skin is thin.

Once peeled, the fruit itself has a cream yellow exterior with a golden yellow centre.  As you can see in the picture, when you slice the fruit, it is all yellow with the golden yellow centre a reflection of its name.  No other local banana has this golden yellow centre.  It has a very sweet taste and the sweetness tastes like honey.

So, next time you want to buy pisang emas, hope you get the real pisang emas and not pisang lemak manis, which is similar from the outside although it is longer, tastes sweet but not honey-like sweetness and doesn’t have the golden yellow centre.

14 Jan 2019

The bounty of local fruit enzymes

I love fruit enzymes and they provide for lots of nutrition as well as being probiotic and versatility in consumption. It also allows me to pair the enzymes in accordance to my meals to maximise health value. All our enzymes are produced at the farm from our organically grown produce or sourced from pesticide-free producers. Our farm practices organic, natural and permaculture methods hence any produce that we may source externally has to meet to our standards.  All the water used is our production cycle is naturally-sourced and chlorine free. The enzymes are produced in batches as and when we have the source ingredient and fermented for a period of at least 4 months.

All our enzymes can be stored at in a cold, dry area before opening and once opened, can be stored in a cool, dry place or refrigerated.  When opening the bottle for the first time, it is best to loosen the cap slowly to allow any gas buildup to be released first.  As it contains probiotics bacteria and will still undergo secondary fermentation, there may be some gas buildup.

Although each enzyme is produced on its own, it can be be consumed in combination, either in drinks or as addition to your meal dishes.

Calamansi Enzyme

Produced from our farm-grown calamansi fruits, the whole fruit is used in making the enzyme.  Packed with vitamin A, C and a whole host of other minerals such as calcium and magnesium,, this enzyme can be consumed in a variety of ways.  It can be added to other drinks and juices or simply added to plain water.  If you enjoy salads, you can add this to your salad dressings or make your own salad dressing using this enzyme, your choice of salad oil and season to you taste with salt and pepper.

If you have an acid reflux issue, this enzyme can aid in reducing it with its alkaline nature.  Sometimes, when I had a big meal, I will consume 1-2 tablespoons, either on its own or diluted in water to help reduce bloating and relax.

Mangosteen Enzyme
This enzyme is produced based on the season hence we only managed to produce a limited quantity. For this first season, the fruits were sourced from pesticide-free producers. However, we hope for next season, we can depend on our farm-grown mangosteens Each fruit is washed individually washed to remove contaminants before it is processed. Both the pericarp and the fruit flesh is used in the making of the enzyme.

Suggested consumption is 1-2 tablespoons a day in a manner of your choosing.  I have also done frozen ice cubes of the enzyme which I use to add to other juice instead of water ice cubes.

Papaya Enzyme

Produced from our farm-grown mature, unripened papayas to ensure high content of the papain enzyme, it is also rich in vitamins and nutrients.  Papain has the special ability of breaking down proteins such as meats, fish and eggs.  It is the main ingredient in meat tenderisers due to this special ability.

It can be consumed either direct, in drinks or used in cooking such as made into a sad dressing or as a natural meat tenderiser.  Personally, I use it to tenderise beef and squids.  It works very well in squids preventing it from becoming rubbery and resulting in a moist, soft squid.

Papaya and Bentong Ginger Enzyme

Produced from our farm-grown mature, unripened papayas and Bentong Ginger rhizomes to ensure high content of the papain and gingerol enzyme, it is also rich in vitamins and nutrients.  It has all the benefits of papain with the addition of gingerol.

It can be consumed in a similar manner to pure papaya enzyme.

Pineapple Enzyme

Produced from our selected organic pineapples, a yellow concentrate is produced rich with vitamins, minerals and antioxidant,  It also has a high content of the enzyme bromeliad.  Bromelain breaks down protein  hence it can aid people who have trouble digesting proteins.

It can be consumed either direct, in drinks or used in cooking such as made into a sad dressing or as a natural meat tenderiser.

Roselle Enzyme

Produced from our farm-grown roselle calyces, a dark red concentrate is produced rich with vitamins, minerals and antioxidant,  It also has a high content of the enzyme amylase.

Suggested consumption is 1-2 tablespoons a day, either straight, diluted with water or added to other drinks such as blended juices.  It can also be added to your salad dressings.

Tomato Enzyme

Produced from our farm-grown vine-ripened tomatoes to ensure high content of the lycopene enzyme hence the orange-red color of the concentrate,

Suggested consumption is 1-2 tablespoons a day in a manner of your choosing.

27 Dec 2018

Making the goodness of Mangosteen available year round

Malaysians are all familiar with the King of fruits but did you know that Mangosteen is the Queen of fruits? It deserves this title. This is one of our fruits that has very good nutrients along with having many health benefits. The drawback is that it is seasonal hence it is only available during its season which is normally between late June to early August.
Mangosteeen is known for it antioxidant properties as well as the Xanthines enzyme which comes mainly from the outer skin know as the pericarp. This is the part that we normally throw away when we eat the flesh of the mangosteen as it is not palatable. In order to harness all its goodness, we have created our Mangosteen Probiotic Enzyme. It is made from pesticide-free fruits grown at the farm and from our selected fruit growers. In order to have a quality product, we carefully select the fruits that we will use. Each individual fruit is washed thoroughly with our naturally-sourced water without any chemicals.
Our probiotic enzyme is produced using a permaculture fermentation process which takes at least 4 months before we strain and bottle the liquid. Once bottled, it can be stored, unopened for at least 1 year in a cool, dry place. Once opened, it can be stored in a cool, dry place or refrigerated. Hence, it is then consumable for throughout year. Personally, I have my supply for the year until the next season, when I can produce a new batch which means it will be next December before I will have a new batch of Mangosteen enzyme.
I consume it as part of my health maintenance and prevention regime and in order to make it easy for me to consume it, this enzyme has several ways of consuming so I can incorporate it into my normal daily diet. It can be consumed by:
1. consuming 1-2 tablespoons
2. adding 1-2 tablespoon to drinks such as juices and teas
3. making a salad dressing by adding 1-2 tablespoons
4. making ice-cubes which can be added to other drinks when making cold drinks
In our packaging, we bottle it in glass bottles of 250ml each. At the moment, it is not made available in stores and can only be purchased directly from us and not by mail order. Price per bottle is RM 40.
For enquiries, you can e-mail us at enquiries@suriahelanglui or through whatsApp at 017-2821219. For ordering, you can order emails us at order@suriahelanglui or through whatsApp at 017-2821219.

20 Nov 2018

Upcoming event: Kg Warisan Bazaar Dec. 9, 2018

We will be having our stall at the Kg. Warisan Bazaar at Kampung Warisan Condominiums, Jalan Jelatek, K.L. on Dec. 9 from 9am – 12 noon. We will have a selection of fresh, organically grown fruits and vegetables as well as our product range. Looking for a special Christmas gift, come and see our products for a selection of alternative gifts from our Enzymes and Vinegar product range. If you would like to come, please whatsApp to 0172821219.

17 Oct 2018

The Soursop Fruit Cycle

One of the popular fruits nowadays is the soursop.  This fruit became popular when its therapeutic benefits were discovered and discussed everywhere and even more when it was purported to be anti-cancer.  The Malay name is Durian Belanda and from at the young stage when the fruit is formed, it does resemble a durian.

The beginning: the flower bud
As the flower forms, it is heart-shaped and green in color.
As it develops, the outer petals open, revealing and inner layer.
When the inner layer opens, it indicates that it is ready to be pollinated. Some have said that pollination occurs at night, so night pollinating insects are important.
Once it has been pollinated, it forms into a brown fruit bud. Some have mistakenly think that this means that the flower has dried up and not fruit has formed thus they remove it.
More “spikes” begin to form towards the stem of the fruit. The color is still brown.
You will get this brown spikes ball.
It begins to increase in size and you can see the inner green skin.
At this stage, to me, it does look like a small durian. The spikes have spaced out and you can see that it is turning green.
As it further grows, the spikes get filled-up and shorter and the fruit morphs into this green fruit with shorter spikes. The whole time from the flower bud to this stage has taken approximately 2.5 months.

I look forward to being able to harvest this fruit and will update the net stage – the stage when all the spikes have disappeared.