Bamboo (Multiple Species)

Description

Bamboos (multiple genus and species) are huge perennial multi-purpose grasses. They may reach heights from 10-150 feet dependent on species. Bamboos are typically divided into two types: the runners and the clumpers. Runners grow from spreading rhizomes that sprout and continually ‘run’ from the original planting location, which could spread indefinitely, creating major invasive potential. New growth on clumpers gradually radiates out from the original planting in a relatively predictable pattern. Clumpers are generally more desirable as they are not as aggressive and do not readily spread into unanticipated locations. I only recommend planting clumpers as they can be more easily maintained.

Bamboos may be utilized in numerous ways. The tender new shoots may be eaten and the older, more mature stalks, or culms, may be used for building or as containers. There are many uses for bamboo and a lot of information on bamboos.

Bambusa ventricosa and Nastus elatus

Nastus elatus – new shoots edible raw

Propagation

Propagation is from division, as seed is not typically produced. Dividing a clump may be done in numerous ways, being species dependent. The easiest way I’ve found for propagation is to take a mature culm, cut it off the parent plant, strip off leaves and cut the culm into segments of at least four nodes. Dig a narrow trench to allow the culm segment to fit horizontally into the trench fully below the soil surface. At this point you allow the culm to do its thing for a few months (four to six months, usually) and they will send up new shoots when ready. Once you notice the new shoots, you may dig up the originally planted culm and with a handsaw, divide dependent upon how many shoots emerged. Pot them up individually and you now have a clone, or multiple clones from the parent clump.

Care

When young, plan to weed regularly; bamboos start slowly and have the potential to be overtaken by other vegetation. It seems there are two “seasons” for bamboo: the above ground growing season and the below ground growing season. So, this means that you only see visual growth six months of the year. You may think they are dormant or not growing, but they are in fact getting ready for their intense above ground growing season by working underground. Once they get going, regular fertilizing will enhance growth.

As clumps age, regular maintenance will be necessary. Remove any dead/fallen over stalks. Dependent upon on how you decide to utilize the clump, that will determine how it should be managed. Culms can be selected out for straight growth (timber applications), or thinned for an easier bamboo shoot harvest. Regular pruning of lower branches creates a trouble-free working space and allows the bamboo to look “cleaner.” All bamboos have different growth patterns; be sure to research what to expect before selecting species. I prefer bamboos with minimal to no lower branches as they are easier to work and walk around.

Quick tips for mature culm management: Get yourself a nice bamboo specific handsaw – this will allow for nice quick detachment from the parent plant; always cut bamboo at the nodes. If using bamboo for building, use a ring of tape around the culm above your cut line to prevent the bamboo pole from splitting during cutting. Curing may or may not be useful for specific bamboo purposes. Look into the multiple methods for curing. I’ve had uncured culms last two years or more without any decomposition issues.

Use bamboo specific handsaw for timber management. On thin walled bamboos it may be ideal to use a tape ring to prevent bamboo from splitting when cutting

Eating

Bamboo shoots are delicious! Careful selection of species allows for selection of desirable traits. My most recommended species is Nastus elatus as this plant plays nicely with others; it has an upright habit with minimal to no lower branching. This plant also produces new shoots that are edible when raw. (Not all bamboos are edible raw, and many contain higher levels of cyanogenic glycosides that needs to be cooked for a while before it becomes edible.)

When new culms appear, they start off and sprout quickly and grow a few inches before stalling. During this period, they are gathering energy for the rest of the growth of that culm. This stall period is when you want to harvest shoots for consumption. Simply cut off new shoot as low as you can. Peel off outer sheaths to reveal a tender – usually white – inner core. That is what gets eaten.

Edible shoot with outer sheaths removed – ready for consumption

Where to obtain planting materials

There are a handful of nurseries that sell potted plants (usually quite expensive). Or ask a friend with a clump mature enough to try to divide from. Try various methods for propagation to determine what works best, or do some solid research and figure out what other people suggest to propagate that specific species.

My Garden

I’ve been growing a handful of bamboos for a few years now. One of my clumps is old enough to be regularly producing new edible shoots, and due to me not planning out the best location for this bamboo, I need to regularly harvest it so it wont grow into my catchment. This means I get regular shoot harvests as I maintain that clump and slowly thin it out. You really should take the time to plan out the location for the height and spread of a bamboo clump. They are really quite prolific and dominating plants, yet their beauty and usefulness is enticing.

Nastus elatus branch-less habit

Guadua angustifolia – thorny/branched habit

Happy Gardening!

Spineless Chaya (Cnidoscolus chayamansa)

Description

Spineless chaya, Cnidoscolus chayamansa, is another highly nutritious perennial ‘tree spinach’ (not to be confused with the closely related spiny chaya, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius). This productive plant can reach heights of over 12 feet, is fairly fast growing and requires very little attention. The abundant leaf matter is high in protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. It is commonly consumed fresh/cooked, but can also be dried and stored for use as a dietary supplement for humans and animals. This plant thrives in dry tropical regions, but with a little care, can also be grown in very wet places.

Propagation

Spineless chaya is typically grown from cuttings. In its native habitat, it allegedly produces seeds. However, I have never heard of that happening here.

Take a slightly woody stem cutting and remove it from the parent plant. Remove all but the top leaves and allow the cutting to dry out a few days. The cut/sap will callous, and prevent it from rotting from the bottom of the stem. I’ve found it’s best not to remove the top part of the cutting and to only utilize cuttings with growing tips still attached. This prevents rotting from the top down. Once dried a few days, proceed to stick it into the ground!

Remove leaves but retain growing tip. Allow to dry/callous and proceed to plant!

Care

Spineless chaya can be grown in part shade or full sun. Plants grow slowly at first and begin to grow rapidly once the hottest months come around. This plant is basically pest and carefree.

Eating

Boiling or frying are the main cooking methods. Chaya leaves contain hydrocyanic glycosides; make sure to cook leaves for at least five minutes to remove toxins. While this specie can technically be eaten raw, toxin tolerance will vary depending on the individual. Therefore, it’s probably best to keep raw leaf consumption to a minimum. New shoots are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable.

Where to obtain planting materials

This plant is very easy to find within Big Island gardening communities. Ask a friend for a cutting!

My Garden

I’ve grown this plant for a few years now, but it’s taken me awhile to figure out the best way to propagate because of its tendency to rot out. With my newest technique described above, I’m finally starting to spread it around. I haven’t had the most productive plants grown here but I have a few friends in nearby places with huge chaya plants. It is persistent, but I haven’t seen its full growth potential at my site. It is a pretty plant, though!

Spineless Chaya grown with: ti, kalo, sissoo spinach, okinawan spinach, cosmos, edible hibiscus, kava, Cuban oregano, orange, and coconut

Happy Gardening!

Mitsuba (Cryptotaenia japonica)

Description

Mitsuba, Cryptotaenia japonica, or Japanese parsley/Japanese honeywort, is a perennial shade-loving herb. It has a taste somewhat reminiscent of parsley/celery. Mitsuba grows up to two feet tall, with a clumping habit formed by short rhizomes and thick roots. Most parts of the plant are edible: the leaves, stems, shoots and seeds. The leaves smell wonderful to brush against and have a beautiful appearance.

Propagation

Mitsuba grows from seed; however, I’ve never seen my plant produce flowers.

Plants may easily be divided as well.

Care

Mitsuba is carefree. Plant in part shade and watch it grow! Regular fertilizing will promote vegetative growth.

Eating

The leaves/stems are used fresh or blanched/parboiled and used in various dishes: pickles, soups, salads, stir fried, or fried. Leaves become somewhat bitter with too much cooking, so cook them quickly or add them as a garnish. The roots are typically fried.

Where to obtain planting materials

This one is a little bit more difficult than most. I’ve never seen the plant or seeds for sale on island. I got a small plant from a friend who got that from a friend. It is around, and I’ve seen it for sale on some seed catalog websites. From my readings, this plant is highly valued in Japanese cuisine; maybe tap into their community to find the plant.

My Garden

I’ve been growing this plant for a little while now and I always use it as a parsley replacement in recipes or when I want a similar flavor. My plant is just now vigorous enough to divide and create more plants. It’s nicely nestled into my herb garden where the leaves make me stop and stare whenever I see it. In the same bed, I’ve been letting my crotalaria spp. (rattlepod) grow like crazy to propagate and gather seeds; luckily for mitsuba, it loves living under the shade this provides!

Happy Gardening!

Bush Mint (Satureja viminea)

Description
Bush Mint, satureja viminea, or Jamaican tree mint, is a perennial tiny leaf mint relative with a large stature and a very potent spearmint flavor. Bush mint reaches heights of six to eight feet with a woody stem, and is delicious as a mint replacement. Apparently, this plant is used in a cool healing bath once processed lightly as well. It also produces abundant little white flowers seasonally. What a pretty plant!

Propagation
Bush mint grows from seeds and cuttings. It is a little difficult to propagate, so in anticipation of that, try to start a lot of plants at once.

Care
Bush mint is a carefree plant. Prune to desired shape and fertilize when needed. This plant grows better than all other mints I’ve tried. Prefers full sun or part shade.

Eating
I have switched from growing and eating other mints because this mint has upright leaves meaning it never comes in contact with the soil, I go for the higher leaves to prevent slug contact as well. I usually only eat tender new leaves as the plant produces so much leafy matter there’s no reason to go for older leaves. I use this mint in teas, soups, salads, and curries. Yum!

Where to obtain planting materials
This plant is a little bit more difficult to find. I’ve only seen it for sale a couple of times. However, quite a few people are growing it so if you come across them ask for a handful of cuttings to try and propagate.

My Garden
I discovered this plant about a year ago and I got a little keiki from a friend. This plant was only a few inches tall and now it’s over four feet. I constantly prune it as I harvest to keep it right around that height. It seems to just flush out and flush out; the plant flowered for about two months and now it’s back in grow mode. This plants habit works wonderfully in an herb spiral or an herb garden; a lot of other herbs are
lower ground growers and this one sprawls upward, creating different canopy layers within your mini garden. Canopy stratification is important for plants to grow well together; they can fill all available niches to prevent unwanted plants from growing. They also protect each other from winds, intense sunlight and heavy rainfall, which are all quite abundant here!

Herb Spiral: Bush Mint, Chives, Garlic Chives, Mitsuba, Vietnamese Coriander, Stevia, Society Garlic, Culantro, Tansy, Ko’oko’olau, Pineapple Sage, Plantain, Cosmos and Crotolaria

Happy Gardening!

Hawaiian Cocktail Pepper (Capsicum chinense)

Description

The Hawaiian Cocktail Pepper, Capsicum chinense, is a highly productive perennial sweet bell pepper. The peppers start green and turn to deep red (sometimes yellow) as they ripen. From my observations, this is a hot pepper that has been domesticated to no longer produce the heat; when you open a pepper you get that scent of heat but no bite when you eat them. These pepper plants can live about two years and grow 2-3’ tall and 3-4’ wide.

Flowers

Fruits

Growth Habit

Propagation

The Hawaiian Cocktail Pepper, like most peppers, is grown from seed. To harvest a pepper for seed, I allow some of the largest peppers on the plant to stay on the plant until the peppers have slightly shriveled. Then, I will open it up, eat it, and save the seeds for planting. Check out the seed propagation blog for more info on starting seeds.

Rumor has it that this pepper will grow from cuttings and can potentially be grafted onto other rootstocks. I do not have any experience with this, yet.

Care

These are very carefree pepper plants. Grow in some shade, full sun, out of the rain, or in full rain. Regularly harvest peppers for stimulation of the plant. Cut off dead branches and occasionally you can give it a heavy pruning, leaving just a couple of main branches.

Heavy prune: cut off woody branches and keep that bright green branch in the middle

Eating

Harvest at any stage of ripeness; I usually wait for a least a little color to appear on the skin, You can leave them on for quite a long time and they will slowly wrinkle; at this stage they are still edible. Just don’t allow them to go soft or you will miss your window to eat them.

Where to obtain planting materials

Get fruits from a friend growing this plant, or keep your eyes open at the farmers’ market; I see these peppers sold all the time. That’s where I got my original seeds.

My Garden

I’ve grown this pepper for a few years now; at this point most of my seeds are from my own plants, I did recently get some new genetics mixed in when I got a handful of peppers from a friend. You’ll always want to bring in new genetics periodically so your plants do not weaken. I also recently acquired a yellow variety of this same plant (very exciting)! During the eruption my little potted pepper plant was hiding in my sun-house. This plant did not get watered for five months and survived regular doses of sulfur in the air. This pepper plant continued to produce for part of the eruption and when I moved back into the property, the plant was here waiting for me full of flowers. This is the plant in all of my photos for this entry. The plant is loaded with peppers (for the second time since September) and continues to flower and keep on going. What an amazingly hardy little plant. I shall continue to collect and spread these genetics.

The pepper that survived the eruption

Happy Gardening!

Spiny Chaya (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius)

Description

Spiny chaya, Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, is a highly nutritious, productive, and fast growing perennial tree ‘spinach’ that reaches heights of 20 feet. There are two main cultivated varieties, or species, of chaya. This article focuses on the specific spiny or estrella variety. Although there is some confusion with naming as well, I’m going to stick with this specie as the spiny chaya and the spineless chaya as Cnidoscolus chayamansa, which will have a write up at a later time. Chaya is rich in protein, calcium, iron, carotene, riboflavin, niacin, and ascorbic acid! Once dried and ground it also becomes a great supplement for us humans or for great animal feed. And really, it’s just a beautiful plant!

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That kalo relative is 7′ tall. look at that chaya over story

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Propagation

Propagate spiny chaya by woody cuttings. You may either stick into the soil or just leave large trunk pieces on the ground and they will root. Use cuttings 1-3 feet long.

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Stick 1-3 foot woody cutting into the ground

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cutting just getting going

Care

Spiny chaya is carefree. Stick it into the ground and wait for leaves to emerge and begin consuming! Be mindful of the small hairs on the leaves that cause irritation, so don’t plant this in a high traffic area where you would potentially bump into the leaves on accident.

Eating

Harvest and prepare spiny chaya wearing gloves, to prevent being poked from the spines. The spines disappear with cooking and leaves do not reduce much in size once cooked. Spiny chaya contains toxins in the leaves and must be cooked for 5-15 minutes before consumption to cook out the hydrocyanic glycosides. I have also had a delicious ‘kimchi’ that uses this plant as the only source of greens in the ferment. The leaves are cooked first then cooled and fermented.

Where to obtain planting materials

This plant does not grow from seed; you’ll need to find someone growing this plant to get woody cuttings. This plant is much less common than the spineless chaya that everyone seems to be growing, therefore, it may be difficult to find.

My Garden

I’ve known about chaya as long as I’ve been in the tropics, but I have never had good luck with spineless chaya growing here for some reason. I recently learned about the spiny variety and got to observe its growth habit and consume it while spending some time on the dry side of the island. I brought it over here to see how it grows in the wet environment. So far its growing and putting off a few leaves, they have only been in the ground a little while so they haven’t taken off just yet. I am not able to fully report how it likes the wet, but I’ve read they can handle wet and that it takes them a little time to develop their roots before getting really vigorous. The goal is to grow this around my fruit trees for an easy constant source of mulch for them and an easily obtainable food for me. The waiting game begins!

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One of my cuttings after a pruning/harvest and mulching. Growing with banana, mulberry, sugarcane, ti, and sweet potato.

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Multi-diverse agroforestry with chaya overstory. Including: elderberry, cassava, edible hibiscus, balsa, Alocasia spp., mexican sunflower, tree tomato, bamboo, ginger, turmeric, and i’m sure more!

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Spiny chaya growing to its full potential in a multi-diverse windbreak. Mexican sunflower, bamboo, banana.

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Spiny chaya privacy hedge. Growing to their full potential. Notice the spacing to have a full wall.

Happy Gardening!

Sacha Inchi (Plukenetia volubilis)

Description

Sacha inchi, Plukenetia volubilis, or inca peanut, is a highly productive perennial vine that produces edible nuts and leaves. These nuts are high in protein, oils, and fatty acids omega 3, 6 and 9. Some people call them a superfood. The vine climbs up to about 7’ and tops off. This plant contains toxins in its raw form and must be roasted prior to eating. The nut flavor is slightly peanut like and the leaves may be eaten or drank in tea form after roasting. The fruits are extremely ornamental and always make people stop and look!

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Vine climbing pink trellis

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immature fruits

Propagation

Sacha inchi is propagated by seed. Check out my seed propagation blog. Plants can be grown directly in place or planted in a pot and transplanted once 6 inches tall. Seeds germinate fairly rapidly within a few weeks.

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Direct sow seedling

Care

Sacha grows at a moderate pace and is not overly aggressive. Weed around them and put them on a trellis. Once they get going there is no maintenance. Apparently harvests are typically around 100 nuts and the plant produces nearly year round. Making about 4-5 harvests leaving you with 400-500 nuts per vine per year. The nuts also have an extremely long shelf life if left inside of their shells (at least a year in my experience).

Eating

Sacha inchi flowers 5 months after sowing and nuts are harvestable around 8 months. Allow fruits to fully ripen and dry on the vine, yes even in an extremely wet environment they will dry on the vine. Once they are brown and dry you can pick them off the vine.

Shell them using pliers then roast them. This may be done in a pan as well. I also sometimes throw a few in soup or curry and boil to add some extra nutrients to my meals.

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All Stages of processing: Right – dry harvest. Middle – open shell. White nut- edible part. Brown shell – use pliers to open to get edible white nut.

Where to obtain planting materials

This plant is still a little bit rare here on our island. Ask someone growing it for seeds, as they are so prolific and easy to share.

My Garden

I’ve been growing sacha for just about two years now. I originally had 5 vines growing. Two didn’t make it through the sulfur and lava event but three made it. These plants are just starting to get going once again and are full of flowers and immature fruits. This is just a hardy beautiful plant. It look me a while to figure out how to eat it since there isn’t too much information in that respect out there. And now I recently acquired what I was told was a sacha relative, Plukenetia spp., but as of now looks really similar so I’m not sure if it is a different species yet, but we will see once it starts growing more and flowers. What a fun plant to grow!

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Sacha relative growing with sissoo spinach

 

Happy Gardening!

Mamaki (Pipturus albidus)

Description

Mamaki, Pipturus albidus, is a Hawaiian endemic medicinal tree. Mamaki is a short-lived, fast growing pioneer specie that grows 10-30 feet, typically 10-15’ during the first year. The leaves are commonly used as a general tonic and cure-all in the form of a delicious tea. This plant hosts our endemic butterfly, Vanessa tameamea, in its caterpillar stages and adds beauty to any landscape.

Mamaki is a key plant in the young native forests as it grows quickest and fills space, creating shade and more favorable environments for our native plants. This is a major role that needs to be filled as our ‘Ohi’a lehua are losing the higher canopy, now the lowest strata of canopy can be filled with Mamaki and when the younger longer-lived trees are ready, they will break through the canopy of the Mamaki and grow toward the sun. Or the Mamaki will die back naturally, and allow space for that longer-lived tree to grow in that space.

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Sea of volunteer mamaki

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Ripe fruits and flowers

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Pulelehua (Vanessa tameamea) our endemic butterfly – it only lays eggs on mamaki and caterpillars eat the leaves

Propagation

Mamaki is grown from seed, and readily dispersed by birds. Take fruits and smash them and spread them around. Each fruit contains many seeds. Directly sown plants grow much stronger, faster and healthier than transplanted plants. If transplanting, move them at a tiny stage of no more than 6 inches, they will be shocked for a little while and will take their time to re-establish.

If trying to broadcast seed over a large area (restoration or successional food forest): collect fruits, add a little bit of water, and blend for 1-2 seconds to create slurry. This slurry can then be broadcasted via squirt guns or cups and buckets.

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Smash fruit prior to planting

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Various stages of fruit and flower development

Care

Mamaki is extremely tender when young. Young trees are easily snapped or broken when working around them. It’s easiest to just leave them alone until they develop a root system that will hold them strongly up. Since Mamaki is a pioneer species they tend to have a high germination rate and a high mortality rate. This is normal. Trees throughout any stage may die back, just take standing dead wood to the ground to feed your other plants and give the live ones a little space. Natural thinning to feed the forest, wow, what a helpful plant!

Eating

Young leaves are edible raw or cooked. Fruits are edible, but too many can lead to diarrhea. The leaves are boiled for a delicious medicinal tea. Take a handful of leaves and add them to boiling water, let steep 30 minutes for the most delicious golden green tea. Mamaki leaves also make an amazing sun tea! Take leaves and throw them into a glass jar full of water. Leave that glass jar in the sun and out of the rain, I usually put a coffee filter over the top to prevent bugs from entering, leave in the sun 4-8 hours. I like to drink it while its still got the warmth from the sun, but also makes a great tea for the next day. Drink within 48 hours.

Medicinal benefits of tea: anti Vog, aiding respiratory, tissue cleansing, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, fighting insomnia and irritability, promoting relaxation and vitality!

Where to obtain planting materials

Many places sell young plants but I typically see them in small containers where the roots will be totally root bound and will likely never redevelop and grow the way they want to. Find a friend who is growing Mamaki and get some fruits from them. Your success will be much more plentiful. A single mature Mamaki will produce tons of fruits and seeds!

My Garden

Mamaki always volunteers (germinates without cultivation) in areas where the forest has been cleared or the soil is disturbed at my house. I clear an area, plant it out with trees and come back in fill it in with ground cover. During the first few months my ground cover will slowly be establishing, during this initial establishment stage I come through and weed 1-2 times being very careful not to pull up Mamaki sprouts. Once an area has been gone through and the Mamaki left alone they will grasp ahold and start shooting up and growing really quickly. This means that the weeds (typically Arthrostemma) germinate and establish faster than Mamaki, but if you allow the Mamaki to have a little bit more germination time and time in the tiny keiki stages it will establish and overtake most other weeds. The Mamaki will really start filling in and you have a small canopy started. In about a year you have a lot of coverage and height and variation in heights of the new canopy. Mamaki will continue to germinate as long as there is enough light in the area. This can create thickets of Mamaki that will self thin, feed other plants, and over time allow favorable microclimates to develop until emergent species over take them. Not only is this an amazing forest helper but also the medicinal benefits are tasty and incredible. Volunteer Mamaki plants grow right outside of my side door where I can quickly grab them with taking less than 10 steps and get back inside and make up a tea, this is perfect when I’m feeling sick or have some respiratory issues and need a good healthful tea! Thank you nature!

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volunteer keiki – make sure to learn how to identify mamaki when small

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Mamaki growing with naio, okinawa spinach

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Mamaki growing with ohia, lama, kopiko, hame, loulu, kookoolau, avocado, strawberry guava

 

Happy Gardening!

Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Description

Turmeric, Curcuma longa, or ‘olena, is a potent perennial spice, dye, and medicinal plant. The plant grows 3 feet tall and creates edible spicy rhizomes. This plant is high in anti-inflammatory properties and is widely known to curb or completely cure arthritis within a few months of regular use. This plant is highly ornamental with big green leaves and a very showy flower!

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Propagation

Turmeric is propagated from small pieces of rhizome, or modified stems. Turmeric does not produce seed.

Place 3-6 inch pieces of rhizome twice as deep as their diameter into the soil in the early spring. And then await emergence. You can also wait for shoots to grow on rhizomes you have saved in a cool, dry environment and plant them once the shoots appear.

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Fresh harvest

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Stored and sprouting rhizomes

Care

Turmeric is commonly grown like an annual, and has a natural die back/dormancy phase during winter when leaves die completely. Shoots will reemerge in spring and come back to life.

Make sure soil is high quality and not too rocky for ease of harvest and for larger rhizome production.

Once the leaves have disappeared, the harvest can begin. You may dig up the whole root mass or dig roots as you need them. If you live in a dry area, digging up the whole plant isn’t an issue, but in a moist humid environment, I prefer to leave in ground and harvest as needed to avoid losses due to moisture on stored rhizomes.

Eating

Fresh leaves are used as an herb, and young shoots and inflorescences are boiled as a vegetable in some places.

The main use of turmeric is for curries and spicing, but I enjoy a simple tea to give me my regular dosages of medicine. Turmeric needs to be combined with black pepper in order to increase absorption into the body. The spice is very potent so a little goes a long way, and commonly will stain your cutting board and knife.

Tea recipe: boil ½ gallon of water, add 2-3 inches of coarsely chopped turmeric once water has boiled (with or without skin). Add pepper if desired, or drink tea while you are eating a meal with pepper added. You may simmer roots for 20 minutes, or simply add turmeric chunks and allow cooling on its own (usually over night). Strain and drink a cup a day! May refrigerate or leave at room temperature.

Where to obtain planting materials

Turmeric is commonly sold at plant sales and there are a few different varieties sold here in Hawaii. There is the common yellow turmeric, white turmeric, blue turmeric, and black turmeric.

You may also get some turmeric at the farmers market or grocery store and leave it on your counter until it sprouts and plant that.

Or of course ask a friend for some bits of rhizome, if someone has grown the plant for at least one life cycle they will have plenty of material to share!

My Garden

I’ve grown turmeric ever since I’ve lived in Hawaii. My first harvest I found in the forest where I was living, and harvested many pounds and I spread that around everywhere. I now have turmeric growing in almost all my zones. I’ve made dedicated beds so I can have an easy harvest. I’ve also stuck rhizomes in many places just to plant sprouted bits. The farm I am staying now has turmeric growing in many places in very diverse polycultures and in the early stages of succession in multi-diverse food forest/agroforestry systems. What a beautiful and useful plant to spread everywhere!

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Turmeric. Bamboo. Edible Hibiscus. Papaya. Kale. Perennial peanut.

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Bamboo. Cassava. Air potato. Kale. Papaya. Kalo. Avocado. Perennial peanut.

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Happy Gardening!

Cuban Oregano (Plectranthus amboinicus)

Description

Cuban oregano, Plectranthus amboinicus, also called Spanish thyme, Indian borage, Greek oregano, oregano or false oregano, is a highly fragrant, quick growing, mat forming, perennial herb. This plant grows up to 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide if left untrimmed, the growth habit tends to sprawl, and becomes woody at its base. This plant is also highly ornamental and two varieties exist, a variegated variety and a solid green variety. The flavor of the herb is likened to oregano, thyme, and pine with a mix of peppery minty flavor. Quite a complex arrangement! In my opinion, it deserves its own distinct name, however, common names tend to describe other plants!

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Propagation

Cuban oregano grows extremely easy as a cutting. Use cuttings 6-8 inches long and plant about 4 inches deep into the soil. It is best to start in shade and move into full sun once it develops roots. Or plant directly in the garden with some overhead vegetation cover to produce shade. However, a developed plant prefers full sun.

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Cut stem

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Remove lower leaves

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Stick 4 inches into soil

 

Care

Cuban oregano can withstand shade, but becomes leggy and thin, rather than a dense mat it forms in full sun. This plant grows quickly. Mature specimens become sparsely covered and leafless in the lower stems and regions of the plant. In order to counteract this behavior, regular pruning and harvesting is recommended.

Eating

The flavor is rather strong; therefore, a small quantity of fresh leaves is used for spicing. In its native range this herb is used for masking the intense aroma of fish, goat and game. This plant is also used medicinally to treat coughs, as well as minor infections and inflammation. The aromatic oils make this plant useful as an insect repellant and also for laundry scent.

Where to obtain planting materials

Ask anyone growing this plant for some cuttings. If you grow this plant you have plenty of propagation materials to share. This plant may also be found at some plant sales.

My Garden

I’ve grown Cuban oregano for a long time now, but most of my ground covers tend to get shaded due to the overwhelming abundance of growth in my garden. This plant can be easily maintained under shade as it grows slower and doesn’t grow more than you can harvest. I worked at a horticulture therapy program where we grew Cuban oregano in full sun and it was always jumping out of its beds and trying to grow everywhere. Which is wonderful in the correct situations! It’s a lovely plant to observe and smell. Give it space and let it grow. Currently here at my transitional garden it is already growing well on its own. With a little bit more care and tending it would fill space nicely.

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Cuban oregano growing with lilikoi, pineapple and gardenia.

Happy Gardening!