Category Archives: agriculture

At The Heart Of All Things Bananas

The Malay name for this elongated-heart shaped flower is “Jantung Pisang” or “Banana Heart”.

In the early days of my kampong life, it was a common sight – a big purplishly-red bulbous bud danging temptingly at the end of a stalk of banana fruit on each tree.

My family had our own banana trees in our compound, but we did not know what to do with those Jantung! However, we had many Indian neighbours around us, and so there was no lack of “suitors” for the beauties. 

I have never eaten any food prepared with this flower, until 2 Nov 2019, when  a good Indian friend treated several of us to a Kerala Restaurant – and there was a plate of Jantung Patties, for us to relish to our hearts’ content.

This item is definitely getting scarcer by the day.

Ia Nya Papaya

A big advantage of living in the kampong was that one could grow all kinds of fruits.  Around our house then we had 4 papaya trees, of which 3 were prolific producers.  (The sole barren one turned out to be a male tree, as we later learned).

My father used to put a dozen or two in a basket on the back carrier of his trusty Grandpa Bicycle, and pedalled all the way from Butterworth to Sia Boey Market on Penang Island to sell them. 

Also, we would take along a couple of the fruits to our relatives and friends on the island when we went visiting. Haha, “buah tangan” in the very essence of the word.

These days, however, papayas have become  ya ya in price.  In Singapore, a sizeable one costs between SGD2.00 to SGD3.50.

The Grain Reaper

I wonder how many people know what a sickle is. In our kampong house of the 50s and 60s, we had one of these menacing-looking grain reapers, which I understand were used by padi farmers to do their harvesting. But we were not into farming then.

I recall however, that in the coconut plantation where we lived, coconut harvesters tied these sickles to the ends of long bamboo poles and then used these extended-reach cutters to bring down clusters of coconuts.

The tool, with its curved shape, was also good for clearing lalang around the house, and hacking away unwanted branches on trees.

There were also macabre stories of other uses too….but these are too grim for discussion here.