Sunday, December 15, 2013

Pandan ( Pandanus amaryllifolius)


We have many kinds of big Pandanus trees in the Pacific Islands, so when I say I am using a Pandanus leaf as a herb or spice people immediately think of the 4 ft long leaves of the trees that are used to weave mats and baskets.......and they look at me funny.  I have to explain that Pandan is a mini sized Pandanus that would fit into their herb garden just fine.  A student from Malaysia introduced this plant to me and I have been growing it and using it for over ten years now.  It makes my common, California grown, rice give off  the lovely Jasmine rice smell when cooking and adds a nice subtle flavor to the rice as well.  Here in Hawaii, gourmet rices are becoming big time, with the rice shelves at the supermarket expanding greatly with all the fancy international choices.  Pandan makes my cheap rice taste like a gourmet rice.  It may be my imagination, but I think that the cooked rice does not go off so quick either if it has been cooked with Pandan.

The Pandan is a stalk like plant with long slender leaves of about 1- 1 1/2 ft. long.  After a while, the mature plant gives off little offshoots so that it becomes more of clump.  Mine has not grown higher than 3 ft.  As it matures, the plant bends down with the weight and sends out aerial roots to support it.  If you do not keep an eye on it, it could go expanding out in your garden so you do need to expect it to spread out somewhat.  However, if the clump is just taking up too much room, just break off some of the off shoots to give away as gifts or to root and pot up.  After about five years, I pulled up most of my Pandan and started again with  new rooted tops as the old clump was starting to look too messy and tangled.  I do love the fragrance of the Pandan in the garden on a humid or rainy day. 



The Pandan does not flower......an indication that this plant has relied on man to reproduce it for thousands of  years.  Pandan will grow in sun or semi-shade.  It does like moist soil.  I have seen it grown in swampy areas in SE Asia, but is grows in my sandy soil OK although I do water it every few days.  I notice my plants leaf tips get burnt when the salt wind gets going but otherwise it does fine.  It has no disease problems except that I notice that slugs will eat the tender leaves of the baby off shoots when I pot them up if I leave the pots sitting on the ground.

To propagate new Pandan plants I pull off an off shoot/sucker from the mother plant and leave it standing in water for a few weeks until it starts rooting before I pot it up.  I change the water daily to keep it fresh and oxygenated.  I found this worked better than just potting up the off shoot straight away where it tended to rot and die.

Pandan is commonly grown throughout SE Asia as a herb/spice.  As I said, I add my Pandan leaves to ordinary rice to give it a subtle Jasmine rice flavor.  I suspect I may be getting added benefits of some plant goodness into my rice as well.  Some in SE Asia consider the plant to have medicinal qualities.
If you are familiar with Nasi Lemak from Malaysia, this is just rice cooked with coconut milk and a few leaves of Pandan.  The usual method is just to cut three leaves of Pandan, tie them together into a knot and throw them in the pot with the rice.  This makes for easy removal at the end of cooking.  Do not use the white part of the leaf at the base.  Leaves do keep quite well in the refrigerator.  Wrap them up in a damp cloth or paper towel and store them in a plastic bag.

Pandan leaves for sale in a Thai market. 


You can buy bottles of Pandan essence in Asian stores.  They are usually bright green in color so I eye them suspiciously.  I think green food color has been added.  I ate Pandan bread  and Pandan mochi in Malaysia that was green in color.  To tell the truth, there was more green food coloring there too than any Pandan taste that I could detect.  In Thailand I bought small pieces of chicken wrapped in Pandan leaves and fried.  It was nice chicken but I could not taste any Pandan flavor.  More a unique way of presenting food.

On looking around the Internet I find recipes for making your own Pandan juice.  Just blend 6-8 leaves with 2/3 cup of water in a food processor and discard the solids to keep the liquid for cooking.  Or you can make a Pandan paste.  Boil 1" pieces of leaves in 1/2 a cup of water and then throw it all into a food processor and use the resulting paste to add to your cakes and desserts. This sounds better than buying those bright green bottles of Pandan essence at the store.   I think I will just be sticking to throwing a few leaves into my rice pot which has become a long time habit now.  Some Nasi Lemak goes over well too....

Aloha


21 comments:

  1. Ooo, that is one fine clump of pandan. They do love water, but get out of hand and grows messily if they get plenty of water and sun. We put it in a lot of our cooking, from savory dishes to desserts. Do you find the pandan essence sort of chemical-like and unnatural? If i make pandan-flavoured glutinous rice balls, it has to be made with real pandan juice extracted from the leaves. Plus the liquid provides a nice green color when fresh (doesn't last long though, the chlorophyll oxidizes in a few days). The essence just doesn't cut it.

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  2. Hi Sean.....thanks for visiting from Malaysia. Yes....I go for the natural , home made flavor like you. Thanks for the extra information on Pandan. Aloha

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  3. Beautiful pandan clump; likewise I have seen impressive groves on pandan growing by the river in Thailand. I keep mine damp in a pot and its been doing ok so far, although the recent rainy weather is putting that to a test! I'm in Kane'ohe and do collect interesting plants so its nice to know of a neighbor doing the same!

    Aloha

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  4. would you be interested in trading some pandan for exotic fruit trees or edible perennials? let me know please
    adamcrowemusic@gmail.com

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  5. Hey there! I grew up in Malaysia and remembered having clusters of pandan in my backyard. I took it for granted because it grew like crazy and I never really did learn on how to grow it. I have tried growing it 3x now here and all 3 times it failed. The plant starts turning yellow, then it shrivels then it dies. Sad. I just planted it for the 4th time today in a clay pot up here in makakilo. I managed to root it really well in water. It grew tons of roots and I'm hoping it is enough it support the transplant. Anyway, wish me luck! If it dies again, any chance you can give me an establish plant? I miss cooking using pandan!

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  6. Hi Aziem....sorry...it took me a few weeks to check in on comments. Hope by now your pandan is looking good and healthy so that you can enjoy using it. You are in a dry climate out there and clay pots dry out fast so keep it well watered. If you have another failure....let me know and we will go to plan B. aloha

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    1. Aloha, so my Pandan plant died so I was wondering if you could be so kind to give me a small cutting so that I can grow them too?

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    2. Sorry....not doing any plant giveaways. I have seen it growing at Waimea Valley and Hoomaluhia Park so you could phone them and see if they have any to sell.

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  7. Hi
    May I know where you got the pandan plant from? I did try to plant it at my yard but it just die after I transplant it. How many time you have to water it? I from Malaysia and I never know is not easy to grow this as in Malaysia you can get it anywhere. Please help and appreciate your time

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  8. Hi Fatexavoid, Thanks for dropping by. Sorry you are having a frustrating time trying to grow Pandan. Probably it is not so rainy and humid where you live as it is back in Malaysia. My original cutting was a gift. I find the key is to leave the stem to root in a bucket of water for several days before planting it up....and then you are going to need to water it every few days until it gets established.

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  9. Thanks for reply me. How often you water per day? Do you have to soak the soil? I live at Kaneohe.

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  10. I would really soak the soil because this plant likes water....then water every few days.

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  11. Hello, I am looking for a wholesaler who can supply large quantities of pandan leaves. Do you know of any supplier in Hawaii?

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  12. Hi,
    I am from Canada and I have a pandanus plant growing in my garage. My pandanus does not have shoots with suckers, it does have new shoots growing in between the leaves. Can you please kindly tell me if I can cut these shoots with their stems and root them in water to start a new Plant? I have grown this plant for nearly four years in pot and really like to propagate some new ones. Thank you.

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  13. Hi, I forgot to ask you to notify me with your answer. Sorry.

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  14. Hi Nelson...thanks for dropping by. Well done in keeping a pandan going in your garage for four years! Yes...if you break of a shoot and put it in water for a few days before planting it should grow. I think I would only do one shoot at a time though....just in case you lose it. :o) The shoot should have leaves that are several inches in length at least to have some reserved strength in them.

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  15. Thanks for replying me. Today is the second day of Spring. Can I break off the shoot Now? Or should I wait for a few more weeks until the weather gets Warmer? My room temperature in the garage is 20 degree celsius. Thank you again.

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  16. Ahhhh! I have no idea. It is shorts and tank top weather here all year round and I have no idea about looking after tropical plants in your cold weather. Seems like early summer might be better. Plants like to grow then. Good luck.

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  17. Hi Stellamarina,

    I found out there's white mites on my pandan leaves what should I do to treat it so it doesn't hurt the plant? Thanks

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  18. Hi Fatexavoid....sorry about problems with your plant. Really, I would just use a spay of soapy water and a good blast with the hose. aloha

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