Monday, July 29, 2013

Bananas vs Plantians


The starchy, cooking varieties of bananas are known as plantains and are not the same as the typical fresh eating variety of bananas. The distinction between the two is based purely on how the fruits are consumed: cooked or eaten fresh out of hand.  

The common banana is sweet, easily digested and ready to eat when the skin is yellow. Plantains, on the other hand, are thick skinned and must be boiled, steamed, roasted, baked or deep fried to make them soft and palatable. When the peel is green to yellow, the flesh has a starchy texture with a bland flavor.  As the peel changes to brown or black, the plantain losses some of its starch and becomes slightly sweet.  At this stage plantains have more of a banana aroma but are still unsuitable until cooked. The interior color of the fruit is creamy, yellowish or lightly pink.

Plantains are native to India and are popularly grown in tropical climates, especially in Western Africa and the Caribbean countries.  They are often used in soups and stews or simply mashed.

There are over 500 different types of bananas.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Moss and Algae = Slippery Sidewalks


Living in the tropics, people are often plagued with unsightly and dangerous moss and algae growing on driveways and pathways around their homes.  When the rain stops, the green growth will dry but will regenerate again with the next rain. 

There are many different products on the market to help clean up the driveway.  Look at the active ingredients on the label; most products will contain bleach,  soap, or a form of copper. Be sure to follow the directions on the label.  Most products are applied and remain for a while and then washed off with a hose or scrapped with the help of a shovel.  At times the buildup is so great that a power washer is needed. Bleach is often recommended at one cup per gallon of water. 

When using copper and bleach, there is always the potential for these products damaging desired plants either from the direct spray or from the solution saturating the soil. Take caution when spraying near desirable plants. The damage is lessened in high rainfall areas through the leeching action of the rain.

Another option is to use one cup of vinegar per gallon of water; bleach is sometimes added to fortify the solution. An application of Roundup herbicide will kill the algae and moss, but the plant residue needs to be scrapped away. 





Monday, July 15, 2013

Control of Maile Pilau, a Weedy Vine


The weedy vine, Paederia foetida, or in Hawaiian maile piau, is able to grow 30 feet in length, climbing up into tree canopies or crawling along the ground. The vines can engulf and cover trees and shrubs. The weight of the vine climbing over vegetation can cause branches or entire trees to break or collapse. Crawling vines can form a dense layer of vegetation that smothers other plants. This leafy vine is pervasive in vacant lots and forests on the Hawaiian Islands.

Since broken stems of maile pilau are able to root readily in soil, care must be taken when disposing of the plant. When crushed, the leaves release a foul odor. The species, foetida, is Latin for stinky.

Chemical control is one of the most effective means for controlling maile pilau.  Yet, because of resprouting, single applications usually do not provide complete control; follow-up applications are necessary.  The herbicide recommended is one with the active ingredient, triclopyr, sold as Crossbow, Garlon, Pathfinder; unfortunately, they are rather expensive. Along with the herbicide, a non-ionic surfactant at 2 teaspoons per gallon of spray solution is suggested.  A 2% to 3% solution of glyphosate (Roundup, etc.) may also be effective, although some report it is not.  If you have Roundup, you may want to try it first before purchasing triclopyr.  

Presently biological control agents are being collected in Japan and Nepal.  It is hoped that these  ‘good guys’ which include a leaf and root feeding chrysomelid beetle will be able to help control the spread of this weed pest.



Photos by Forest and Kim Starr 

Monday, July 8, 2013

Plant a Rainbow of Colors in Your Garden


When planting a vegetable garden, let color be your guide to healthy eating.  For a number of years, scientists have been discovering the health benefits of the color pigments in food.  For some gardeners, a vegetable garden is lettuce, collard, mustard greens and kale- all healthy, leafy green vegetables.   But for health sake, add some color such as red tomatoes, yellow squash and purple eggplant.  Grow a rainbow of colors to the garden for good health.

Red colored fruits and vegetables contain natural plant pigments called lycopenes or anthocyanins. These compounds may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, especially prostate cancer. By the way, the lycopenes in cooked tomatoes with a small amount of fat are absorbed better than lycopene from raw tomatoes.  Sun dried tomatoes are reported to have twelve times the lycopenes as raw ones. So plant plenty of tomatoes, beets, watermelon and red peppers. If there is room in the garden, include a pigmented citrus tree like pink grapefruit. 

Orange and yellow colors come from natural plant pigments called carotenoids.  Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A which helps maintain healthy eyes.  Carotenoid-rich foods can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and improve the immune system function.  Plant plenty of yellow sweet potatoes, squash, pumpkins and carrots.  Citrus contains hesperidin, also found in the skin of tomatoes, and naringenin, which are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Curcumin, found in turmeric, known in Hawaiian as olena, has antioxidant properties. Turmeric is a popular Indian spice used in curries and other dishes.  Anecdotal evidence suggests that turmeric can be used to deter ants in the garden.

Other yellow and orange fruits grown in Hawai`i are pineapples, papayas and mangos. Pineapples contain bromelain, an enzyme which aids digestion.  Papaya and tangerines contain beta-cryptoxanthin, another carotenoid, playing an important role in vision and in bone growth. Papayas can easily be grown from seeds or purchased in abundance at local markets.

 Greens are colored by a natural plant pigment called chlorophyll.  Some greens contain lutein which helps keep eyes healthy. Here is a familiar list of green vegetables: green peppers, peas, parsley, watercress, arugula, spinach and kale.  Crucifers like broccoli and cabbage contain chemicals which may help protect against some types of cancer.  Leafy greens such as spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of folate, which is a B vitamin. 

The blue and purple colored fruits and vegetables also contain pigments called anthocyanins, powerful anti-oxidants which improve brain function and help to reduce the risk of cancer, stroke and heart disease.  Fig trees grow well in tropical and sub-tropical climates and should yield delicious, healthy fruit.  Anthocyanins, also found in strawberries and raspberries, act as powerful antioxidants that protect cells from damage. 

The whites contain pigments called anthoxanthins which are shades of white or yellow.   This group consists of onions, garlic, cauliflower, turnips, mushrooms, potatoes and bananas.  At least one of the group, garlic, contains a health-promoting chemical called allicin. This compound may help lower cholesterol and blood pressure and help reduce the risk of stomach cancer and heart disease. Potatoes, as well as bananas, are good sources of potassium. 


Monday, July 1, 2013

Pomegranates In Hawaii


There are indeed pomegranate trees growing throughout the tropical Hawaiian Islands. Pomegranates are rather small trees growing 15 – 20 feet tall.  What they lack in height they make up in longevity; some are reported to be 200 years old.  

The trees seem to tolerate a wide range of conditions. They do well in hot and dry conditions with high alkaline soils, as well as growing in deep, acidic loam soils.  Pomegranate trees also tolerate wet, heavy (clay) soils but produce better in soils that are well-drained. Trees do not come true from seed, and therefore, good quality fruit trees are propagated from cuttings.  Air layering is possible; grafting is seldom successful.

Pomegranates have been around for eons.  Over the centuries, their depiction has appeared in artwork, literature, coinage, jewelry and coat of arms. Believed to have originated around Persia and the Himalayas in Northern India, the pomegranate has been used as a symbol for many civilizations and sometimes viewed as a symbol of fertility in Asia.

The Spanish missionaries brought pomegranates to California, Mexico and Texas.  And recently, from 2006 to 2009, pomegranate acreage in California doubled from 15,000 to about 30,000 acres.

Pomegranate juice is rich in three types of antioxidants which are recognized in neutralizing free radicals and other unstable molecules in the body.  Besides eating the fruit or making a delicious beverage, the fruits can also be dried and used in wreaths and other decorations.  Pomegranate juice is being added to such products as jelly, ice cream bars, truffles and chewing gum. Ink can be made by steeping the leaves in vinegar. In Japan, an insecticide is derived from the bark.