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Jul 15, 2010

Fungal and Bacterial Preventive, Naturally.

This is what we use as a preventive, especially during rainy weather against bacterial and fungal attacks on our plants (leaves and stems, not roots);

Take 500 grams gelenggang ( cassia alata ) leaves and 400 grams lengkuas rhizomes ( alpinia galanga ) and pound them.

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Mix Well
Then squeeze out active ingredients in 30 liters of water
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After mixing and squeezing well in 30 liters of water, filter, then spray immediately without dilution.  Remember, use immediately.

We find the spray effective as a prevention against most fungal and bacterial infections on stems and leaves.  Spray regularly but lightly (sparingly) twice a week.  During bad weather or where there are early signs of disease, spray once a day sparingly (lightly) until disease is arrested. It is not effective if disease is well on its way.

Note however that no amount of spraying is going to help you if your soil is unhealthy, your plant is from weak seeds, and your plant is generally weak from lack of nutrients. 

Apr 11, 2010

Useful Plants At The Farm - Red Ginger

Red Ginger (zingiber officinale var rubrum) has a sharper taste and is more aromatic than normal ginger.  Though cultivated, it can also be found growing wild in the jungles.

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If you are a lover of the taste and aroma of ginger in cooking, then the red ginger is something you must try.

Here's red ginger in apple cider vinegar.  The red color seeps into the vinegar and is preserved by the acid.  Fresh red ginger exposed to light will fade within hours.

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The red ginger has excellent anti-inflammatory properties and is especially effective for those with chronic inflammatory problems such as arthritis, carpal tunnel, etc.  Drinking just a finger on alternate days will do wonders for your aches and pains. Here's a study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20136450

At the farm it is part of a very important tonic which we feed to the chickens when they are doing poorly.  The ginger also has strong anti-bacterial activity.

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The red ginger is very effective in bringing down high blood pressure.  Take two thumbs, blend with some sugar and then heat it up to just below boiling point for a minute or two.  Sieve, and then sip slowly like a tea. Relax, after an hour measure your BP.  You will be surprised! 

Note that to 'cure' HBP, a holistic approach must be taken.  We are not advocating red ginger as a 'cure' for HBP. It should be part of a total approach and you should consult your health-care provider before embarking on any alternative medical treatment. 

Jan 10, 2010

Useful Plants At The Farm- Curcuma Mangga

Curcuma mangga is also known as white turmeric.  It tastes like a mango, hence the name 'mangga'. 

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The rhizome with skin and without.













Researchers have found anti-tumour activities from extracts of the rhizomes.  On a personal basis, we have found it to have strong anti-inflammatory effect and we have incorporated it into our diet on a regular basis, either as a ulam or salad, or as a drink.

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The plant can reach about 5 feet high.











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Close up of the leaf










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At the farm, we gather the soil around the roots and rhizome and make a foliar spray to combat fungal  infections on plants.


Take one part soil, one part molasses, and 4 parts water and aerate vigorously for 10  hours. 



Use twice a week on plants with signs of fungal attacks.


Apr 10, 2009

Useful Plants At The Farm- Galangal or Alpinia Galanga / Greater Galanga

The Greater Galanga or lengkuas is a ginger originally from Malaysia and Indonesia.  It is used in Thai, Malay, Nyonya and Indonesian cuisine.



It is active against gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria.




In our farm, we have found it to be effective against mycoplasma sp.  infection in the chickens. In combination with garlic and at the appropriate dosage it is effective against chronic infections.





We now use lengkuas as a weekly preventive for the chickens






At our farm, we grow the lengkuas wild in our Food Forest.  It requires no maintenance and provides free medicine for our animals and even our workers.


Here’s more information about lengkuas:



You can learn a saying or two about lengkuas here:


Apr 04, 2009

Useful Plants At The Farm- Derris elliptica or Tuba

Tuba root has long been used by the ‘Orang Asli’ to fish, as it is a piscicide.








As we can see from the pictures, the plant has arresting flowers.



It is a creeping and climbing vine.







It is a wasteful method of fishing as all fish, big or small are wiped out within minutes. Thankfully, very few ‘Orang Asli’ are using tuba roots nowadays and in fact, some do not even know how to identify it.



The root of the tuba.

In the farm we grow it for use as an insecticide. It is the only local plant that we know of, that’s truely insecticidal. The rest are repellents. For many years, organic standards permitted the use of rotenone, the active ingredient in tuba root against insects.  That has now been withdrawn.


Pounding the root.

We do not use tuba on vegetables or fruits, but on roots and trunks of non-fruiting trees and ornamentals that are attacked by tough borers etc. The withdrawal of its use in organic farms is because of concern over its safety after scientists injected the active ingredient, rotenone, into the blood stream of rats and which resulted in Parkinson’s-like symptoms in the rats.


The pounded root will be squeezed in water to make an aqueous extract of the active ingredient, rotenone.


The milky aqueous extract ready for use.




Quote from Wikipedia, “In 2000 it was reported that injecting rotenone into rats causes symptoms of Parkinson's disease to develop. Rotenone was continuously applied over a period of five weeks, mixed with DMSO and PEG to enhance tissue penetration, and injected into the jugular vein.[12] “ . Citation [12] here refers to : Caboni P, Sherer T, Zhang N, Taylor G, Na H, Greenamyre J, Casida J (2004). "Rotenone, deguelin, their metabolites, and the rat model of Parkinson's disease". Chem Res Toxicol 17 (11): 1540–8.

One would think that would be expected injecting toxic stuff into the bloodstream.  Anyway, as an organic farmer, it is better to be on the safe side and cease from using tuba on edibles.  The tuba extract does not remain in the environment and is totally detoxifed in 6 to 7 days, being degraded by sunlight.

In the farm, though rarely used, it is nonetheless a useful plant to have.

Feb 28, 2009

'Miraculous' Plants at the Farm

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The young green unripe limau nipis,(Citrus Aurantifolia), or key lime, is the most aromatic fruit you will ever taste. We kid you not!!


But you need to first eat one of the berries from this bush - the Miracle Berry bush. miracle berry.gifOtherwise the extreme sourness of the limau will shut down all your other senses and you will not be able to experience the aroma. After you chew on the berry, miracle berry fruit1.gifthe sourness of the limau is ‘smothered’ by sweetness. The limau becomes so delicious you want to finish off the whole fruit and you have to remind yourself what’s happening to avoid a major tummy upset later on.

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The Miracle Berry Bush

The miracle berry is a bush from West Africa (Synsepalum dulcificum or Richadella dulcifica).

 The active ingredient is called Miraculin, which in itself is not sweet, but the tongue, once exposed to miraculin, perceives sour foods such as citrus as sweet for up to a couple of hours afterwards.


lemba1.gifIf you chew on the fruit of the lemba or curculi latifolia, plain water and any sour drink will taste sweet. The lemba is found in wet areas of the jungle and we can find them in the jungle next to our farm. The leaves can be used to make ropes and for wrapping things. lemba flower2.gif



There's a patent in the USA (Patent 5378489 ) for the use of the active ingredient, curculin, as a form of sweetener by a team of Japanese scientists.


Don't you think we Malaysians should be ashamed of ourselves for not recognising the value of plants that's growing literally right outside our doorsteps?

Feb 27, 2009

Useful Plants at the Farm - Gliricidia Sepium

This is a plant from Central America, now endemic in Malaysia.  It is an inconspicuous and not particularly pretty small tree. You will see it by the road side growing wild. It is known as 'pokok pagar' locally.  In our farm, it serves multiple functions.

As a shade tree and windbreak
It is extremely fast growing and takes root even in poor soil.  It is an excellent fixer of atmospheric nitrogen and before too long, the soil where it is planted can be used to plant more nitrogen demanding plants.
Because of its fast growth, we plant it everywhere in the farm as a carbon seqeuster to reduce our carbon footprint arising from the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from the animals.
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Here it is as a living fence.  It will never rot, all we need do is to trim it, and it performs as a post while sequestering carbon.  Isn't nature wonderful?
The leaves make an excellent insect repellant and it can be used as fodder for goats due to its high protein content.  However, because of its high tannin content it is not suited for other ruminants and chickens.
The leaves can also be used to quicken the ripening of bananas and papayas.
The wood can be used as fuel wood and also to convert to biochar. 
The tree produces pretty pink flowers which can also be used as an insect repellent. flowers1.gif
Maybe because of the pretty flowers you can sometimes find them lining certain streets.by the road.gif                                   
But during the flowering season, pity the poor road sweeper.
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Useful Plants at the Farm - Cassia Alata

You have most probably noticed this plant at the roadside, especially near earth-drains and low-lying wet areas.  It is called Cassia Alata or Gelenggang.

Originally from South America, it is now endemic to Malaysia.  It has strong fungicide properties, the active ingredient of which is chrysophanic acid.  We use it to spray on vegetables and fruits during the wet season.
It is also used as an anti-fungal for humans and animals - we pound the leaves, add salt and some cooking oil and apply it to the skin.  Ringworm will be cured in two days.
Occasionally, we make a tea out of the leaf.  We dry it and then roast it lightly before storing it.  When needed, we use one or two leaves to make a mild tea.  It is diuretic, mildly laxative and apparently lowers blood sugar.
The 'feel-good' factor after drinking this tea may come from its systemic anti-fungal effects once it is ingested.