Life's better with cake and a sprinkle of fairy dust
We’ve been seeing some really bizarre weather here on our tropical island. Haze (from the Sumatran forest fires) so bad it makes my eyes sting, long periods of super-hot and dry weather, sudden thunderstorms that uproot big trees, and get this, HAIL. Didn’t get to see it with my own eyes, but hail’s got the whole town abuzz. (“Grapes. grapes!”)
The weather eased up a bit this week, thankfully. Time to transplant my second batch of basil seedlings before this crazy weather kills the whole bed. I grew this lot from seed a few weeks ago in a recycled ice-cream container that I’d cut holes in the bottom of and potting mix. Scattered about 2 dozen seeds on the surface, watered thoroughly and left them in a shady spot in the garden. In 10 day, the seeds sprouted. In 15 days, most of the seedlings had 2 pairs of leaves. At 21 days (at the worst of the haze situation), I noticed the growth seemed to have slowed to a crawl.
Transplanting really is all about the manual manipulation of the law of natural selection. Select the biggest, fattest, tallest, strongest seedlings and give them maximum room and nutrient.
Then, select the not-so-big but still healthy plants with two developed sets of leaves, give them a bit of room and some nutrient. After some time, the better ones will crowd out the weak ones, and then you can transplant these to a bigger pot like the first.
The really weak ones that did not develop 2 full pairs of leaves were discarded. If left to grow with the healthy ones, they would compete for space, water and nutrients.
I am looking forward to my basil babies growing tall and strong so they can join our existing basil plant which has been giving us so much culinary pleasure since we got it. In the past weeks, we’ve used fresh basil in everything from pasta and salsas to savoury eclairs and macarons. The more it’s cut, the more foliage the plant produces. Considering a small pack of fresh cut basil leaves from Cold Storage costs nearly $3 and doesn’t last a week in the fridge, our $5 basil plant has served us remarkably well.
To keep the leaves flavoursome, I pinch off any flowers weekly, leaving flowers to bloom on only one stem so that I can harvest the mature seeds later.
Another plant that hates overcrowding is the pandan or screwpine. Pandan grows best in the ground, where it can get very big and give fat, flavoursome leaves. Previously, I had a tiny baby plant with two tiny shoots, in a small pot. In a month or so, it had flourished into 3 healthy full-sized plants, crowding for space. I split the roots and replanted each plant in its own pot of garden soil. This picture was taken the day after replanting.
Pandan is used widely in many Asian recipes, both sweet and savoury, to impart a sweet aroma and flavour. In my next post, I’ll upload a recipe for a popular Chinese dessert using the pandan leaves harvested from our garden.