Growing Tamarind From Seeds

Trial And Error

I love eating Sweet Tamarind and spicy tamarind candy so much so that I forgot it has a laxative property.  Tamarind juice is also used in many beverages and cooking.  You cannot make real Pad Thai or Massaman curry without tamarind juice.  Young leaves and flowers are also good in cooking.  The juice is also good as a non-toxic polisher for brass and silver.  Wood is also good used as a cutting board.  The plant can be trained as a beautiful Bonzai.  As much as I want to grow it as a tree because of the benefits it provides, I cannot grow it in our garden in this climate.  So, I settled for growing it in a pot like the other tropical plants I have – for the beauty of it.

When I mentioned to my friends and colleagues that I attempted to grow tamarind (Tamarindus indica) from seed.  They asked either …why? or questioned whether I know that tamarind is a very large tree.  Yes, I know tamarind is a long lived, large tree that can grow over 50 feet tall.  Why would I want to grow it then?  It’s because I want to know I can grow it from seed in a cold climate.  I love its beautiful leaves and it can be made it into a Bonsai.  If they grow well, I can eat their young leaves, flowers and fruit.  Fruit is less likely, actually, due to a very short high temperature season and resulting lack of sunlight in this climate, USDA Zone 5-6.

I kept seeds of Sweet Tamarind after having eaten the yummy flesh.  Yes, there is a type of tamarind fruit that turns sweet when ripened.  I put them in warm water and let them soaked over night before I put them in a growing medium.  I put the tray on top of a heat mat that was set to 75°F.   Looking back at my 2015 garden record, I put the seeds in on March 31 and they sprouted on April 11. I was surprised to see them germinate in two weeks.

Tamarind seedling sprout up within two weeks
Tamarind seedling sprouted within two weeks
A week old, new leaves started to unfurl
A week old, new leaves starting to unfurl

Once they grew around 3 inches tall and produced a pair of true leaves, I transferred them to larger pots.  They seemed to grow fast when they were very young but after a year the growing rate seems to slow down.  I’m not really sure if it’s normal for tamarind or it’s because they have to spend 6 months in a cool basement, under artificial sunlight.  Will they grow faster if they sit on a heat mat in winter?  I don’t know but I don’t have the space to put them on a heat mat as an experiment.

Transferred from a seed-starter to a larger pot after the leaves were fully unfurled.
Transferred from a seed-starter to a larger pot after the leaves were fully unfurled.
The four survivors enjoyed late summer outside last year
The four survivors enjoyed late summer outside last year

Out of eight seedlings that sprouted in 2015 only four survived the first year.  I think I may have watered them too much.  Tamarind does better in semi dryness.  In their natural habitat, they survive drought and do fine with less than fertile soil.

The survivors are now almost two years old and thriving in the basement at the moment.  They are around a foot tall but branching out with a lot of beautiful leaves.  I haven’t decided if I want to keep them at a Bonsai height or let them grow to four feet tall (the height that can easily be transported in and out of the basement).

Reside in the basement with other tropical friends in winter. In a couple of moths they can enjoy warm weather and real sunlight again
Relaxing in the basement with other tropical friends in winter. In a couple of months they can enjoy warm weather and real sunlight again.

I’ve learned that watering tamarind too much will kill it, so each one of them will stay slightly on the dry side.  I have not encountered any pests or diseases yet.  As far as I know they are fairly pest-free in their natural habitat.

I look forward to seeing them flower, maybe five to six years from now.  They may not flower at all, but like our Kaffir limes, the oldest of which is around 20 years old, thrive but never flower.  By then, any survivor should be something of real beauty.

Summer Feast

The Only Time We Compete

This time of year is the only time we, the birds and us, compete for fruits in our garden.  We have wild cherry, ornamental cherry, white mulberry, wild raspberry, Golden raspberry, strawberry and blueberry on the property.  We gave up on the wild cherry since it’s  too tall for us to harvest; the birds always get the fruit first.  Our neighbor used to put a bed sheet under one of the trees but what she got was the left over from the birds.  We can only get the sweet, white mulberry from the lower branches but that’s enough.  This year there are so many fruits that the birds and squirrels have taken longer to clean them up.  So we are still picking mulberry.

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) enjoying white mulberry
Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) enjoying white mulberry
A wet Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) looking for a ripe mulberry
A wet Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) looking for a ripe mulberry
American Robin (Turdus migrators) also joins the feast
American Robin (Turdus migrators) also joins the feast
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) looks more like a Christmas ornament among green leaves
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) looks more like a Christmas ornament among green leaves
Can't forget the Gray squirrel
Can’t forget the Gray squirrel
And the black squirrel
And the black squirrel

Wild raspberry has not yet ripened.  There will not be much fruit this year.  I removed many of them early in spring because they were getting too invasive.  Since there is no distraction now from the wild raspberry, I am more concerned with the Golden raspberry and am considering putting a net over them.  I will have to cover the blueberries before the fruit ripens as well.  The Gray Catbirds are pretty good at keeping their eye on the fruit.

We have been sharing strawberries this year since I have no time to cover them.  What ever the birds missed is our feast.

A pair of Cedar Waxwing on cherry tree
A pair of Cedar Waxwing on cherry tree
American Robin in the act of cherry picking
American Robin in the act of cherry picking

Competing for ripe fruits in the garden doesn’t make us enemies.  The birds still work the other part of the garden; picking off insects and grubs which are much more destructive to our garden.  Losing some fruit to them is a small price to pay for their service.

 

The Survivor Tree

Nature’s Resilience

This post has nothing to do with my garden but I wanted to post it because it’s heartfelt by me and is exceptional.

I haven’t been to the World Trade Center area since the disaster on September 11, 2001.  That’s a thirteen year stretch now.  I used to go there at least one a year for the Orchid Show at the Winter Garden before the organizer moved the show to Rockefeller Center and then to the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  Sometimes I would go down there just to walk around.  But I’ve avoided the area since 9/11.

I still remember that day clearly.  I was at my office uptown when the tragedy happened and bailed with everyone else in the scramble to get home safely. There was no transportation between the boroughs; the bridges were closed, the tunnels were closed and the subway wasn’t running.  A group of us walked across Central Park to our friend’s apartment on Riverside Drive to watch the news and wait.  We could smell the acrid smoke faintly as it dissipated, wafting north, away from Ground Zero.  Every moment seemed eerie, unreal.

I wasn’t avoiding the area because I didn’t want to be reminded of the images I saw that day.  I have unfortunately witnessed many gruesome, untimely deaths in person in my lifetime, enough to make me look at life differently.  I didn’t want to go there because I don’t want to see yet another example of how destructive and senseless humans can be.

I lost my physical compass that day too.  The World Trade Center served as my compass when exiting the subway.  I knew where south was when I saw the Towers and then it was easy to figure out which way to go…. uptown , downtown , Eastside and Westside.  Now I have to rely on the next street number before I know which way I should go.

But this post is not really about 9/11 or the World Trade Center; it’s about a tree…the Survivor Tree.  A Callery pear (Pyrus calleryana) tree at the World Trade Center that managed to survive after being scorched when the towers fell.  It was dug up by the NYC Parks Department and nursed back to health then replanted back at the Memorial area in 2010.  It is the only pear tree among oaks there.

The Survivor Tree
The Survivor Tree

I know trees can survive wild fires and still spring back to life the following season or when rain comes.  Being burned amongst organic matter however, is much different from miles and miles of incendiary and toxic cables, fiber optics, computer chips and other substances.  And, as far as I know, ornamental trees that are planted around the city don’t have very long taproots, if any, like trees that grow naturally in the wild.  But this tree survived even after being buried under toxic ash for weeks.

The Survivor Tree is the reason I made the pilgrimage to the 9/11 Memorial site, just to pay my respects.

It’s not just living proof that “There’s nothing so bad that we can’t overcome it.” as narrated in ‘The Survivor Tree’ video, it’s also proof of how resilient nature can be.

Other areas of the 9/11 Memorial….

Waterfall at Reflecting Pool
Waterfall at Reflecting Pool
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower
Freedom Tower, from this angle, it looks like a pyramid
Freedom Tower, from this angle, it looks like a pyramid
Reflection on the 9/11 Memorial Museum wall
Reflection on the 9/11 Memorial Museum wall
A reminder of lives lost
A reminder of lives lost

 

 

Everbearing Strawberry

From June to Frost

I put my first strawberries in the garden three years ago when I discovered that strawberries from a conventional farm are usually loaded with chemicals.  I started with four plants of ‘everbearing’ strawberry, the type that produces fruit from June to frost, just to see how difficult it is to grow them.  I picked a few strawberries in that first year but the slugs ate most of the rest.  But the plants have produced many runners that became new plants where they touched the ground.  Last year they took over one side of the vegetable garden.  They have become weedy and invasive if delicious.

This year I bought a planter early in spring, eight feet long, waist high and moved the healthy looking strawberries into it.  I gave some to whomever wanted them and left the not so good looking ones in their original place.  My problem solved, sort of.  The slugs can no longer steal my strawberries since the planter sits high up on steel legs.  The birds have no chance either as I covered them with a net.  So I’ve been picking strawberries daily since June and there are still more strawberry flowers and young fruit growing.

Strawberry in April
Strawberry in April
Moved them up to the planter in April, with six to seven inches between them, and mulched with hay
Moved them up to the planter in April, with six to seven inches between them, and mulched with hay
In May, covered them with a net
In May, covered them with a net
May, when they started to flower
May, when they started to flower
Plenty of strawberries in early June
Plenty of strawberries in early June

One problem still exists: they proliferate too fast.  They fill the planter in one growing season and the runners are draping down to the ground. I thought I left enough room between them but I guess six to seven inches is not enough.  I will have to find more space to plant them.  The guilty conscience of throwing perfectly good plants in the compost is very hard to overcome so just thinning them is out.

August, still flowering
August, still flowering
Some ripening strawberries in August
Some ripening strawberries in August
Picked on September 4th, and still picking daily since
Picked on September 4th, and still picking daily since