Are the wild portulacas edible?

Yes,they are not only edible but very nutritious as well.Chinese has been using wild portulacas as herbs and vegetables as well.It is known as Machixian(马齿苋) in Chinese.Hakka name is Laoshuer(老鼠耳).It tastes a bit sour and the leaves are crunchy and fleshy.Widely known as Purslane or Japanese Rose in the West,wild portulacas are sometimes mistaken for its ornamental counterpart,the portulaca grandiflora.These are not edible.

Lets look at the picture below showing the blooming and inedible Portulaca grandiflora.

Look at their flowers.What a feast of colours!

Notice the needle-shaped,succulent leaves and the colorful,multi-layered flowers.Some have single-layered flowers.

portulacas
The multicolored and inedible portulaca grandiflora

A close-up shot of the flower.

A close-up shot of portulacas flower
The showy flower of the inedible Portulaca Grandifloria.

 

“Prepare to survive in California” wrote in his blog :

“Regarded by many as a weed, common purslane (Portulaca oleracea) is also known as duckweed, fatweed, pursley, pussley and wild portulaca.
Purslane is somewhat crunchy and has a slight lemony taste. Some people liken it to watercress or spinach, and it can substitute for spinach in many recipes. Young, raw leaves and stems are tender and are good in salads and sandwiches. They can also be lightly steamed or stir-fried or simply make a wonderful fresh garden salad with it.

Purslane has high levels of soluble fiber help lower cholesterol, six times more vitamin E than spinach, is best known plant source of essential omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), seven times more beta carotene than carrots, rich in vitamin C, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium and phosphorous.

Portulaca Oleracea Linn.(Machixian in Cninese,马齿苋)
The edible Portulaca Oleracea Linn.(Machixian in Cninese,马齿苋)

In addition to ALA, other omega-3s include eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids mostly found in aquatic plants and animals, especially oily fish. Nutritionists now think all forms of omega-3s need to be plentiful in our diets plants such as purslane may be part of the missing link to better nutrition. Ethnobiologists — scientists who study the relation between primitive human societies and the plants in their environment — believe that the plants humans ate long ago provided a greater proportion of nutrients than the plants we consume today. They estimate, for instance, that humans 40,000 to 10,000 years ago consumed an average of 390 milligrams per day of vitamin C from wild plants and fruits. In contrast, the average human today consumes just 88 milligrams of vitamin C per day.One cup of cooked purslane has 25 milligrams (20 percent of the recommended daily intake) of vitamin C.”

ClickTable 2 ,look for Germi(Iban name)for nutritional composition.

Picture above shows a bundle of wild portulacas bought from the market.Look at the picture carefully and notice its leaves are different from the ornamental portulacas.The leaves are small,oblong and fleshy which form clusters with unopened or half-opened, single layered and yellow flowers.That’s right,there are only yellow flowers,no other colors displayed by the wild portulaca flowers in Malaysia.

Purslane as Chinese herb is said to be good for hemorrhoidal bleeding.Steam for 3 minutes and blend to get thick juice for medicinal effect.Natives in Sabah and Sarawak cook them as vegetables.Hakka people in Kuching boil them for drink with rock sugar.

Wild portulacas in my garden.
Semi-wild portulacas in my garden.

Picture below shows wild portulacas growing near a drain in a market.Though these are wild too but they may be contaminated by the chemicals and highly polluted water in the drain.Eat those grown in vegetable gardens or from our own gardens.To grow wild portulacas in city area is difficult.I tried to grow them at the backyard of my house and they just wilted away after a few weeks.Most of this plant grow by itself in the village garden and thrive well with little care.

Wild portulacas growing near the market drain
Wild portulacas growing near a drain

The crunchy and fleshy leaves of wild portulacas make them the best choice for salad,salsa or mix with other vegetables in pickles before serving.Pick the young leaves only for cooking purpose.For medicinal purpose,chop the whole plant without the roots and boil.

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Wild portulacas in apple cider vinegar.

 

Recipe
Wild portulacas in apple cider vinegar
Ingredients
  • 500 G  wild portulacas
  • 1 green apple – diced
  • 1 tomato – soaked in hot water,peel the skin and diced
  • 1/2 cup diced small pineapple
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbs plain water
  • 1 chili – sliced
Method
  1. Pick the young leaves and blanch them.
  2. Strain and leave aside.
  3. Cut all the fruits.
  4. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl,as easy as 1,2,3.

That is it,as simple as ………OR mix the blanched purslane with cooked potatoes.Add homemade cream cheese and honey.

Another way of enjoying its crunchy leaves is by preparing salsa with the leaves.

Recipe
Fruit salsa
Ingredients
  • 1 mango
  • 1 green apple
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 200g young purslane leaves(blanched)
  • 3  limes – juice extracted
  • 1 chili – minced
  • 1/4 cup of  homegrown cilantro(chopped finely)
  • salt to taste
Method
  1. Dice all the fruits.
  2. Mix all the ingredients.
  3. Serve with tortillas.
  4. Diced capsicums,pineapple and cucumbers can be added too for this salsa.

Simple to prepare,no fuss at all!

Cheese for vegetarians,yes or no?

Can vegetarians eat cheese ? The answer is ‘YES ‘and ‘NO’.

NO, because most cheese contain animal based rennet.And it is also a ‘no,no,no’ for vegans.Then what is ‘rennet’ anyway?

Rennet is an extract from the tissue in the fourth stomach of young ruminants,such as cows,goats and sheep.It contains enzymes that causes the milk to coagulate and form curds.Curds are then pressed to form cheese.Nowadays,animal-based rennet are mostly manufactured.As one can see, this type of cheese is not suitable  for vegetarians.

Nevertheless, it is a ‘ YES ‘ for lacto – vegetarians because there are cheese made from non-animal or microbial rennet.Better choice are homemade cheese such as panir,the Indian homemade cheese and cream cheese made from yogurt.

 

No-bake layered cheese biscuits cake.Sprinkle on top with almond flakes or dust with coco powder.
No-bake layered cheese biscuits cake.Sprinkle on top with almond flakes or dust with coco powder.

Please check the labels behind the packs of the cheese products bought from the supermarkets.

Shown below are two types of cheese useable by lacto- vegetarian.

Left - cheese made from non-animal rennet Right - Cheese made from microbial rennet
Left – cheese made from non-animal rennet
Right – Cheese made from microbial rennet

 Of course,there are different brands of vegan cheese made from tofu available in the organic shops too, so vegans can easily replace the ingredients used in this recipe to vegan friendly version.Well,raw vegans can just ignore this recipe altogether.Most Malaysian vegetarians are lacto-vegetarians and hence for the time being,we have to use cheese made from diary products without animal-based rennet.

Most people need a period of transition to change or progress to another level.Bear in mind that not many people can afford organic food.For ordinary people like us to be able to march out the first step to become a vegetarian is by itself a great achievement and  let different individual  paves his/her own way towards vegetarian at his/her own pace.Segregation among vegetarians is totally unacceptable.After all,most vegans begin as vegetarians.

Panir,the Indian homemade cheese

Homemade cheese like Indian panir can be made by adding 1/4 cup of lemon juice to 2 cups of boiling fresh milk .Turn off the fire and stir.Collect the curds formed in a bag and then press between two chopping boards by adding a stone mortar on top.Collect the panir the next day.Panir is great for cooking Palak Panir, creamed bayam with panir and cashew nuts.

Left - Home-made cream cheese -Yogurt strained in a glass jar. Right - Biscuits arranged layer by layer in a tray
Left – Homemade cream cheese made by  straining yogurt in a glass jar.
Right – Biscuits arranged layer by layer in a tray
 Homemade cream cheese

Another homemade cream cheese made from yogurt is worth trying your hands on it because it is simple to prepare.

First make your own yogurt using yogurt maker or just buy the ready-made yogurt from the supermarkets.Pour the yogurt into a soya bean milk filter bag and strain the yogurt in a tall glass jar.Fix the bag in position using the lid and let the whey be drained overnight.What is left in the bag is homemade cream cheese.This cream cheese collected can be used in fruit and vegetable salad,just by adding honey to it.

Left - Cream cheese and milk mixture Right - Biscuits arranged layer by layer in the tray
Left – Cream cheese and milk mixture
Right – Biscuits arranged layer by layer in the tray

Shown here is a recipe using this cream cheese for making no-bake cheese layered biscuits .

 During Hari Raya or Chinese New Year festivals,there are a lot of these layered biscuits  for sale in the local cake shops,together with the colourful layered cakes called Kek Lapis in Sarawak.Some are homemade for sale.A bar of this layered biscuits cake sells at RM 25 .The biscuits used are super thin cheese biscuits.Since the contents of the cheese powder used for the biscuits are not clearly stated ,it is therefore not suitable for vegetarians.

 

Ingredients for making no-bake cheese biscuit cake
Ingredients for making no-bake cheese  layered biscuits

Recipe

No-bake cheese layered biscuits .
 Ingredients
  • 750 g   yogurt or  200 g cream cheese made from microbial rennet
  • 1 1/2 cup  fresh milk
  • 1 cup  condensed milk
  • 2 packets square soda biscuits or any thin biscuits
  • 30 g   processed cheddar cheese ( optional)- to add salty taste to the cake.Do not add this if salty manufactured cream cheese is used.
  • Almond flakes and coca powder (optional )
Method
  1. Prepare the home-made cream cheese from the yogurt one day beforehand.
  2. Blend the cream cheese,condensed milk and fresh milk together.
  3. Line  a 9″ x 9″ x 2 ” tray with aluminum or plastic sheet.
  4. Using a pair of tongs,dip the biscuit one by one into the mixture and arrange it layer by layer in the tray.
  5. Repeat  the steps above until there is no mixture left.
  6. Keep in the fridge overnight.
  7. Turn the layered biscuits over on a chopping board.

Sprinkle almond flakes on top or dust with coco powder (optional).

Cut and serve in paper cups.

 

Cheese biscuit layered cake
No-bake cheese layered biscuits

 

 Enjoy!

 

Pisang Raja Udang,the legendary banana

Malays are not supposed to eat Pisang Udang.Do you know why ? Well,there is a legend behind it.

 

A cluster of Pisang Udang hanging On the tree
A cluster of Pisang Udang hanging On the tree

A long ,long time ago,a prince was badly injured during a battle with another Royal family.He escaped to a jungle and fainted under a banana tree.He woke up the second day and found that he was nursed and cured by a young and pretty maid.He bled a lot until the ground was stained with blood and this maid had saved his life.He thanked her and went back to the palace and  upon learning that the pretty maid who saved his life was a spirit of the banana tree,he rushed back to the site and found that the blood stain was gone and a bunch of blood-red banana left hanging on the tree.The prince went back to his palace and ordered his countrymen not to cut the Pisang Udang trees and the fruits not to be eaten.So,that is why Malays are not supposed to eat this Pisang Udang.

Well,how about Pisang Badad? It is actually Pisang Udang with skin that turns yellow,not red ,when it is ripe.

 

Left - Pisang Udang Right - Pisang Badan
Left – Pisang Udang/Pisang Raja Udang
Right – Pisang Badad

 

Now I am coming to the real headache part – IDs of the different varieties of cultivated bananas.Please feel free to correct me.This writer is not a botanist, so making mistakes with ID of the plants is very possible.

After reading a book written by Mr Kueh Hong Siong, I finally come out with something more systematic.

The cultivated and edible bananas In South East Asia are mostly related to the two wild species called Musa acuminata from Malaysia and Musa balbasiana , mostly from India.The genome constitution of each hybrid can be diploid or triploid.Genome derived from Musa acuminata is symbolized by A and from Musa balbasiana symbolized by B.

Basically there are three types of hybrids:

1)Those derived from Musa acuminata :

Genome constitution :

  • diploid (AA) –  Pisang Otel , Pisang Emas
  • triploid(AAA) -These are Musa paradisiaca which                                     include the following varieties:                                                                                                                Pisang Berangan,Pisang Embun,Pisang                          Serandah,Pisang Masak Hijau

2) Those derived from Musa balbisiana which include

                                  triploids (BBB) – Pisang Kapok/Nipah

 

3)Those which are hybrids between the two wild species and have developed triploid varieties are named as Musa sapientum.

Triploids (AAB) –  Pisang Keling,Pisang Seribu,Pisang Raja

Triploids(ABB) –  Pisang Awak,Pisang Kepok(?)

 

Note that Pisang Raja in West Malaysia may not be the same as Pisang Raja in Sarawak.

 

Of course,there are more details of the IDs related to those mentioned above.For the time being,these are sufficient for us gardeners.Getting more detailed ID would get us all confused.

I hope I can write a post on wild bananas in the near future.Got to keep fit first for hiking.

So gardeners,start planting some bananas,especially Pisang Kapok,great as cooking banana and Pisang Berangan for dinner or supper.

 Don’t forget to plant Pisang Serandah/kapal in a big pot.In the past,our boat people planted this banana in their boats.

 

  Happy Gardening!

 

Bananas,bananas on the wall,which is the fairest of them all?

Bananas are by far the most important tropical fruits of Malaysia.They are even more so for vegetarians.There were countless days when I ate them for dinners and they are still counted as a must-have item when I do my marketing.I have Pisang Kapok,Pisang otel,Pisang Keling and Pisang Tanduk growing by the roadside.I just cannot go about without bananas,partly because they are not expensive,easily available(not seasonal) and can be eaten raw without fuss,unlike some fruits which need paring,rinsing or even cracking it open like a durian,for example.

Pisang Udang cooked in tapioca soup.
Pisang Raja cooked in tapioca soup.

 

Before we get into the real stuff,I wish to remind our viewers of one important fact – The local names for all the bananas (pisang in Malay and Iban) listed here in this post may not be the same as our counterparts in West Malaysia.This may cause some confusions.I am trying my best to include the West Malaysian equivalents for local names.Please feel free to correct or add other names to my list of bananas.

Pictures shown below are the most common types of bananas found in the markets throughout Sarawak.More pictures of some wild bananas may be included in a different post.As for now,lets concentrate on the cultivated bananas.

Left - Pisang Udang Right - Pisang Badan
Left – Pisang Udang/Raja udang
Right – Pisang Badad

Shown above is a comb of Pisang Udang with maroon skin.It is round and not angular.Taste almost like Pisang Otel.The other one is Pisang Badad which is actually Pisang Udang in Yellow skin.They are green when unripe and turn maroon or yellow when they are ripe.Pisang Udang has soft texture which is good for nyonya kueh.They are not so great as dessert bananas.There is a legend behind the belief that Malays are not supposed to eat Pisang  Raja Udang.

Left - Pisang Emas Right - Pisang Otel
Left – Pisang Emas/Mas
Right – Pisang Otel/Empat puluh hari/Susu

Shown above is two types of look-alike bananas,almost same size but Pisang Emas is sweeter than Pisang Otel and its texture is very soft as compared to Pisang Otel.These soft and sweet features of Pisang Emas make it the best choice for banana cake.Pisang Otel has thicker skin thus not easily bruised.Notice the rounder body of Pisang Otel and also its green tips at the end of the fruits.Half-ripen Pisang Otel are always boiled or steamed by our natives here.

 

Left - Pisang Jari Right - Pisang Ambon
Left – Pisang Jari/Madu/Padi
Right – Pisang Embun

Shown above is Pisang Jari which is the smallest bananas found in local markets.It is about 8 cm long and 2 cm wide.It is given the name Pisang Madu which means honey bananas.Is it as sweet as honey ? I am not sure of that.Its other name is Pisang Jari,meaning finger banana,which best describes its shape and size.Pisang Jari looks like a mini version of Pisang Embun.Most people are familiar with Pisang Embun which is the most common dessert banana sold in the market.

Left - Pisang Serendah/Kapal (Dwarf Banana) Right - Fruits of Pisang Serendah
Left – Pisang Serendah/Kapal (Dwarf Banana)
Right – Fruits of Pisang Serendah

There is another type or banana called Pisang Serendah which is the Dwarf Banana.Their fruits look exactly like Pisang Embun except they are smaller and less sweet.They are not as small as Pisang Jari with length of about 12cm and width of 3 cm.Not popular among the locals here because it is not as sweet as other bananas and the fruits drop off easily.It is also known as Pisang Kapal meaning boat banana.As the name implies,in the past ,boat people used to plant these plants in their boats.

Left - Pisang Keling Right - Pisang Berangan
Left – Pisang Keling
Right – Pisang Berangan

Pisang Keling and Pisang Berangan are like cousins,they look alike but have different texture.Pisang Keling is soft and sweet with a hint of sour taste.Its skin is thin and easily bruised.Usually the skin has dark spots all over.Pisang Keling was my favorite banana until I had tasted Pisang Berangan a few years ago.Pisang Berangan is not native to Sarawak.According to the venders here,they were from the West Malaysia.Pisang Berangan has thicker skin and its body is more angular and bigger than that of Pisang Keling.It has fewer dark spots on its skin but it does look very similar to Pisang Keling.Its firm flesh of high fibre content makes it the best dessert banana. Two bananas are enough to fill empty stomach for one single meal.Isn’t it great for dinners ? It tastes like Pisang Keling,less sweet but more fragrant and filling.It is my favorite banana.

 

Left - Pisang Kapok Right - Pisang Awak
Left – Pisang Kapok/Abu
Right – Pisang Awak

Shown above are another two look-alikes and taste-alikes,Pisang Kapok and Pisang Awak.These two are great for cooking pisang goreng,the banana fritters.Usually I pan-fry them,tastes as good as the deep-fried bananas minus the excess oil.Pisang Awak has long tips at the ends of the fruits.Pisang Kapok is bigger than Pisang Awak and tastes sweeter too.Pisang Awak is less popular than Pisang Kapok due to its sometimes seedy flesh.Despite of its being unpopular as a dessert or cooking banana,its leaves are very much sought after.Its super soft and thin leaves make them the best choice leaves for lining the bamboo rice and also as wraps for nyonya kueh.It is said that the leaves are more fragrant than other banana leaves.Both of these two bananas have thick skin.The picture below shows the difference in cross-section of the two bananas,Pisang Kapok being more angular in shape.

X- Section view of Pisang Kapok and Pisang Awak. Notice the round shape of pisang Awak as compared to the triangular shape of Pisang Kapok.
X- Section view of Pisang Kapok and Pisang Awak.
Notice the round shape of pisang Awak as compared to the triangular shape of Pisang Kapok.

There are many more varieties of bananas out there in other parts of Malaysia and other countries.Shown below is fruits and flower of Pisang Bunga,the ornamental banana.Notice the upward pointing fruits and flowers of Pisang Bunga.The fruits are seedy and not edible.

 

Left - Pisang Bunga/Musa Ornata Right - Flower of Pisang Bunga
Left -Upward pointing fruits of Pisang Bunga/Musa Ornata
Right – Flower of Pisang Bunga

Among those not posted here are Pisang Seribu/belalai gajah,Pisang Pisang,PisangNangka,PisangSerendah,Pisang Kapas,Pisang Siam,Pisang Masak-Hijau,Pisang Gentu,Pisang Putar,Pisang Jari Buaya and the list goes on and on……Please click here on my next post on the legendary Pisang Udang and the ID of the banana plants.

Shown below is Pisang Raja,the King banana.Pisang Raja is the biggest in size among the bananas if plantains are not included.I did write a post on the plantain,Pisang Tanduk.

Please click here to find out about Pisang Tanduk.

Pisang Raja in other parts of Malaysia may mean a diifferent type of bananas.Pisang Raja in Sarawak is about 18-20 cm long and 6 cm wide.Its flesh is soft and creamy and like Pisang Emas,it is great for making cake and local desserts,the nyonya kueh.Bananas match perfectly well with the grated tapioca.Usually we buy tapioca from the markets and get them machine grated at markets that provide services for grating coconuts.

There are two recipes here to be shared with our viewers,so simple and yet delicious.

Left - Pisang Raja Right - Pisang Kueh,my own version
Left – Pisang Raja
Right –  Kueh pisang gulung ubikayu (simplfied version)
Recipe of  kueh pisang gulung ubikayu (simplified version)
– no wrapping required.
Ingredients
  • 2 cups grated ubi kayu
  • 1  1/4 cups coconut milk ( extracted from 300g of grated coconut)
  • 3/4 cup  brown sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 2  Pisang Raja – sliced or cut into strips
Method
  1. Line the bread loaf tin with banana leaf.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together except the bananas.
  3. Pour half of the mixture into the loaf tin with all the cut bananas on top.
  4. Steam for 5 – 10 minutes.
  5. Then add the remaining half of the mixture into the tin.
  6. Continue steaming for 30 minutes.
  7. Leave aside for 30 minutes.

              Cut and serve with banana leaf.

 

Pisang Kueh
Kueh pisang gulung ubikayu(simplfied version)

 

Bananas in tapioca soup
(picture is shown on top of the post)

Recipe
Ingredients
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tbs grated tapioca
  • 2 Pisang Raja or Pisang Kapok(cut into thick slices)
  • A bundle of 2-3  pandan leaves
  • 1 tbs brown sugar or gula malacca(optional)
Method
  1. Mix the grated tapioca with the water.
  2. Boil the mixture together with the pandan leaves.
  3. Add in the banana slices.
  4. Boil for another 5 minutes.

Yeah,its time for soup!Lets go……..

                                       S l u r ppp…………..

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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