Sunday, August 31, 2014

Green Walls - Featured Inside And Outside

Seen recently - a new green wall in Terminal 1 at Changi Airport Singapore.

Announcing  - Arrivals.............. in a large display right at the top of the escalator down to Immigration and Passport Control.  A great prominent display with plants well adapted to lower light levels.

That has been a noticeable improvement over the past year or so - plant selection that works, especially for inside feature walls, where light levels and composition being a big issue.

This feature wall is a great display.  Check it out at Changi - hard to miss!

There is no doubt that green walls do a great job of improving air quality indoors where it can often be a problem if circulation is uneven.  And look good as well.

Darwin Airport  - take note.  Can you do a great green wall as part of the terminal improvements??

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Durian - Many Different Types in Malaysia

Hail the king of fruit - 10 types of durians from Malaysia

We look into The Straits Times archives for a guide on durians and how to pick the best

Fruits from Malaysia are on showcase at the new Agrobazaar Malaysia, which will be opened officially by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak on Aug 27. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
You either love them or loathe them - durian evokes that type of response.

This reminder is that there are different types of durian out there.

See them all at the new showcase site for Malaysian food products in Singapore from August 28.

Fruits from Malaysia are on showcase at the new Agrobazaar Malaysia, which will be opened officially by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak on Aug 27.

The 5,100 sq ft outlet in Sultan Gate off Beach Road [ an easy site to get to close to Kampong Glam] will promote the fruit and other agro-based produce of Malaysia.

Singapore is Malaysia’s biggest export market for fruits and fruit products, with annual exports worth RM300 million (S$119 million), contributed mostly by watermelons and the durian, reports The Star Online.

Among the fruits from across the Causeway, durian has always reigned as king among Singaporeans.

We sniff out 10 types of durians from Malaysia

Other names:
Butter durian, Cat Mountain King, Rajah Kunyit
Colour: Bright yellow
Taste notes: Durian connoisseurs love its bittersweet taste and sticky, creamy texture. The flesh can be sweet and bitter within the same fruit.
From: Kelatan, Pahang and Johor

Other names: Jin Feng
Colour: Pale yellow-white
Taste notes: Bitter with a more watery texture and strong pungent smell.
From: Pahang, Johor

3. XO
Colour: Pale yellow
Taste notes: Bitter and extremely soft, fleshy meat with an almost alcoholic taste.
From: Johor, Genting, Cameron Highlands

4. D24
Other names: Sultan
Colour: Pale yellow
Taste notes: Very creamy and bitter.
From: Johor, Pahang, Cameron Highlands

5. D13
Colour: Deep burnt orange
Taste notes: Sweet, less fibrous than most durians and not very strong in taste. This durian has large seeds. Good for people trying durians for the first time
From: Johor, Segamat

6. D1
Colour: Pale yellow
Taste notes: Small seeds, milky taste. The flesh slips off the seeds and has a light crunch on the surf
From: Johor

7. D101
Colour: Orange
Taste notes: Easy on the palate, slightly sweet and creamy.
From: Pahang, Johor

Other names: Hong Xia, Ang Hay
Colour: Orangey-red
Taste notes: Sticky with a sweet aftertaste.
From: Pahang, Johor

Other names: Qing Zhu
Colour: Pale yellow with a slight greenish tinge
Taste notes: Sweet with fibrous flesh.
From: Johor

Other names: Hei Zhen Zhu
Colour: Very pale yellow with grey undertones
Taste notes: Slightly bitter, smooth and creamy with small seeds.
Origin: Johor


For durian newbies, wandering into a stall to buy the fruit can be a daunting task. Which variety to pick? Is that really a Mao Shan Wang durian? What to look out for when the seller opens the durian for inspection?

Almost all connoisseurs we ask say it is important to go to a reputable seller, and to keep going back if the durians are good. Housewife Shelia Lim, 52, a self-confessed durian enthusiast, says:  “Customer loyalty counts for a lot. The seller will keep the good durians for you, so you know you’re paying for quality fruit.” She usually goes to Combat Durian in Balestier Road.

Businessman David Lim, 65, says: “I have been going to the same shop in Balestier Road for 15 years and have never once been disappointed.”

Here are some other tips:

How to smell
Experts never smell the base of the durian. Mr Goh Kwee Leng, 58, owner of 717 Trading, says: “The base of the husk is the thickest part so it is harder to smell the aroma of the fruit.”

Instead, sniff along the seams or split lines of the durian – you should smell a slight fragrance. If there is no aroma, the durian is unripe. If the aroma is too strong, the durian is probably over-ripe.
The right shape
The best durians are oval or slightly oblong in shape. Odd-shaped fruit are likely to have fewer chambers inside and so fewer flesh-covered seeds.

A perfectly round durian may have sub-standard fruit because it is usually less aromatic and the seeds are usually bigger and the meat less fleshy and creamy.
Size matters
Different varieties of durians come in different sizes. For example, XO durians are generally smaller while there are no small Red Prawn durians – these are generally large fruit. So be suspicious if a seller points to a large XO durian or a small Red Prawn one.

Trick of the trade
Some sellers try to push durians that have been rejected by other customers. Watch the vendors to ensure that they are opening a new durian.

Taste test
Instead of prodding the flesh-covered seeds when the seller presents an open fruit, customers should taste the durian. If it is bad, or not the variety promised, they are not obliged to buy it, sellers say.

Mr Richard Woo, 40, general manager of Four Seasons Durian Cafe, says: “When you pinch or prod the fruit, you are touching only the skin and not the flesh, so there is no way to tell if the fruit is good. Taste it instead, that way you can really tell if the durian is any good.”
The real deal
To make sure a seller isn’t passing off a lesser durian as a Mao Shan Wang, look for prominent seams radiating from the base of the durian. The  seams are lines where the spikes of the durian run parallel to each other. The base of a real D24 durian has a flat round spot about half the size of a 5-cent coin.

First published in The Straits Times on July 13, 2008
- See more at:

Friday, August 01, 2014

Panasonic Moves to Grow Vegetables Indoors in Singapore

Panasonic, the Japanese electronics giant, has announced its entry into high tech indoor farming in land-strapped Singapore. 

Panasonic Factory Solutions Asia, a regional subsidiary that provides manufacturing systems, is starting out in the grocery business by supplying the 3 local outlets of Ootoya, a Japanese restaurant chain, using a newly developed vegetable cultivation system.

Panasonic's 248 sq.-metre indoor farm is located in Tuas, an industrial zone in western Singapore, and is the first facility of its kind to be licensed by the government.   Panasonic says the innovative soil-based system employs LED lighting to grow vegetables without pesticides in half the time a traditional farm requires. The system also optimizes other growing conditions, including temperature, humidity and CO2 levels.

The Tuas facility has an initial production capacity of 3.6 tons of vegetables per year, but Panasonic hopes to boost output to 1,000 tons by March 2017 - equivalent to about 5% of Singapore's current vegetable production. [THAT would be quite something!!]

Panasonic can cultivate 10 kinds of vegetable at present, including lettuces, radishes, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes and basil. It is also producing popular Japanese varieties such as ooba (mint), mizuna (potherb mustard) and mitsuba (wild parsley) that are imported from Japan at present. According to Panasonic, its indoor-farmed produce could be half the price of imports. [ THAT is very relevant]

Panasonic is starting off its futuristic grocery business by supplying 3 kinds of vegetables for Ootoya salads, and will add two more next month. Ultimately, it hopes to produce 30 vegetables.

At a press conference on Thursday, Hideki Baba, managing director of Panasonic Factory Solution Asia Pacific, noted that Singapore at present produces only 8% of the vegetables it consumes due to the scarcity of farm land.    "Panasonic hopes our indoor vegetable farm can contribute effectively to the nation's food self-sufficiency levels," said Baba.

Panasonic's future business model for indoor farming will involve franchisees supplying restaurants and commercial grocers. A system for households that wish to self-grow is also being considered, and there are plans to export systems to Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.    "With the increase of salary levels and a large number of Japanese restaurants in these countries, we expect the demand for fresh and safe vegetables to grow," said Baba.  

Mostly sourced from a press release on July 31, 2014 9:44 pm JST by Tomomi Kikuchi Nikkei Staff writer 

This is an auspicious move - especially with a soil based system, rather than using hydroponics.  While other parts of the world are also developing similar approaches [ think Detroit in the USA for example] this venture in Singapore aims to offer fresh salad greens in a land poor region.

Could this system be replicated elsewhere?   Like Darwin for example?  And think outside the target of Japanese customers - it seems eminently replicable for many, many vegetables.

UPDATE - It seems many are interested in this concept with both Sharp and Fujitsu also involved in similar ventures - some in Japan, and some in the middle east [ Dubai].

Read more here -

Should we see more of these particularly in both hotter and colder regions of the world where vegetables are needed, but sometimes more difficult to grow, especially year round!