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
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
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
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
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.
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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