Maximizing Nature's Bounty
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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.

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.

15 Oct 2018

Local Salad From Your Garden

A talk on local plants you can grow in your home and gardens to create a salad with lots of nutrition.
Date: Oct. 27 (Saturday)
Time: 11.15 am
Where: The School@Jaya One, Petaling Jaya
In conjunction with the Go-Go Green Event at The School@Jaya One

https://www.facebook.com/events/286242118652690/?ti=icl

01 Oct 2018

Go Go Green at The School@Jaya One

We will be participating in the Go-Go Green event at The School@Jaya One, Petaling Jaya. We will have all our available products as well as available fresh produce and plants for sale at this event.  For any enquiries or bookings, please whatsApp to 017-2821219.  Thank you.

26 Mar 2018

My love affair with tomatoes

To grow your own tomatoes organically, I think one of the prerequisites is having a love affair with it. Why?  It is nor easy to grow it organically because pests love it – take your choice: white flies, aphids, grasshoppers, mealybugs, sooty mold and others.  Hence pest control is important.  It also requires good, balanced fertilisation to produce a healthy, fruiting plant.  However, if the plant is healthy and an organic pest control routine is implemented, the rewards are great.

Everyone knows tomatoes are good for you: rich source of vitamin A, C, enzymes like lycopene and other nutrients.  The taste of vine-ripened tomato is simply delicious.  Growing your own organically allows you to reap these benefits without the toxic chemicals either in the growing stages or after harvest to preserve its appearance.

I always opt for non-GMO tomato seeds, preferring to select one of the many hybrids available.  It takes 3-7 days for the seed to germinate.  I germinate them in individual polybags to reduce stress on the plant when I want to transplant them.  The plants can be grown in containers or in the ground and they require support as they grow.  Hence, I will always set the support system from when the plant is a seedling to prevent undue breakages or toppling.  The soil mixture I use is always one that is rich in organic matter with some sand and not heavy clay.  This always for the soil to retain moisture without clogging the plant root system.  I just water it once a day, always in the morning, although when we have very hot spells, I will also water it in the early evening.
I have always wondered why the term “vine-ripened” tomato was use as I didn’t associate it with a “vine” plant like grapes.  In my latest planting, I finally saw why and saw proof of why this plant care regime was better,  My previous planting efforts always seem to have one main stem with some branches.  This time around, I saw lots of offshoots at from the main stem and also on the branches, making the plant growth seeming to be haywire making using a single stake support system not viable.  As I was testing different ways to provide support for the plant, I found that having a line support system works well as it allowed for the vine to grow how it wants and yet have a support.  I just use rafia strings  (tali rafia) and strung it along with ends tied to supporting poles – a simple and inexpensive way of providing support to the plant.
My pest control regime consisted of varying amounts of borage, citronella and enzyme concentrate diluted with water and sprayed on the plant twice a week – hence making it an pampered plant.  Controlling pests is key to having a great tomato to harvest as these pest will damage the plants and fruits.  I vary the herbal ingredients as I do not want the pests to develop resistance to it hence the concentration of each component is varied often.  It is important to spray under the leaves as well as all over the plant.  As you need to frequently spray the pest control solution, by using organic sprays, there is no need to worry about eating fruits that have just been sprayed, unlike when you use chemical pesticides.  I will also periodically remove yellowed-leaves.
I have experimented with many types of organic fertilisers as well as frequency of fertilising.  What I have had most success with is a combination of fish amino acids with magnesium and enzymes including EM1 applied on a weekly basis.  Periodically, when the roots appear at the surface, I will top-up with soil mixed with organic matter and chicken or goat manure.  These fertilising regime encourages flowering and fruiting with the necessary nutrient support.
It takes a few weeks from once the initial fruit forms to actual harvest.  Personally, I like to leave it until it has turned red as I find the sweetest and rich taste is when it is left to be ripened on the vine.  
My preference is to eat it raw, often with some grated mozzarella cheese on top without any other seasoning.  The contrast of the sweet and tart flavour of the tomato against the creamy and slightly salty taste of the mozzarella is simply delicious.  Consuming it raw also retains maximum nutrition.
07 Feb 2018

A different tale: G.O.S.H.! Our Ancestors Are Clever

Since I started my organic farm 10 years ago, I have always looked for books, talked to experts in
their areas and met up with practicing farmers, all in the quest of knowledge.  I found that most books centered on one aspect of it.  I wanted my farm to be a complete cycle farm.  To me, a complete cycle would be from planting to caring and maintenance to harvesting to consuming to end other uses and finally recycling.  Then the idea of writing a book that covered this was born.  My emphasis has always been on local plants and what is traditionally used as this would mean that we would not rely on imports and maximise what is doable and available here in Malaysia.  While it is nice to have imports but this would mean that we would be dependent on another nation and also subject to currency fluctuations as well as lack of controls and varying regulations and control.

I have always believed that you should always depend on yourself first before going external.  To this end, the plants selected are what can be grown in Malaysia and that which will flourish in our climate. This will set us up for success as we can maximise what is available.  The book also contains many photographs all taken at the farm and my home as I feel that photographs can clearly illustrate the idea or item.

Some have asked me what the book covers and how is it different that the many available out there.  For starters, the five selected plants are what I grow at the farm organically and continue to grow due to its health and therapeutic benefits.  It is also what I consume hence it is the viewpoint of a practicing farmer who consumes what she produces.  Over the years, I have spent time in researching the benefits from a nutritional standpoint as well as ease of consumption.  Another aspect that was important to me was the ease of incorporating it into my normal diet.  Although I subscribe to the principle of “Eating food for medicine and not medicine for food”. I didn’t want to feel like I was eating medicine.  This would surely make it something that I would get bored eating and stop consuming after a couple of months – something that happens with supplements.  I preferred the normal route of making it easy to consume.

I selected 5 plants that I feel form the basics to supporting and maintaining health of our immune system, gastrointestinal system and brain.  Without a song immune system, our body will not be able to fight off diseases.  Without a good gastrointestinal system, our body will not be able to extract the nutrients needed for our body as well as enable proper elimination of wastes.  And, of course the health of our brain is important.  These plants are easy to grow and care for and it is described in the book.  It also covers when to harvest and what you can harvest and consume.  It also provides ideas of how to use some parts of the plants for non-consumption purposes.

While the harvest can be consumed in its simple form, I find it is good to have options either due to abundance of harvest or as alternative ways of consuming to enable us to incorporate it into our normal diet in a variety of ways.  The alternatives include processing them to produce other edible products like oil, teas, drinks and flour.  The book also includes some simple recipes to give the reader some ideas and suggestions.  However, I am sure that you will get more ideas.

This book is geared for everyone who has a love of eating well, gardening and experimenting with edibles.  The published price is RM 75.  At the moment, it is not available in bookstores.  If you would like to order, please whatsApp me at 017-2821219 or e-mail to suria.helang.lui@gmail.com.

01 Sep 2017

Bentong Ginger: What we do

Amongst my favourite rhizome is the Bentong Ginger.  Its benefits are well documented and it is a popular herbal spice.  At the farm, we grow it and we have to keep rotating the area where we plant it because it “eats” a lot so I need to let the soil rejuvenate before planting in the same location again.
Although it stores well, I always like to process it as soon as it is harvested.  Apart from using it fresh, we do process it to a concentrate drink and to a dry, powdered form.

Our concentrate is a blend of the ginger, turmeric and black pepper.  As it is a concentrate, it can be diluted to prepare a drink, either hot or cold.  It is also used in cooking as well as a marinate.
As no preservatives or additives are used, it needs to be stored refrigerated.  This is one of our popular products and we produce it in batches as needed.  Our customers use it for many reasons:

  1. to maintain their digestive system and as a preventive measure against leaky gut
  2. to control cholesterol
  3. to reduce gas and bloating
  4. to reduce joint aches and pains including for arthritis
  5. as a post-natal supplement.

Personally I use it as a preventive measure so it is something that I consume everyday, in different forms.  Making it as part of my daily normal essential diet has been key to enabling me to continue consuming it for the benefits without feeling bored, something which can easily occur if you are popping pills.  I treat it as a natural therapy and it assists my body in healing itself.

The second processed product is our new product: producing ginger powder.  The ginger is sliced and dehydrated using a dehydrator which allows me to ensure maximum retention of nutrients as well as prevention of contaminants such as dust, dirt or other types of contaminants.  This dehydration process reduces the ginger to approximately 10% of its fresh original weight.  What it means is if 1 kg of fresh ginger is dehydrated, the dehydrated ginger will weigh around 90-100g.
The dehydrated ginger is then ground to a powdered form.  The end product is really concentrated so you do not need to use much of it.  No additives or preservatives are added to it so it is pure ground ginger.  It can then be stored in an air-tight container in the cupboard or if you prefer, in the refrigerator.  This ground ginger can be used in many ways: used in cooking and marinating as well as in creating drinks like ginger tea or added to other teas to flavour it.  The dehydrated ginger will also be used to create our ground spice mixes such as with lemongrass and turmeric.

08 May 2017

EVCO (Extra Virgin Coconut Oil) – My wonder oil

Over the last year, I have been carrying out research as well as experiments on producing and consuming this wonderful oil – EVCO.  We live in a country that coconut trees can flourish and it can be planted organically without much effort.  When I first started the farm, I planted several trees and over the years, I have continued to add more trees.  There are so many varieties of coconut trees so I just basically split it into 2 groups:  (1) for cooking and producing oil and (2) for consuming fresh.  Naturally, I choose pandan coconut for consuming fresh due to its sweetness and nice pandan aroma.

For cooking and producing oil, I choose varieties that producing good yield of coconut milk and that has high “oil” content when mature.
In this article, I will focus on the production of EVCO.  The trees that I chose for this purpose takes an average of 5 years before it starts fruiting.  These trees are not tampered with to induce fruit production nor do we use any pesticides or herbicides at the farm.  From flowering, it takes about 9 months for the fruit to mature to the level I desire.  I continue to plant more trees over the years to increase the future yield since I realised how great EVCO is.  We are planning to continue to add more trees as we refine our farm operations.  As it is, we have to work hard to keep up with our demand so at the moment, we do not offer it to retail outlets but sell it directly.
The average shelf life of properly stored EVCO is 18 months and we are continuously producing them in batches.  We use cold-pressed permaculture method to produce our EVCO.  This ensures that we produce quality EVCO.  The main difference between EVCO and VCO is the use of fresh coconut to produce the coconut milk and no artificial heat is used in the process.  Living in a tropical country, the day’s heat is sufficient in the process.  The use of copra (dried coconut) is often used in VCO and we do not do this because we do not want to introduce any contaminants that can occur during the drying process.  There are many ways to make EVCO which you can easily find the method in books and e-publications.  In purchasing EVCO, it is important to ensure that is has not been refined, produced using heat that causes hydrogenation or have any chemical added during the process for whatever reason.  It is currently a hot item so be aware so that you get what you think you paid for.  As always, know your source.
The beauty of EVCO is it is not hydrogenated oil and contains no trans-fat.  It is also unrefined.  Yes, it contains saturated fats but the good kind – the medium-chain triglycerides also known as MCFA (Medium Chain Fatty Acids).  MCFA are easy to digest and processed by the liver to produce energy and do not easily get stored by the body as fat – a plus for me as I do not want to store more body fats.  It has a high lauric acid contain and a good amount of choline.  There are many documented benefits of EVCO with the main ones of interest for me being:
  1. good for the immune system with its anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties and acts as a natural antibiotic
  2. good for the brain health and preventing diseases like Alzheimers – something important as we age
  3. good for the heart.
  4. stomach cancer prevention as it is know to kill helicobacter pylori bacteria which increases the risk of stomach cancer.  Moreover, because the energy source is the ketones as opposed to glucose, cancer cells are not able to access it.

I take 1 additional tablespoon as soon as I feel a flu coming on as so far, it has worked well for me.  I am a believer in preventing the flu is better than taking loads of antibiotics.  The main difference being with EVCO, I build my immune system to fight the virus versus taking antibiotics which does damage to me by killing the good as well as the bad organisms and especially upsetting my digestive system balance.

On a daily basis, I consume at least 1 tablespoon of EVCO and I found that there are many ways of consuming it.  Part of the fun of eating it as food for medicine as opposed to medicine for food is to be able to enjoy it.  Whilst some people take it by consuming 1-2 tablespoon as if you a taking medicine, that has little appeal to me and takes the enjoyment out of it.  To me, doing it this way tends to lead to boredom which leads to it being a chore and people tend to stop doing it.  I add it to my diet as normal food consumption.  There are so many ways but some of the ways that I incorporate it into my daily living is:
  1. Adding it to my morning coffee turning it to a tasty, coconut latte.
  2. Adding it to my beaten eggs when I make omelettes adding flavour to the eggs.
  3. Mixing with calamansi, herbs, sea salt and black pepper to make a rich flavour salad dressing
  4. Drizzling on cooked rice while it is hot giving it a coconut flavour.
  5. Brushing it on a piece of bread and placing it on a hot pan or grill to toast it
  6. Adding to vegetable dishes either for a stir-fry or even after the vegetable is cooked like tossing cooked french beans with it.
  7. Brushing it on the bread when making garlic bread
  8. Drizzling it over fresh tomatoes and season with sea salt and other herbs
  9. Tossing cooked pasta with it
  10. Adding it to pancake mix when making pancakes
For my son, I add about 10 drops to his milk so he can drink and enjoy his milk without the feeling of eating medicine.  I feel this is an important component in supporting his immune system to prevent flus and colds.

Apart from consuming it, I also use it in my hair care and skin care.  I pour about the size of the 10 cents coin in my palm and work it through my scalp and hair to prevent dry scalp and hair.  I do this at least twice a week and this keeps my hair manageable (I have coarse and curly hair which can get tangled up so this keeps it tangle-free).  For my skin, I produced indian borage infused EVCO which I apply to my skin to moisturise and prevent dry skin.  I even use this infusion on my face at least a couple of times a week to keep it moisturised and improve the condition of my skin – my wrinkle prevention regime.  In this aspect, I do not worry about any chemicals being contained in my skin care.  For a mosquito repellant when I am going to areas that have lots of mosquitoes, I use EVCO infused with citronella – no funny chemicals required.

I look forward to continuing to learn more about the benefits of EVCO and its application.  I look forward to trying out different infusions for EVCO.  I hope I will have time to get into natural soap making as I think EVCO will provide for a great ingredient in producing natural soap.
03 Apr 2017

Amazing local tree – Coconut

Used to be you can find coconuts trees all over the place.  With development, there are less and less of these trees.  One of the main end-product from this tree is from the coconuts producing coconut oil.  It underwent decades of being labelled as “unhealthy” before researchers finally realised that it is actually healthy and provides a lot of benefits and does not contain trans fat but does contain the good saturated fats – the medium chain triglycerides.  So now, it is back in fashion.

There are many varieties of coconut trees and at the farm we plant 3 types: kelapa gading, kelapa udang and kelapa pandan.  I selected these three species based for different reasons.  The kelapa gading starts fruiting in about 4 years and at a height that is easy to harvest.  You can consume the young coconut wit its sweet coconut water or allow it to mature and it produces a sweet coconut oil.  The kelapa udang produces a larger size fruit hence I chose it for mature fruits for EVCO and cooking.  This tree grows tall and takes about 6-7 years before it starts to fruit.  The kelapa pandan was chosen for its sweet with pandan aroma coconut fruit and young flesh.  It is a “medium” height tree so it makes harvesting easy and starts to fruit in 4-5 years.  These trees are easy to take care of -if you have good soil, there is no need to fertilise and no need to water unless there is an extended drought season with the ground cracking.  At the farm, we have never had to water them.

Some of the benefits from this tree is:

  1. From the leaves, you can produce lidi which can be grouped together to create a brush-like broom – penyapu lidi.   The leaves are also used to weave a case for rice or glutinous rice in traditional Malay cuisine.
  2. From the coconut husk, you can use as an element in the fire when you want to smoke fish or barbecue.  It is also great to be turned into mulch or added to the compost pile.  
  3. The coconut shell can be turned into various utensils or containers.  
  4. The coconut flesh can be eaten raw from young coconuts or used for cooking, producing coconut milk or making oil in mature coconuts.  
  5. The leftover grated coconut after producing the coconut milk is great for feeding chickens.  I find that including the leftover grated coconut in the chicken feed helps to increase the egg-laying productivity of the hens.
  6. The by-product of producing EVCO (Extra Virgin Coconut Oil) contains beneficial microbes and is great for use as fertiliser. (Note: Difference between EVCO and VCO is EVCO is the production of the oil without the use of heat via permaculture method or other similar methods.)

So, if you have extra room, this is a great tree to plant and you can select the species you want based on what you like 😉

27 Sep 2016

Suria Helang Lui: 7 years later Part 3: From produce to products

When I first started the farm, I was more focussed on producing produce: fruits, vegetables and fish.  I felt and even more strongly belief now, for the continued sustainability and economic well-being of the farm, it was essential to not only have “raw” produce but to also have a range of products based on the farm outputs.  All our products have to live up to our principle of being affordable to the masses.

I began to experiment and delve into the world of producing healthy food in the firm belief that the underlying basis for good health is good food.  Personally, I am not into processed supplements so my concept it merely to facilitate the consumption of good food.  From the herbals, fruits, leaves and flowers, I began experimenting in producing drinks that could be consumed as part of my daily beverage intake.  I had to belief in the benefits as well as it had to taste good.  So, I am always the first guinea pig.  I wanted to be able to produce health supporting drinks, that are preventive as well as curative.  So, many of the plants at the farm serve a multi purpose.

The top of my list are the Bentong ginger and turmeric combination, Misai Kucing leaves and flower, Soursop Leaves,  Mangosteen and Roselle.  I did research on the nutritional value, the health properties as well as the use in traditional and alternative therapy.  All the source is planted at the farm and grown organically.  Some of our drinks are seasonal whilst others are available year round.  In line with trying to produce healthy products, we do not use any colourings, preservations or flavourings – it is all natural.  Some of our drinks are sweetened and we use brown sugar; no white sugar is used.  At this stage we only do direct selling to the customer as I do not feel that we are prepared to go beyond that yet as our produce is not mass-produced.
I do not want to outsource production of the ingredients as it then goes out of my control and I may wonder if short-cuts are taken.  The basic principle in our products is “If I do not consume it, then I will not sell it” – the same that applies to our fresh produce.  With the production of these drinks – in concentrate or ready-to-drink – it has allowed us to add-value to our produce.  At the moment, the packaging is simple as I focus more on what is inside the bottle than the appearance.  However, I know that in the future the packaging will evolve but the key consideration is still affordability to the masses.

Over the years, I have developed our own liquid fertiliser concentrate and there are 3 types:

  1. Enzyme fertiliser with pest control targeted for flowering and fruiting plants
  2. Enzyme fertiliser with pest control targeted for foliage
  3. Fish amino acid fertiliser

These concentrates are made from produce from the farm with limited addition from outside such as molasses and sea salt.  The ingredients from the fish for our Fish Amino Acids (FAA) are also from the farm as we do rear fresh water fish.  In this way, I am able to ensure that there is negligible introduction of toxic matter into the fertilisers.  My 3-year old son “helps” me out at the farm and one of the things that he loves to do is to spray the plants.  I do not want to have to worry that he may be negatively affected.  These are all used at the farm and we now sell it.  It is a concentrate and is non-toxic making it easy to use and affordable.

I also do seasonal products like tempoyak from quality kampung durian so we have these when durians are in season and until our stock for that season finish.  We do not add any preservatives or colouring to it and it is done naturally.

Sometimes, when we have a bit of time, we will also do fermented green papaya which is a good source of probiotics and the enzyme papain.  I enjoy eating this either as a salad or turning it into a topping for fish similar to the Thai mango topping for fish.

We rear fresh fish, namely catfish (keli), red tilapia and lampam in our fish ponds.  We pipe our own water from the source specifically for the fish ponds ensuring a 24×7 flow of fresh water through over 3000m of polypipe.    This is a separate supply line from the pipeline for the rest of the farm use. Although the actual distance to the source is less than 3km, due to the route we have to take, it takes that length of polypipe.

This is one of the most worthwhile investments that I made on the farm as it results in us having a clean fish pond that requires no artificial aeration and brings with it additional food for our fish in the form of the small river fish and shrimps.  An aesthetic value added to the fish pond is our fountain which doesn’t require any pumps to function, merely the application of the law of Physics.  (Note: Took me years to see firsthand the application of what I learnt in Physics in secondary school).  The water comes in on one end and exits the pond into Sg. Lui on the other end.

The fish pond also serves as our flooding prevention measure as this area can flood when there is a lotof rain for a period of time. Our fish also feed on the banana pseudostems, tapioca leaves and kangkong so it also enables us to have another use for our produce “wastes”.  The banana pseudostem also have the added function of cleaning the water in the fish pond.  From time to time, I also feed it with the black soldier larvae, which is a by-product in the production of the enzyme fertiliser.  We do also feed them fish pellets but with all the other food that the fish feed on as well as the clean water, the fish produced does not have a “muddy” smell or taste.  Whilst we do sell fresh fish, we also will do smoked fish (ikan salai) which we first  marinate with our own farm produced and blended herbs.   It is a time consuming process but well worth it in producing a quality fish product thereby adding value to the raw produce.  No artificial additives or “smoke” flavouring used and alhamdulillah, whenever I bring them to market, it is always sold out.

Because we produce organic produce, I am currently experimenting with producing more probiotics food products.  This will be a new chapter in the farm development with an eye for the future.

The last and final part of 7 years later is : Behind the scenes which will cover the infrastructure as well as human resources.