Count Your Blessings!

With love and passion, everyone can have a nice garden...Elaine Yim

Count Your Blessings!
Count The Garden By The Flowers, Never By The Leaves That Fall.
Count Your Life With Smiles And Not The Tears That Roll.
..... Author unknown.

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Friday, July 29, 2011

Carmen's Garden - Desde Puerto Rico con el amor

Hola, amigos!

Early this month, I was extremely delighted to receive an email from Carmen who gardens in Puerto Rico. Carmen is a university professor with 2 lovely granddaughters. Like me, Carmen is also a fan of the torch ginger (Etlingera elatior) plant. She is not a blogger and she has sent me these beautiful photographs of her magnolia and torch ginger flowers, along with her warm 'Saludos' and 'Abrazos' which made me feel very nice.

I am very thankful to non-bloggers like Carmen who send me mails/messages and sharing with me their wealth of gardening experiences. This post (and your comments) is for Carmen.

“Carmen's Garden - Desde Puerto Rico con el amor”, a copyrighted post, was written for My Nice Garden blog by Autumn Belle @ on July 29th, 2011.


The torch ginger flowers in Pic 1 are really lovely. They are of a darker pink and the flower petal patterns are also more rounded. They have a radiant, waxy appearance. My flowers look more like Pic 2.

We are separated by big oceans, e.g. the Atlantic and Indian Ocean or the Pacific Ocean depending on which direction we are heading from. This is about 17,000 km  away or 19 hrs journey by flight. Therefore, I am very happy to get photographs of a 'hermoso jardin' (beautiful garden) in an exotic country I may never get to visit in this lifetime.

Hey, the vegetation and landscape in Puerto Rico looks quite like that of my country Malaysia!


Oh, wow, her ginger plants have grown very tall. It is now above the roofs and almost as tall as a small tree.


She has purchased this magnolia plant from the USA 15 years ago.
Now, it is still blooming as beautiful as ever.
At first, I thought that it looked like a pure white lotus flower!

Now, in the following pictures, I have 3 'gifts' from Malaysia for Carmen:


Carmen also grows orchids in her garden. Hence, I'd like to dedicated this first gift, a lovely orchid to Carmen. The designs on this purple orchid remind me of the lovely traditional Trajes dresses that Puerto Rican ladies wear.


Carmen, this is my 2nd gift to you - Asam Laksa from Penang Island, Malaysia. Torch ginger flower buds is an ingredient used here.

It was reported in my country's national newspapers that Penang Asam Laksa is now in CNN's list of top 10 most delicious food in the world. It is ranked 7th spot.

Flaked, poached mackerrel is used in making the broth. Dried 'asam gelugor' (Garcinia atroviridis) or tamarind paste is added to impart a sour taste to the broth. Birds eye chili and lemon grass makes it spicy and the broth is usually served with rice noodles. The blackish gravy you see on top is actually made from prawn paste. I personally think that it is the finely sliced raw ginger flower buds that gives it the unique flavour and aroma. Other ingredients used as garnishing include mint leaves, 'daun kesum' (polygonum leaves), lettuce, chilli, shallots, cucumber and pineapple, all raw.

If you'd like to cook it, the recipe is here.

Using torch ginger flower buds for cooking is unique to Malaysian and Indonesian cooking, perhaps even Singapore. In Malaysia, we use it in Peranakan (Straits Chinese) and Malay cuisine.


Here's my 3rd gift to Carmen - also using the torch ginger buds.

'Nasi Kerabu Biru' is a Malay rice dish from Kelantan state in Malaysia. The blue coloured rice is made from natural dye of the Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea) flowers.

To make this flavoured rice, the leaves of the tumeric ginger, torch ginger, lemon grass, polygonum, cekur, dam, kudu, curry leaf and kaffir lime are boiled and the juice is extracted. This is called ulam juice. The ulam juice is added to the rice to be cooked. Pandan leaves are added to further enhance the aroma of the rice.

For garnishing, the ingredients which are finely sliced and raw include cucumber, shallots, polygonum leaves, long beans and torch ginger buds. It is belived that torch ginger buds are anti-aeging and they also improve appetite.

Can you see the chilli stuffed with grated coconut flesh? The coconut flesh has been fried with sliced ginger, shallots and palm sugar (Gula Melaka). Usually people eat this rice dish with 'Sambal Belacan', a very spicy and hot accompaniment but this time, I have a bowl of curry nearby. I'm also serving you a cup of coffee.

The recipe is here.


Now I also have some good news. The torch ginger seeds sent by K to me has sprouted! I had almost given up on them because it took more than a month for this to happen. I thought my experiment had failed and I almost replaced the pot with other plants. Thanks to Anne, another non blogger who commented on my post. She gave me some very useful information, hence I didn't give up. Now, we know we can grow torch ginger plants from seeds sent by mail but the seeds have a short expiry date.

My post is here- Torch Ginger Flower Seeds Germination.

This week I am joining:
Fertilizer Friday, thanks to Glenda at Tootsie Time.
Garden to Table Challenge, thanks to Wendy at Greenish Thumb, the link is here.

Today's Flowers, thanks to TF team Santilli - Denise - Pupo - Sandy Carlson, the link is here.

Finally, I hope that after reading this post about Carmen and me, you too will be encourged by the 'silent or hidden' readers of our blogs to continue blogging about our hobbies and sharing our life's experiences.

Until then, Adios and wishing you a happy weekend!


  1. Beautiful blossoms and photos. Happy weekend to you too!

  2. What a nice informative post with wonderful photos. Carmen's torch ginger and magnolia blooms are gorgeous. Congrats on your Torch ginger's seeds finally sprouting.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  3. Kwiat imbiru jest piękny, nie sądziłam,że tak może wyglądać.Piękne zdjęcia.Pozdrawiam

  4. Oh my Carmen's torch ginger and magnolia blooms are fabulous.
    The color of that ginger is wonderful.
    Hope you have a great weekend.
    hugs from Savannah, Cherry

  5. Every time I see blog posts and pictures of torch gingers I can't help but feel envious (in a good way of course). It's just so beautiful and a real treasure in the garden.

  6. your post made me yearn to go back home in Philippines. the orchid is fantastic and your food looks scrumptious.

  7. Such beautiful flowers and mouthwatering food!

  8. The torch ginger are amazing! I've never seen anything like them before. The magnolia is gorgeous too. I thought it was a gardenia (silly me!) Loved your gifts to Carmen as well. Your orchids are stunning!
    Blessings, Beth

  9. Carmen's Torch Ginger Flowers are indeed lovely. I never knew that these plants could grow so tall. And the Magnolia flower is really beautiful. Looks so pure, serene and comforting! Thank you Carmen for sharing with us. Autumn Belle, the gifts for Carmen are simply fabulous and so appropriate with this lovely post. Have a great weekend!

  10. Oh my oh my!! The asam laksa looks soo sooooo delicious. It's interesting to know that it is spotted by CNN. Can torch ginger be planted in container? Do you know where can I buy the seeds in KL? Can the plant survive in hard clay soil?

  11. such beautiful blooms from Carmen. i also love your orchids and oh my, you can never go wrong with Penang assam laksa.

  12. What an unusual flower the torch ginger flower is. Very striking.

  13. The torch lilies are gorgeous. I had to look again at the magnolia. It does somewhat resemble a lotus. Beautiful.

  14. The bud of the torch ginger can be added to Assam Pedas too but I always prefer them in my Chinese Rojak!

  15. The magnolia flower is so beautiful, looks like a gardenia to me at first. Don't know whether we can get it from the nursery? Oh your pics on food make me very hungry now!!

  16. The Torch Ginger is a fascinating plant! I think it was you, Autumn Belle, who helped me identify it in one of my posts about a trip to Hawaii. I'd wondered about that plant for a while. It's a beauty!

  17. Striking flowers Carmen ... and Autumn Belle your gifts look delicious. I'm going to order Laksa next time I visit a Malaysian restaurant.

  18. Lovely Blooms, Carmen. You must be a good cook, Autumn Belle.

  19. Lucky I read your post earlier before I start puasa. It will make me so hungry until berbuka. Carmen torch ginger bloom is so beautiful.

  20. You have a fantastic garden and I enjoyed both the photos and words in this excellent post.

  21. This is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds - lovely:-)

  22. i love laksa but i didn't know ginger flower is one of the ingredients. love this post---such a sweet gift to Carmen.

  23. lovely blooms and beautiful shots..your newest follower.

  24. Dear Autumn Belle, Thanks you so much for sharing Carmen's garden with us. It is gorgeous, as is your garden. The torch ginger is amazing! P. x

  25. I am very glad about the friendships you generate from blogging, i know i am one of them, haha! But this is a real lovely and lovable post, honoring some people from a distance. I remember saying in the past, that if only all people are like us bloggers, there wont be wars anymore! On a lighter note, i hope i can taste that dish during my next visit to Malaysia. My host-friend last time made me taste many traditional food but i think it is not one of them. Do you know that 'ulam' term here in our dialect is 'viand'? Of course our ancestors are Indo-Malays!

  26. You have me hungry! Beautiful post.

  27. The first and fifth shots are lovely! Please tell your friend she has lovely flowers.

  28. Lovely, I photographed mine in Singapore and the green house in Auckland.

    Yummy Assam laksa. One of my many best friends come from Penang, She cooks this for me.

    Which lakasa do you like best?
    Penang? Singapore or Sarawak?

  29. Dear Friends, on behalf of Carmen, I’d like to thank you very much for the wonderful comments to this post.

    Now to answer some of your questions:

    In both the dishes, the raw ginger buds are used in garnishing. I didn’t make the dishes. It is actually quite time consuming to do. The Asam Laksa was obtained from the famous stall in Air Itam (black water) in Penang. The blue rice dish was obtained from a food court (Kelantan Food Stall) in Suria KLCC).

    Petite Nyonya, I’m glad that you have found the answers to your questions after reading my previous posts about the Torch Ginger (Bunga Kantan) plant.

    Milka, not all nurseries carry the rhizome or young plant. You can try to request your favorite nursery to get one for you. The easiest way is to get a friend who has this plant to dig out the rhizome and give it to you. You must plant it fast. Maybe can ask from K but growing from seeds is not easy.

    Andrea, we can have the Nasi Kerabu Biru at Suria KLCC.

    B.A.G. – when you are in Malaysia, you must say ‘Asam Laksa’ when making the order because Laksa can mean ‘Curry Laksa’ or ‘Asam Laksa’ . Curry Laksa is a completely different dish where the soup is actually chicken curry while Asam Laksa is fish broth with a sour taste. Other than that, both laksa has sweet, salty, hot and spicy taste altogether with all the aromas of the herbs and spices. It lights up your taste buds with different sensations at different intervals, just like perfume to our body heat, as we experience the base note, top note, etc., lol :>) Just looking at the dish will make you salivate. You can smell the aroma from a distance. After eating, some of us may sweat and feel like having a running nose and if you can’t stand the hot chili, your mouth and lips will experience a burning sensation, but that’s the fun part, the real food adventure!

    Ann, I like all laksa – Penang, Sarawak, Perlis, Johor and Thai. In fact, instant noodle laksa also can!

    My friends, if you are growing the torch ginger plant, you can try some raw ginger buds (thinly sliced), even on Maggi Mee (instant noodle) with asam laksa or tom yam flavour.

    To those who are not used to Southeast Asian cuisine and if you are curious to know, you can put your nose close to the plant – stem, leaves, flower to get an idea of its aroma. All parts of the plant are fragrant. It’s either you like it or not.

  30. Lovely blooms! Great shots.

  31. What a pretty post!!! Your photos are just lovely!
    Once again I am just loving the tour of all the gardens that have linked in to my little party! I am so excited to visit each and every post...they are all so inspiring and I am NEVER disappointed! The creative gardens and colorful displays that I am lucky to see are inspirations that I would never have found had I not found each of the gardeners I see online! Thank you so much for sharing your garden with my Friday Flaunt this week...I do hope you will link in again soon!
    ¸.•´¸.•*¨) ¸.•*¨)
    (¸.•´ (¸.•´ .•´ ¸¸.•¨¯`•.

  32. Very pretty flowers. Never seen before.The tough leaves show they must be drought tolerant. There are many gardeners who are doing great things but do not blog. I am sure more gardeners will take encouragement and start doing that.

  33. Excellent/fun post ... love edible flowers and Torch ginger flowers, most unique!

  34. Hi Autumn Belle,

    Just reading your lovely post now. Carmen's flowers are amazing, it's exciting to see the differences, I love the round leaves on her flowers.

    Your posts are always helpful to get one going on more gardening! This one reminded me, I should start those Butterfly Peas soon.

    Great to see images of your sprouted Bunga Kantan! I'm glad we were successful to get sprouts from seeds. I think I have more fresh seed sprouting, although I have to check tomorrow, because I saw a few small green sprouts but they may be weeds.

    Best to you Autumn Belle!


  35. Eden, Glenda thanks.

    Muhammad Khabab, this is a wonderful community. I have improved a lot in gardening, cooking, writing, photography, etc via blogging.

    Joey, we usually use the flower buds before they open.

    K, you can start exporting bunga kantan seeds! Currently, you are the only person I know in Malaysia whose bunga kantan plant has successfully formed seeds.

  36. Such beautiful flowers! I wouldn't mind sitting in front of them and admiring them. Thanks for sharing the photos and the recipes. I may not be able to try the recipe, but would love to visit Malaysia and taste the cuisine (vegetarian).


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