Root Awakening

Sawtooth Coriander
Sawtooth CorianderPHOTO: WILSON WONG

Shiny Bush has medicinal properties


What is the name of this plant? Does it have medicinal properties and is it safe to eat? Sim Lay Koon

The plant is commonly called Shiny Bush or Pepper Elder. Its botanical name is Peperomia pellucida.

It is a weed that grows frequently in gardens and flower pots. It can be eaten or cooked.

The Shiny Bush has medicinal properties. For example, it has been reported that its bruised leaves are used to treat headaches caused by fever, while the sap from the leaves can be used for abdominal pain and colic.

But you should check with a certified medical practitioner if you want to use the plant to treat ailments.

Tip: Sawtooth Coriander thrives in Singapore's climate

The true coriander (Coriandrum sativum) can be a difficult plant to grow in the hot lowland tropics as it tends to flower prematurely.

A good substitute is the Sawtooth Coriander (Eryngium foetidum, above), which thrives in Singapore's climate. It can be grown in the ground outdoors or in containers in apartments.

To get a good flavour from the plant, grow it under direct sunlight, although it can tolerate some shade.

Its leaves are very pungent, so only a small amount should be used to flavour dishes.

Belimbing fruit gives sambal a tangy kick

Belimbing fruit PHOTO: DEBBIE SIOW

Are the fruit of this tree edible? Debbie Siow

The tree is known by various names such as the Belimbing, Cucumber Tree and Tree Sorrel.

Its botanical name is Averrhoa bilimbi and is closely related to the starfruit plant.

Its edible sour fruit is used in sambal, curry, pickles and chutneys to give them a tangy kick. It has a range of traditional medicinal uses too.

Due to its high acidity, the juice from the fruit is used to remove rust.

This tree thrives in a sunny spot outdoors in fertile, well-drained soil.

Indian Borage a substitute for oregano

My son came home from a farm visit with this plant and it has been flourishing ever since. What is it and can I cook it or use it to treat illnesses? Jennifer Wee


Known botanically as Plectranthus amboinicus, this plant also goes by its common name, Indian Borage. As it is sometimes used as a substitute for oregano, it is also known as Cuban Oregano.

It is a member of the mint family, Lamiaceae, and is often mistaken for the common mint plant. There are two variegated cultivars of the Indian Borage - the edges of the leaves are either white or yellow.

Locally, this plant is used to treat coughs. Its leaves are boiled and the liquid is drunk to soothe the throat.

Young shoot tips of sweet potato best for eating

Are the leaves of the sweet potato plant edible? Lim Mui Huang

Sweet potato plant PHOTO: LIM MUI HUANG

The leaves of the sweet potato (botanical name - Ipomoea batatas) are edible. The leaves of some cultivars may be more palatable than others. To avoid a fibrous texture, you should pick only the young tender shoot tips for cooking.

• Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore ( He is also an NParks-certified park manager.

• Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2017, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe