Sunday, July 26, 2009

Wild Tree Grafts

In our front yard we have been growing a Tapak Kuda tree for three years (Bauhinia blakeana). Last year I noticed that one branch looked a bit strange and when I investigated (climbed my ladder), I realised that a branch of another tree species -Jambu Bol (Eugenia malaccensis)- was growing out of a wound in one of the Tapak Kuda branches!

(Right: Tapak Kuda branch -running horizontally- with Jambu Bol graft coming out the upper side.)

I cut the branch down and took it to a wedding kenduri to show to a former colleague of mine, a woman who holds the BSc degree in Biology. She had never seen or heard of such a graft, obviously a wild graft done either by birds or insects. I kept the branch and plan on doing a thin-slice cross-section someday.

(Left: Closeup of Jambu Bol graft coming out of wound in Tapak Kuda branch.)

This past week I was once again surprised when I climbed my ladder to prune the Tapak Kuda tree again. I found another Jambu Bol graft growing out of another branch! So what I thought was a one-off freak of nature might not be so unusual. Still, I have not been able to find any reports online that describe such wild grafts. So, I am asking blog readers for help. Does anyone out there know of other such grafts?

(Right: Tapak Kuda branch running horizontally with Jambu Bol graft growing downwards. Tapak Kuda leaves in upper right of photo; Jambu Bol leaves on the left side.)

Although I cut the first grafted branch down, I am leaving the second one in place to see if it will eventually produce fruit.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

July is THE Fruit Month

Malaysia is blessed with both a wide variety of fruits and a near-constant availability. Still, July is the primary fruit month in that most varieties are available. Since many of my colleagues still live in kampungs, they have access to many fruit trees and, thus, amply supply the college mostly with bags of rambutan, mangosteen (manggis), and bananas.

Last Saturday, I was invited by a colleague to visit her kampung home and assist in picking fruit that was out of reach from the ground. She lives with her two children, and her two parents, and none of them were able to climb the large mangosteen tree from which they obtained the bulk of their mangosteen crop. Since I love visiting kampung homes, I jumped at the opportunity to motorcycle out of town on a bright and hot Saturday morning.

The mangosteen (Garcinia mangostana) is a slow-growing tree that takes around 15 years before producing fruit. But when it does begin, watch out! As can be seen from the photo, a dull purple fruit is produced that when ripped open shows sections (like an orange) of white pulpy flesh over small and soft, gray seeds. Mangosteens do not stay ripe very long, and must be picked and eaten within just a few days. To some of us, mangosteen is the best-tasting fruit, beating even a good mango. I suspect that the reason I had never tasted one before was the difficulty in transporting them great distances since they do not appear to last long once picked.

When I arrived at my colleague's house, her mother directed me to the back part of the lot, through the chicken and duck pen, to a very tall mangosteen tree (around 10 meters in height) that had ample and alternating limbs up the trunk. All of the low-hanging fruit had already been picked by the father, who uses a long aluminum pole with a wire hook on the end. I climbed up the tree quite easily and used the pole to pull fruit off the upper branches. My colleague's two children -two of those shown at the Lis Na Ree swimming pool- ran around and picked up the fruit from the ground and placed them into a 5-gallon plastic bucket. Within around 20 minutes, we had filled an entire bucket with mangosteen, and there were no ripe fruit remaining.

Back at the front of the compound were two shorter (3-4 m) mangosteen trees that were quite thick in canopy. There was no need to climb more than 1 m up to where I could reach up into the upper part. These trees yielded only about 1/2 bucket.

Another fruit that I was asked to pick were from two different lime bushes. In Malaysia there are three or four major types of limes: key lime (limau nipis), kaffir lime (limau purut), musk lime (limau kasturi), and the pomelo (limau bali). I was shocked to see that the key lime had thorns (called duri) on its branches and I duly scratched myself in trying to pick all of the limes within reach from the ground. My experience has only been with the musk lime, which does not have thorns.

(Left, above: Key lime: limau nipis)
(Left, below: Kaffir lime: limau purut)

The key lime tastes like a lime should, very tart and sour. Mixed with cold water, it is probably the most-refreshing thing one can drink in the hot and humid tropics. Unlike the key lime, which has smooth skin, the kaffir lime is covered with wart-like bumps. In taste, it is not very sour and, has a fairly dull taste, not very pleasing. In cooking, the kaffir lime leaves are usually used, especially in Thai style.

For lunch, I was served some fried flat bread and offered my very own durian fruit. Durian is quite famous, both for its acquired taste, and for its hard and thorny shell. Most westerners decidedly do NOT like the smell or taste of durian. After several years of agreeing with them, I was pleasantly surprised by a neighbor who gave me a durian freshly picked from his own orchard. Since then, I have determined that the smelly ones are those hybrids, picked and shipped long distances, whereas the kampung-grown durians, non-hydrids, actually do not smell bad and taste quite good.

Durian has 3-4 sections within its hard shell, and these sections are a flesh covering a hard and almond-colored seed. The flesh has the consistency of custard. The problem that I have with durian is that it is a heating fruit, and causes great amounts of gas throughout the remainder of the day. It is truly the fruit that keeps on giving!

Durian (Durio zibethinus) is considered the King of Fruit, and great research and care goes into growing the correct varieties and practicing the right amount of horticultural husbandry. The trees grow up to 40 meters in height and can take several years before they flower and fruit. July is the primary fruit-bearing month and so mounds of the fruit are found displayed EVERYWHERE. The spiny nut is quite large, from softball size to football size. Malays have proverbs about not walking under Durian trees during July because a donk on the head could be serious. Sitting there on Saturday, eating mangosteen, we could hear a nut or two hit the ground with a thud. It is better to let the Durian fall itself, rather than trying to climb up and pick.

The final fruit variety that I sampled this past Saturday was what the Malays call macang. Macang is a variety of mango that has a smell and taste that I can only describe as a cross between a normal mango and a durian. I prefer my mangos to taste like mangos, so I will probably not partake of macang again.

Finally, even though I did not pick any rambutan this past week, I was given a large bag by another colleague whose kampung compound has a large rambutan tree. Rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) produces either red or golden hairy fruit (rambut is Malay for hair). Inside the fruit (about the size of a golf ball) is a translucent, grapelike flesh covering a seed that looks like an almond. Rambutan is probably the second-most favorite fruit for westerners and one can easily eat a dozen in one sitting.

(Left: Rambutan, the hairy fruit)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Impiana Resort, Cherating Beach, Part 2

The Impiana Resort at Cherating Beach, where I attended a 3-day workshop, was so beautiful that I have decided to post a large photo set. Click on any of the small photos in order to see the full-size image.

The rooms used a nice mix of wood floors (parquet), fabric, bamboo shades and nice wood furniture.

Photo 1: Interior of room with bamboo shades.

Photo 2: Detail of window bench seat

Photo 3: Excellent chicken, fish, goat, beef and vegetable dishes served up.

Photo 4: Lucious desserts, but very small portions, thus I didn't feel bad about eating several per meal!

Photo 5: Nusantara (SE Asian) artwork and collectibles (antique furniture) scattered about the buildings.

Photo 6: Dining room with greenery, artwork, beautiful tile floor and wooden furniture.

Photo 7: High ceiling above lobby area.

Photo 8: Reflection pool with entertainment stage for nighttime performances.

Photo 9: Nighttime entertainment group from local kampung.

Photo 10: Waiting area between lobby and reflection pool. Nighttime stage at the back of photo over the pool.

Photo 11: Reflection pool beside lobby waiting area, overlooking the South China Sea. Water from this pool cascades down into the swimming pool, which provides for a very refreshing waterfall massage.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Workshop at Impiana, Cherating Beach

Impiana Resort at Cherating Beach, Pahang, Malaysia (Google link to Satellite Photo Database)

Following on my 3-day vacation to the Lis Na Ree in June, I was picked to attend a 3-day workshop for my company. The workshop was held at the Impiana Resort, which sits along the Cherating Beach, between the Suria Cherating Resort to the north, and the Club Mediterranean Resort complex to the south.

(Right: Pool at Impiana; east lobe not in photo)

As seen in the air-photo, the Impiana has a central reception and dining building (beside the pool), with wings of rooms to the north and south each parallel to the beach. Thus, each room has an ocean view, which is actually uncommon for beach resorts.

My college periodically holds workshop "retreats" away from the office in order to accomplish major tasks in an environment supposedly away from distractions. But, by virtue of being in the midst of some of the finest beaches in the world, the resorts that are used to host the workshops become the distraction! And the Impiana is one such fine place to stay.

(Left: East lobe of pool; like a mirror at 7am)

Hopefully this brief report will give you a desire to visit this wonderful resort. Due to the overall worldwide economic downturn, there were very few visitors to the resort this past week, and those that did attend had plenty of pampering. The staff were very friendly and helpful, and the resort kept clean and well-decorated.

(Right: Inverted image of above photo)

Of course, when I rate a resort or hotel/motel, I start with the swimming pool. With access to a pool, I will swim at least once a day, and sometimes twice. The Impiana did not disappoint with a large twin lobes separated by a floating divider. The lobe to the right butted up against the main building with windows looking out from one of the ground-floor conference rooms. One distinction about the Impiana pool is that there is a waterfall from a pool on the first floor, which drops water down into the right lobe of the outdoor pool. One can sit under the waterfall and obtain a refreshing shower massage!

(Left: Joggers cross finish line provided by rising sun, Cherating Beach)

Of course, being on the world-famous Cherating Beach, a visitor can also choose to swim in the warm waters of the South China Sea, or just chill-out (warm-out?) on the clean sandy beach.

The grounds of the Impiana Resort are very well-designed, kept clean, and hosts a wide variety of plant life. There are many Cocos nucifera (Coconut, Kelapa) trees, of course, some with beautiful clusters of ripe fruit. Coconut is, as noted in an earlier post, one of the main plants which first populates islands and beaches since the nut is a drift seed being very water-proof within the shell and capable of drifting thousands of miles before striking habitable sand or mud flat.

(Right: Ripe coconut shells, Impiana Resort)

The grounds of the Impiana also had many plantings of the Bird's Nest fern (Asplenium nidus) and bushes of Caesalpinia pulcherrima (Peacock Flower). While photographing a set of flowers on a Caesalpinia pulcherrima bush, I fortuitously also caught a Mantis poised for capturing a breakfast insect.

(Left: Mantis awaiting breakfast)

(To be continued....)