Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Flowers of Herbs and Spices

Just a post to show the blooms of herbs growing on the balcony. Though most of the blooms are not showy and sometimes undesirable, nevertheless, the blooms adds a little spark of colour to drab green/grey green colour of these leafy plants grown for their leaves (with the exception of the chilli).

So first of all, rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis). Nice blue blooms appear on the shoot tips and also from the side shoots. The blooms do come in the range of white to blue to purple to pink. Most of the nursery specimens you get in KL (and those from cuttings sold as commercial herb) have white flowers. Got these cuttings from a friend of a friend in Adelaide. It is so lovely to have a rosemary hedge, with all the blue flowers and oh how aromatic the smell is when one brushes against the hedge. I find that the blue flowered ones appear to be less vigourous than the white ones in our climate. Lesson number one for those intending to grow rosemary in Malaysia (or anywhere humid and wet year round) - once the specimen has been established, do not over water the plants. It does not need to be watered daily. The leaves will tell you when they need a drink. Over water them and you get leaf tip burn and root rot.

Rosemary flowers.
The flowering shoot a few days later.

Next is the purplish pink blooms of Oregano (Origanum vulgare). Whilst most of the fresh Oregano sold in Malaysian supermarkets taste like lawn clippings, you can get better flavour if you grow them yourself. Trick is to restrict watering and let the soil dry out occasionally. Then you will get a spicier, stronger tasting fresh Oregano.

Oregano flowers (notice the forked stigma).

Then there's the white flowers of sweet basil. The inflorescence will sap the vigour of the plant, thus should be promptly removed. However, the blooms do make nice garnish and the whole flowering stem can be put inside a bottle of basil infused vinegar to give it a touch of class. As I had a row of them growing on the balcony by the sliding door, my godmother commented today that she could smell the basil when the breeze blows through, and that it was lovely. Now that has got to be an added bonus of growing basil, other than its culinary use. 

The white blooms of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum var. basilicum).

Then we have the blooms of the Bishop's Crown chilli (Capsicum baccatum). I got the seeds recently when I went to Adelaide last Autumn. Instead of eating it, i gauged out the seeds and packed it home. This was from a batch of sowing to determine the viability of the seeds collected. Capsicum baccatum, as one of the species of chilli 'domesticated' by man, has many cultivars. Bishop's Crown is a cultivar of C. baccatum that has a weird bell shaped, three lobed fruit that can be citrusy in taste with a hotter interior section.  

Capsicum baccatum flower - the green gold markings is a distinctive feature of this chilli species.
Another bloom at anthesis. Was tempted to hand pollinate it.

A developing fruit - you can see the distinctively three lobed fruit developing.

The plant has large, heart shaped leaves, very much larger than the normal chilli (Capsicum annuum). It is supposedly a large leggy plant, but I probably have stunted my specimen by growing it in small polybags.