OYSTER LEAF

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I am grateful for moments of heightened curiosity when excitement and intrigue sparkle and I am drawn into the chase to look for answers. These recent years had been one roller coaster after another, finding answers to growing challenging (cold seasoned) edible plants in our tropical climate.

After strawberries (still an on going search for answers on hybrids), there was wolfberries and now top of my list, is this Oyster Leaf after hearing about its uniqueness from chefs, then tasting a leaf with champagne at a gathering.

Little is known about this salad leaves outside the fine dining circle. In fact, most local growers do not know it. There was no name for this plant in the Chinese seeds catalog.

Grow Oyster Leaf from seeds in containers

2019 February 23 Harvest

Ironically, I heard about this the first time from a Australian trained Chinese chef who wanted to try growing it for his own restaurant. Thereafter, an opportunity to try it at a business function. It was an instant favorite! I fell in love with the taste and texture immediately.

The experience of enjoying each leaf raw is very interesting. The first taste is salt, then the oysters taste explode at mid section of the leaf and at the end, a mild and sweet taste reminiscent of freshly harvested romaine green. In terms of taste or texture, it met all our expectations, especially among our seafood or salads friends.

In our humble opinions, these leaves should be enjoyed raw and without flavoring because they are delicious and unique. Connoisseurs love them too, they were often paired with seafood or fish dishes.

As an uncommon, sought after vegetable, they were only sold in specialty stores or private greenhouses direct to fine dining restaurants in Britain, at a market price‎  £ 5.50 (GBP) for 30 grams, roughly SGD 320 per kg!

Grow Oyster Leaf from seeds in Singapore

From seeds natural environment

One understands why they cost so much after some research.

In a nutshell, these are “fussy” difficult plants to cultivate and slow to grow. However for the market price they fetched, it is worthwhile to explore for indoor high tech farms looking for delicious niche vegetables for restaurants. An advantage for local growers is that these leaves must be harvested as close to delivery time and destination as possible.

Our family enjoyed tasting salads and vegetables that were not common in supermarkets here. We bridged natural fertilizer such as seaweed or Kelp meal in our nutrients base for our edibles gardens.

NATURAL FERTILIZER FOR SOIL & LIQUID BASE MIX

Here are some notes on Oyster Leaf plants growing conditions –

  • Hates moisture, prefer well draining, non compact/heavy soil (similar to rosemary and lavender)
  • Avoid letting medium go totally dry before watering ( tip – aim to keep its environment constantly moist)
  • Unable to tolerate prolonged sun + heat , prefers part shade (ideal for my apartment’s environment)
  • Fragile, usually die upon transplantation
  • Needs cold stratification (use strawberries germination method)
  • Best harvest early in the day at their most fragrant (morning)
  • Discourage flowering as it may reduce leaves’ flavor (reason why seeds are hard to find!)

Our Oyster Leaves’ Journal began on July 13 2018, when a seed germinated in 2 days instead of a month as advised.

Cold Seasoned salads from seeds

2018 July 13

Be patience when cultivating these plants to acclimatize in our region. It was a slower than snails’ pace from the start till the second month. Seed leaves took a week to develop after germination.

Cold seasoned salads from seeds

Slow start

The following pictures tracked how they formed from seeds leaves stage –

Grow Oyster Leaf from seeds in Singapore

In net cup for easier handling

Grow Oyster Leaf from seeds in Singapore

2018 August 04

Grow Oyster Leaf from seeds

True leaf showed

From first to second month, the progress was very slow. Some seedlings may failed. As this was our first time and not having any information to fall back on, regarding growth, we did not know why seedlings die yet.

Grow Oyster Leaf from seeds

2018 August 07

Cold Seasoned Salads

2018 August 16

On their second month, their growth development was similar to strawberries. Height of plants, roots development, more leaves formed were all alike. There was a single thin mid section ( I called it the crown like the strawberries’ mid section),  which will thicken and multiplied as it matured.

Cold Seasoned Salads

2018 September 05

Absolutely delicious fresh oyster tasting leaves with thick crisp texture. Now, I truly appreciate why this salad leaves are sought after by chefs around the world.

cold seasoned salads

2018 September 17

As this grew, the mid section or crown thickened and multiply. We harvested leaves from the outer fringe and this seem to prompt new leaves to start from the mid inner section. It looked to be a cut and grow plant.

Grow cold seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

2018 December 01

From the second month, the taste of oyster become more distinct. Interestingly, the taste and smell of oysters changed through the day. In the early morning, it was pleasantly light and sweet. Once the heat is out (late morning) to afternoon, the oyster taste became very strong, akin to eating an oily oyster omelette!

Cold seasoned salads from seeds

Oyster Leaf seedlings

The leaves had some pigmentation, dots of color on the surface and beneath. At first, we thought it was spider mites but fortunately were not the dreaded pests!

Cold seasoned salads from seeds

2018 October 4

Cold climate plants showed the same freckles on leaves so we know this is a normal characteristics of the plant.

Grow cold seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

Freckles on leaves

In addition to thicker leaves texture, the taste profile now is salty and oysters.

Grow cold seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

2019 February 8

Grow cold seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

Cut and Grow Leaves

Hopeful for flowers ! Our tropical heat may had prompt our plants to bolt. Unlike gardeners in the cool climate, I look forward to see how they developed and hopefully there would be seeds.

Grow cold seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

2019 January 19

Challenges 1 – These plants were not able to tolerate prolonged direct sun. The leaves wilt even in morning sun above 30 degree Celsius. Ideally grown in the shade or bright airy area.

Grow cold seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

Heat Stroke

We found that it thrived best in our rainy season when the air was damp, below 28 degree Celsius.

Cold Seasoned salads from seeds in Singapore

Okay in the rain

Challenges 2 – Roots had the tendency to drop off when the weather was hot. It was possible to regenerate roots. We do not recommend these plants be grown outdoor in the ground.

Speedy recovery was possible with strawberries’ cooling measures. The following video shared how we used wind to aerate individual reservoir by “rocking” which caused ripples in the liquid base of  these cool loving plants.

 

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EASY BEGINNERS VEGETABLES

We love growing and harvesting our own vegetables at home. Nothing quite beat the taste and texture of our own plants. It is also immensely gratifying to see the whole journey from seeds to cutting the leaves for a meal and to be able to harvest again each week from the same plant.

AMARANTH

We try amaranth in hydro and soil.

In our opinion, amaranth taste better if soil grown.

This leafy vegetable is a cut and grow plant and can be harvested within a month. There are a few varieties of edible amaranth (Yin Tsai, Chinese Spinach) , examples are red, green or mixed amaranth.

The seeds germinated in 2 days like this. It is important to keep the seeds constantly moist.

Amaranth from seeds

Red Amaranth

HYDRO Seedlings –

Amaranth from seeds

1 week old amaranth

Grow amaranth for salads

Red Amaranth

SOIL based Amaranth

Amaranth from seeds

Amaranth in soil

Amaranth from seeds

Green Amaranth

The texture is silky when lightly braised in soup or quick stir fry. Extremely suitable for young children.

Amaranth from seeds

Mixed Amaranth 

Amaranth from seeds

Fresh and LUSH Harvest

CAMOMILE 

Grow camomile from seeds

Overnight germination

Grow camomile from seeds

1 month old

Exploring more interesting fresh salad options! Camomile leaves are crunchy and taste like the tea of the same namesake! Mixed with spicier arugula, it certainly add texture and kicked up quite an interesting mix.

Grow camomile from seeds

Taste like Tea, mix with arugula

 

KALE – More Information Link

Grow Kale from seeds

Kale seeds

Kale seeds also germinated in 2 days. A cut and grow plant that can be harvested in 2 to 3 months depending on each individual’s preference.

Grow Kale from seeds

2 weeks old Kale

Our family loves the younger (smaller), sweeter tasting leaves that are usually not sold in supermarkets, as we consume them raw. The younger leaves are juicer and less fiberous.

HYDRO KALE

Kale benefits

2 months old kale

 

Kale Care and Health Benefits

7 – 10 days regrow

Kale benefits

Fresh kale salads

 

MALABAR SPINACH

Is also known as climbing or Ceylon spinach but this is not actually a spinach. It belonged to the Basellaceae family and the thick leaves resembled spinach. Eaten raw, every single bite is juicy and crunchy.

Malabar Spinach

3 days to 1 week to see germination

Grow Malabar Spinach from seeds

3 weeks old

Fresh seeds harvested from plants are easier to germinate than store bought dry seeds. The latter need to be stratified by applying a nail file, knife or sand paper on seeds’ surface before sowing. It preferred hot direct brutal sun but can also be grown in part shade. In mature plants, the thick stem can be propagated in water or direct sowed in soil and roots will regrow.

Grow Malabar Spinach from seeds

Thick Stems

This plant is a climber or creeper in cooler climate and need support. To harvest, we cut only the leaves and they regrow in a week.

Grow Malabar Spinach from seeds

Thick Juicy Leaves

Not sure if our string trellis would work, will update soon.

Grow Malabar Spinach from seeds

2 months old

This plant can be propagated from cutting. We will be growing some of these in hydro to maximize space on the hanging gardens.

Malabar Spinach from Cutting

June 19 – Rooted in 10 days

Two plants per family is often enough for a reliable source of vegetables harvest every week. Avoid drying out the soil as this will cause flowering which resulted in bitter tasting leaves.

Malabar Spinach from seeds

2018 May 28

 

WATER CRESS

Despite its size, this vegetable is a power house of nutrients (vitamins B1, B2, B6, C, E, manganese, carotene) and is recommended to eat them raw in mixed salads or juice.

Water Cress from seeds

2018 April 27 – 2 days germination

Will be consuming as microgreens in mixed salads.

Grow water cress from seeds

2 weeks old

Grow watercress from seeds

2018 May 29

Hydro Vegetables from seeds at home

Watercress & More

 

Edible Succulent – Golden Purslane

Edible succulent golden purslane

High omega 3 Fatty Acids + Lemony Crunch

 

Sugar Loaf (Italian name – Pan di Zucchero)

Cold seasoned salads

Sugar Loaf Escarole

Swiss Chard 

Cold seasoned salads from seeds

Red Swiss Chard

 

We grew vegetables on our windows to  harness natural resources such as wind and sun. Our “pots” are constantly in motion, creating ripples in their individual reservoir, giving roots zone more aeration naturally.

 

This hanging garden also allowed soil and hydro based plants to grow together and we DIY these pots’ hangers from PET bottles.

Creative PET bottles garden containers

Hanging Vegetables Gardens

SALADS & HERBS WORKSHOP is available for private 1 : 1, small private group or schools setting. Learn how to grow from seeds in both soil and hydro, the plus & minus of both mediums and embark on this wonderful journey of growing & harvesting fresh whole food.

Growing Vegetables Workshops in Singapore

WORKSHOP

Growing Vegetables Workshops

Seedlings in Recyclables!

Fresh harvest from our gardens everyday !

Grow Vegetables from seeds in containers

Home Grown Wellness

Small Space Edibles Garden

Living in a small apartment and no space for home grown vegetables?

Farm in a Cup

Lim San ‘s Aug 7 2015 harvest of his tomatos

Too busy! No time to tend to a garden?

How about a Do-It-YourselfAutomatic watering garden out of free-of-charge recycled containers?

Having no land and living in high rise apartments are NOT going to stop Singapore’s determined urban farmers from growing their own food ! 🙂

Lim San thought out of the box and created a ” farm in a cup ” (or bottle) concept to grow fresh edibles. I guessed once he tasted freshly harvested own grown edibles, and enjoyed the satisfaction of overcoming all the limitations to grow them, there is no going back!

Just look at his thriving small “farm” growing out of recycled paper cups in his apartment. 🙂

His crops so far include dwarf tomatoes varieties, bell peppers, lettuce, rosella, spinach and even strawberries!!

How to grow a farm in a cup

Lim San’s Bell peppers on Oct8 2015

Singapore awesome urban farmers

Oct 8 2015 – Capsicum plant flowered in his farm cup!

Small Space Edibles garden

Photo : strawberry plant from seed! Aug 11 2015

Here is another example of his creative small space farms 🙂

 

February 2016 – Okra in a cup !

 

 

Lim San did not stop upgrading his mini – farms ! 🙂

In late 2015, he built vertical farm out of recycled bottles which auto irrigated his edibles remotely and saved the dripping water in a reservoir to be recycled again! 🙂

This system of vertical farming was made famous by Britta Riley‘s WindowFarms, a simple idea to utilize only a window to grow food hydroponically in a vertical arrangement. For city dwellers around the world, her concept brought hope to grow food inside apartments without using a lot of space.

As I was experimenting with the same thing myself around the time Lim San had already improved his, I learned a lot from him with his video. My difficulty arose from not knowing how to connect the T joints to combine compressed air with water. Done in the right way, compressed air from the air pump will combine with water to become water bubbles. The bubbles will be dragged up the vertical tubing by pressurized air from the pump to the topmost bottle. Then trickled down through the rest of bottled “farms”, irrigating them, and finally ending in the reservoir (Coke bottle seen here).

This irrigation cycle began again from the reservoir as long as the air pump is on. A timer is usually used to regulate the irrigation cycles. And that’s basically how vertical farm irrigation system work! 🙂 Cool, huh?

No matter how many fancy vertical farms are available in the market now for home gardeners, nothing satisfy me and likely gardeners like Lim San and many like us D.I.Yers :), is to built something with our own hands and grow food out of the cheapest material possible! 🙂

But Lim San did not stopped here.

In January 2016, he decided to combine  aeroponic and aquaponic systems with this vertical farm to grow more salads and edibles as organically as possible!

In Wikpedia, “aeroponic” was described as a process where plants are grown in an environment of air and mist, without soil as a medium. The word “aero” meaning “air” and “ponos” mean labor , came from Greece. Unlike hydroponics, aquaponics do not use liquid nutrients, instead it utilize water from fish (aquarium) waste to feed plants.

Lim San's Mizuna

Lim San’s Mizuna

Awesome gardeners in Singapore

Lim San – Harvested fresh vegetables on the 45th day

All these systems combined to allow Lim San to grow great harvest like these with only one window! His farm is suspended above ground and limited space used for his aquarium below it 🙂

Vertical private gardens in Singapore

Space to grow edibles is a luxury in Singapore but we still have windows!!!

Lim San 's Mizuna before his harvest

Lim San ‘s before his harvest

Singapore vertical aeroponic and aquaponic private gardens

After Harvest

Awesome gardeners in Singapore

Lim San’s fresh harvest of Mizuna

What I like about about these 3 systems are that they all recycled water, but if I have to choose only one, it would be the aquaponics system because it utilized organic waste from fish and greatly reduced any possibility of mosquitoes breeding in the reservoir if the air pump malfunctioned! 🙂

If I ever get sick of growing strawberries, maybe this would be the NEXT project at home ! 🙂