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Vol. X No.18 - December 1 - December 31, 2011


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How does your garden grow?  By Eric Danell, Dokmai Garden

 

HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW

The Monkey Hand orchid blooms around Christmas and the New Year.

The ‘monkey hand’ or ‘tarantula leg’ (Dendrobium senile, Orchidaceae) is one of the last orchids to bloom at the end of the Christian year. The Thai new year is in April, and so this orchid could also be considered the pioneer of the upcoming flowering season. Many other native monsoon orchids are dormant now. Even the boxer orchid (Dendrobium ellipsophyllum) which has been in loyal blossom at Dokmai Garden since May, has gone to bed due to the cold and the drought. You should better leave your local northern Thai orchids asleep for a while now, no more watering.

The scientific name ‘senile’ is derived from Latin ‘senex’ meaning ‘old man’, alluding to the white hairs of the pseudobulbs which look like the hair of an old man. Tarantula leg is also very descriptive.

The distribution is quite limited, only found in the mountain ranges of Thailand, Laos and Burma. Being conspicuous it is highly sought for by jungle thieves who sell these orchids by illegal roadside stands for a few Baht.You should better buy a legal clone from a CITES certified dealer.

It normally grows at elevations higher than Chiang Mai city (350 meters), but with misting during the hot season it should be fine. The flowers usually emerge on the brightest side of the pseudobulb. www.dokmaigarden.co.th. [email protected].


Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and Vegetables in Southeast Asian Markets by Dokmai Garden is on sale now around the city.

Dokmai Garden’s new book, ‘Fruits and Vegetables in Southeast Asian Markets’, won the Gourmand Cookbook Award 2011 in the category ‘Culinary Travel Guide Thailand’. It is thereby qualified for the world competition and the winner will be announced on March 6th, 2012 in the evening before the Paris Cookbook Fair. Congratulations to our friends at Dokmai Gardens and a hearty thank you for all the contributions from Eric and his wife Ketsanee.

The book is intended as a companion on your visits to markets, restaurants and orchards. Dokmai Garden has selected 120 species of fruits, vegetables and mushrooms commonly found in Southeast Asia, Southern China and India. Although there are more species for sale in such markets, the book will help you learning over 100 species.

The information is packed in a handy format, which enables you to bring the book to the market with no efforts and to keep it in your luggage without causing space or weight problems. A truly helpful book to everyone who loves cooking with local fruits and vegetables.

On sale at Dokmai Garden, Rimping Supermarkets, Queen Sirikit Botanical Garden, the Chedi Hotel and these bookstores around the city: Bookazine, Suriwong bookstore, Silkworm books at the Chiang Mai airport, and Asia Books.


Thai cinnamon

Fresh leaves, dried bark shavings, ground bark and tea of Thai cinnamon. (Photo Eric Danell).

Thai cinnamon (Cinnamomum iners, Lauraceae) grows commonly in the national parks surrounding Chiang Mai here in northern Thailand. We have two specimens here at Dokmai Garden, and today the garden school students tried the properties of its bark.

A few days ago we simply cut some young branches and shaved off the bark. The shavings were sun-dried for four hours and this morning we ground the shavings using a coffee grinder. We then added 1, 2, 3 and 6 ml to 50 ml (0.5 dl) of hot water and waited a couple of minutes. The flavour was agreeable, best at 2-3 ml, 6 ml did not add much to the experience. We also tried to add various amounts to coffee using different combinations with milk and sugar, concluding the tea was best. However, the tea soon turned jelly-like.

It is said that Thai cinnamon (also known as wild cinnamon, chiat, marobo, namog, da ye gui etc etc) is ‘an inferior substitute’ of real cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum). I disagree. These are two different products and so you do not replace mandarin with lemon. The bark of Thai cinnamon has a fragrance resembling mint, camphor, black pepper and a touch of classical cinnamon. It has been attributed several medicinal properties (anti cancer, antiseptic, pain relief, anti oxidant) but it is hard to evaluate the scientific papers. It is traditionally used by Chinese and Indians. Most importantly, it is not dangerous and it is agreeable, even causing euphoria (my experience).

If you do not want your tea to turn into slime you should only add 2 ml of powder in 0.5 dl of water and drink while hot within five minutes. Since it has antiseptic properties it could be a good drink if you have a sore throat (antiseptic, pain relief, hot, refreshing and easy to swallow due to the increasing viscosity). Visitors to Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai will be offered this drink upon request.

Continued experiments show that the jelly is permanent and so maybe an interesting garden substitute for agar, an expensive ingredient when making nutrient media for orchid seeds.
 


The Crescent Orchid

When the Crescent Orchid blooms are closed, they look like crescent moons.

There is a peculiar wild Thai orchid with small, purely white flowers, spare a yellow throat. It grows from pseudobulbs so thin they appear like grass, some even like withering grass. Remarkably the buds look like copies of the crescent you can see on this late November night sky. Like so many other white and fragrant orchids it blooms at night. When I saw the buds in the light of the torch I also thought of nail clippings or boomerangs.

This epiphytic orchid grows in trees in the lowlands of northern Thailand, Vietnam and Yunnan in southern China. The scientific name, Dendrobium exile (Orchidaceae), was coined by the German botanist Rudolf Schlechter in 1906. ‘Exile’ is Latin meaning ‘slender’, which is also descriptive. Unfortunately, Rudolf’s vast and important herbarium was lost during the bombing of Berlin in 1945.

It is likely that the orchid also occurs in Laos and Burma, but due to the ongoing devastation of their forests, and the replacement of Yunnan’s tropical forests with Brazilian rubber, I guess it is up to the Thais to keep it alive. The Thais call it ‘Sae Phra In’. Phra In is one of Lord Buddha’s guardian angels. As the world looks like now, this guardian needs a guard. Humanity is prepared to spend billions going to Mars to study sand, while we let the life on Earth disappear in silence. I fear we are all trapped inside our brains, living in a dream, or searching for a dream, unable to see the real miracle which surrounds us. Wake up!
 


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