For the love of feathers

Our chirpy neighbours

 

My name is Rod Gowen…

I am a retired British Telecom Health and Safety Manager, raised in a small seaside town called Ilfracombe, on the North Devon coast in England. My interest in watching birds started when I was young. At school, when I was ten years old, I won first prize in an art competition and with the prize money, 10 shillings, I bought my first bird book which I still have.

 

So I was delighted, when I was invited to Tropical Spice Garden to make a list of birds that can be seen there. My first visit was on 6th March 2015.

 

My name is Steven Struyck…

I am a retired Export Manager and was born in the eastern part of Holland. I used to register meadow birds in Holland which meant watching birds over the expanse of meadows without trees. My local experience in Penang covers five years of watching birds in the skies and on tree tops. In both situations, the watching concerned mostly medium to large size birds.

Armed with a new camera, I discovered I had a “talent” to make rather good photos of animals which can be spotted here in Penang

For the first time, Rod and Steven met at the entrance of Tropical Spice Garden on 2nd February 2016. Having exchanged some information on each other’s background, they clicked right away over their common fondness for feathery friends!

Rod, being more familiar with the grounds of Tropical Spice Garden, introduced Steven to the various locations ideal for bird spotting. They decided to use the tea kiosk in the Bamboo Garden as their common spot as they both agreed that bird watching is a matter of endless patience to be exercised in a central location.

 

For Steven, it was a new experience because bird watching in Tropical Spice Garden consists of looking mostly upwards into the foliage of trees. Also, listening to the songs of birds in order to locate the -mostly- tiny birds is essential. Shooting photos of such small and fast moving creatures is an art by itself and not easy, but slowly and surely some progress was made.

Good ears are needed to follow the flight path of birds by means of detecting the change of direction and distance of the incoming sounds. As a certain degree of concentration is needed, the both of them try to avoid being distracted by tourists and hence, start their bird watching at about 8.30am; Rod arrives a little earlier to register the birds at the beach in front of Tropical Spice Garden. They finish up about noon as it gets too hot and the presence of birds declines for the same reason.

Recognition is mostly visual although sometimes the call of a bird is enough to identify it. Rod and Steven each carry illustrated books with them so that possible guessing can be eliminated. So far, they have seen over fifty different species. Each visit has been recorded on a database called “Bird Jar”.

The Tropical Spice Garden is a very beautiful place and we have enjoyed every minute we have spent there…while watching birds, one can really get involved with Mother Nature

 

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A Natural Mosquito Repellent – Citronella Oil

Citronella & Cedar Wood Body Spray

Although most people love warmer weather, it does have one serious downside – mosquitoes. Not only are they an irritant, leading to itchiness and other allergic reactions, they can carry serious diseases, including malaria, dengue, and the newly discovered zika virus. So it’s important to avoid being bitten but that’s not as easy as it sounds. Mosquitoes have been around a lot longer than human beings and they have an exceptional sense of smell for such a small creature. They can detect a potential target from 30 metres away and so one of the best defences is to become “invisible” to them by changing your chemical signature.

Citronella aromatic candle

They are attracted by the carbon dioxide that human beings breathe out and the larger you are, the more carbon dioxide you will exhale. This goes for pregnant women, too, who often report that they are bitten more frequently than usual. Mosquitoes can also detect blood type, and people with Type O blood are twice as liable to be bitten as people with Type A. If you’re sweating a lot, or drinking beer, you’re also more likely to be attacked. You can spray yourself with artificial chemicals in the hope of deterring them but a better idea is to use a natural plant-based insect repellent – citronella oil. It’s an essential oil obtained from the leaves and stems of lemongrass. It’s effective but it’s also non-toxic and so safe for humans and pets to put directly on the skin.

 

Pure Citronella & Cedar Wood Burner Oil

As well as being an anti-fungal, and effective at calming barking, anxious dogs, citronella masks the smell of carbon dioxide and perspiration that attracts mosquitoes. It comes in a variety of forms: candles, incense sticks, coils, oils (for use in oil burners), and sprays. Canadian researchers found that lighting a citronella candle reduced the number of mosquito landings by nearly half. Most people find that a combination of citronella products works best. Use the personal sprays if you fall into one of the higher risk categories above in conjunction with the coils, the oils, or the candles.

 

Think about your environment as well and make sure that your garden is well maintained, with no standing water where mosquitoes can lay their eggs. If you put saucers under your flower-pots, make sure that there’s no stagnant water lurking in them. If you enjoy fresh flowers in your home, change the water every couple of days.

You can purchase a variety of high quality citronella products from the Tropical Spice Garden’s two shops in Penang as well as online.

Soy Sauce is not just salty, there's different kind of saltiness too

Soya Sauce Factory Visit – More than just Salty

 

Mr. Cheah, third generation owner of Jin Chang Soya Sauce Factory treated a bunch of foodies and us from the gardens to a fantastic morning at this factory in Permatang Pauh. His various sauces are on the shelves under the Ayam Piru Brand.
Mr. Cheah shared some of his secrets of achieving good quality and healthy soya sauce – using lake salt and also ensuring the quality of his ‘koji’ (a naturally occurring culture that is mixed into his non-GMO soya beans).
Mr. Cheah has several grades of soya sauce with the most affordable being sold at RM6 for a 700ml bottle and the most expensive bottle of 150ml retailing at RM15 because it is without sugar and non-pasteurized.
He claims his hair has grown back and all his back pain has disappeared once he started on lake salt soya sauce!
A collector or artisan bicycles and also active cycler, Mr. Cheah receives much of his business revelation pedalling away on his bicycle! He also has been cooking dinner for his family for the last 10 years.
He gave me a great recipe for steamed fish by the way – just the way the chinese restaurants do it – watch this space to check out the results 🙂
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Batik the Monkey Weekend!

Batik The Monkey Poster

A weekend of Batik Painting with Lusy Koror – Artist & Creative Facilitator in support of Langur Project Penang!

It is a FREE batik painting workshop for all ages 8 and above! At the same time, 50% of all garden entrace ticket sales for both days will be donated to Langur Project Penang if you join a guided tour!

Date: 9th & 10th July 2016
Time: 10AM – 5PM

*Just look for us at the Pavilion!
More info here: https://www.facebook.com/events/578529542320039/

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Langur Project Penang is a research project on the activity pattern, habitat use and diet of Langurs a.k.a. Dusky Leaf Monkeys (Trachypithecus obscurus) in Penang, Malaysia; endorsed by Universiti Sains Malaysia and Malaysian Primatological Society. Check out and follow their FB for updates!

The G Sisters – Ginger & Galangal

Same botanical family but so different in taste and use in cooking various Asian dishes!

There are around 400 members of the ginger family grown wild in the tropical Asia but these 2 particular variety is the one universally  known as Ginger & Galangal.

Ginger

 

A young ginger has a very thin skin, is pale yellow and has pinkish shoots with green stalk ends, while old ginger is beige-brown with a thicker skin. Young ginger is more tender and juicy than the mature rhizome, so it is preferred for grating or pounding to extract the juice, a popular marinate with Chinese chefs. It can be eaten raw, and is also pickled. Mature ginger although sometimes served raw in very fine shreds, is more commonly cooked as the flavour is more emphatic than that of young ginger. Ginger is widely used for medicinal purposes throughout Asia, particularly to improve digestion and to counteract nausea and vomiting.

GalangalThe galangal has a pungency and tang quite unlike that of the common ginger. The young shoots of the rhizome are pale pink and are more flavourful and tender than the older beige- coloured rhizomes. Galangal is too spicy to be eaten raw, and is used in slices, chunks or pounded to a paste for various curries and side dishes. When pounding or blending galangal to a paste, first shop it into small pieces as it is often obstinately tough. Perhaps this is why Thai cooks often just bruise a large chunk with the flat side of a cleaver and add it whole to the cooking pot.

 

Article Source: Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School

TSG -Cooking School Open Day

Tropical Spice Garden’s much acclaimed Cooking School is now having an Open Day, filled with fun activities for both adults and children! Delicious cooking classes and tantalising cooking demos to excite a foodie’s tastebuds! Food vendors galore to whet your appetite 😀

Please register for the cooking classes as spaces are limited: only 10 personal cooking stations so hurry up!

More details here: TSG COOKING SCHOOL OPEN DAY

Registration/Enquiries:
E: michelle@tropicalspicegarden.com
T: 04-8811797 | 012-4865795

 

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More Than Just A Cuppa…

Do you ever wonder what goes on before your cup of coffee is served? Where were they planted, how were they harvested, and what is the difference between the blends used by different coffee houses? If all those burning questions are keeping you up at night instead of the caffeine, Coffee Rescue Penang is here to the, well, rescue!

 

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Coffee Rescue Penang is a mobile coffee truck that are dedicated in bringing a good cup of coffee to your premises. They work with local roasters to ensure each and every reasonably priced cup of coffee is fresh with a distinctive profile taste. Can’t miss their brightly coloured truck around Penang as they also have cold-pressed juices and fresh baked goods!

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We are bringing the good people from Coffee Rescue Penang (and the truck!) to Tropical Spice Garden for a talk entitled “From Beans To Cup” where you will be taken on a journey from when the coffee beans are harvested and the processes they undergo until they end up as your everyday latte.

If you hadn’t noticed, the coffee trees at the Beverages of the World area have been flowering and fruiting wonderfully and we’ll be looking to use them during the talk.

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Free cup of coffee to participants that register before 21 February 2016!

For registrations, please contact Jocelyn at:

012 – 4988797   |   education@tropicalspicegarden.com

 

Tropical Spice Garden - In The City exterior. Look out for the big bold "29" !

Tropical Spice Garden – IN THE CITY

Tropical Spice Garden - In The City Interior

Tropical Spice Garden – In The City Interior

Visit the latest extension of Tropical Spice Garden  – a little pocket garden shop in the heart of George Town! Situated near to Little India and the busy Beach Street, our little shop carries all our favourite TSG essentials – high grade spices, aromatherapy and household scents, beautiful fabrics and loads of interesting souvenirs!

Visitors can also make bookings for cooking classes, day tours and night walks in the city. Spice Friends discounts apply here too!

Address: 29, China Street, 10200, George Town, Penang.

Telephone: +604 261 3275

Open Daily: 09:00AM – 05:00PM

 

Tropical Spice Garden - In The City exterior. Look out for the big bold "29" !

Tropical Spice Garden – In The City exterior. Look out for the big bold “29” !

 

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Handicrafts, Books, Essential Oils and etc

 

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Top graded spices, teas, pastes, and many more

Garden Beauty – The Silver Joey Palm

When you are walking up to the Bamboo Garden along the tractor pathway, pay attention to your left and you will see one of the most beautiful plants in Tropical Spice Garden: the Silver Joey palm, Johannesteijmannia magnifica, or locally known as ‘pokok payung’, or ‘daun serdang’.

The Silver Joey palm has some of the largest and most fascinating leaves of any palm tree on the planet. Along with its sibling species, the Slender Joey palm (J. lanceolata) , these palms have been reported to be threatened and endangered in the IUCN Red List, 1997, due to poaching and seed collection. Besides uncontrolled deforestation and conversion of forest areas to oil palm plantations and rubber estates, the building of dams and illegal logging activities are also driving the cause of decline in these majestic palms in the wild.

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There are 4 species of Johannesteijsmannia species:Silver Joey (J. magnifica), Diamond Joey (J. altifrons), Joey on the stick (J. perakensis), and Slender Joey (J. lanceolata).

The distribution of the Joey palms is limited to small ranges in Malaysia. Today, we are going to look more in-depth towards the Silver Joey palm and its unique characteristics.

The Silver Joey is distributed in Perak, Selangor, and Negeri Sembilan, where it occurs only in the hilly and virgin rainforest. This species is endemic to Peninsular Malaysia and it appears to be stem-less with the leaves growing out from the ground in a cluster. However, the stem or trunk is actually formed below ground, out of sight. The plant can attain a height of up to three metres with its big diamond shaped leaves stretching out to two metres with silvery grey undersides. This stunning effect from the leaves’ undersides however, is more noticeable at night when you shine a light directly at it. A lovely sight to behold during our Night Walks!

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The indigenous communities used the leaves of the palm as an ‘atap’ or roof thatch for small shelters and houses. However, when zinc roofs begin to replace the rooftops of the villages, they rarely use the leaves nowadays. Furthermore, medicinal values of Silver Palm was recorded in Johor, where the petioles are burnt and the ashes, with some water added, are applied topically to the body, especially to ease respiratory problems and small wounds. The seeds are boiled with water and the concoction is taken orally to reduce fever among children. The seeds can also be grated into powder and applied to the face, chest or tongue for relieving sore throat, cough and asthma.

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There is an increasing demand for these palms as an ornamental due to their exotic appearance, thus illegal harvesting and uncontrolled seed harvesting had been the main threat to their survival. Moreover, the growth development of Silver Joey is a very slow process – taking up to decades – and irresponsible humans would poach younger specimens before the young plants have the chance to stabilise and thrive in their natural habitat. The inflorescences attract stingless bees (Trigona spp) and they are believed to be one of the main pollinators. Of course, when you visit our garden during the Night Walks, you might observe the inflorescences attracting a wide range of insects and bugs too!

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The Silver Joey Palm is indeed a unique palm species that deserves our attention and appreciation. There were surveys carried out in orang asli communities in Peninsular Malaysia and it seems that the orang asli have been collecting the seeds or live specimens for sale. That, and with the increasing rate of deforestation in West Malaysia, the cultivation of Silver Joey palms in nurseries becomes a sliver of hope in preserving the species for future generations. Most importantly, the protection of the Johannesteijsmannia lies in educating indigenous and local communities, and exotic plant collectors in order to save this species from extinction in the wild.

 

 

 

 

 

Next time, we’ll elaborate more on the remaining 3 species of Johannesteijsmannia! Come over to Tropical Spice to witness the beauty of Silver Joey Palm!

More Reading:

http://www.rainforestjournal.com/johannesteijsmannia-magnifica/

https://www.academia.edu/1253701/The_uses_of_Johannesteijsmannia_by_indigenous_communities_and_the_current_ornamental_trade_in_the_genus

Nyonya Su Pei

Feature Chef : Nyonya Su Pei

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The new year 2016 sees Chef Nyonya Su Pei hitting the ground running as she is being carried forward by the momentum of success she was catapulted into after last year’s incredible George Town World Heritage Eat Rite Festival.

With her increasing popularity, Nyonya Su Pei is being kept busy and she laments that last year was the first time she was unable to complete a project – be it a piece of embroidery artwork or writing down all her recipes to be compiled into a book. With a goal of adapting sophisticated Nyonya cuisine for the public, she collaborated with Straits Chinese (Penang) Association on a two-volume cookbook: Nyonya Flavours which has been best-selling for five consecutive years.

Nyonya Su Pei

As the Nyonya cuisine are essentially family secret recipes which have been adapted and adopted over many generations, we asked the ‘taboo’ question of whether Nyonya recipes can really be shared. “When writing out a recipe, I can only write so much,” says Nyonya Su Pei. She reveals that even if there is a group of people cooking the same recipe, the differences in environment, ingredient preparation and even stirring methods can result in different tastes. The intimacy of hands-on teaching can never be replaced with mere words.

Photo Source: Nyonya Su Pei's Facebook

Photo Source: Nyonya Su Pei’s Facebook

For her first ever cooking class in Tropical Spice Garden, it was a “daunting experience to demonstrate to experienced and international gourmands who have probably seen more of the world than I have.” With her incredible passion and determination, Nyonya Su Pei has converted many visitors to the gardens into Nyonya food lovers and has even successfully carried out several Nyonya Masterchef Challenges as a team building activity.

With 10 working stations in Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School, we provide a hands-on environment for that personal experience in learning of our unique local cuisines. Book a class or a teambuilding session today!

 

Tropical Spice Garden Cooking School