Dr. Bilhaj’s Planting Diary

Bilhaj, Abdulkhalig Ali Dou
Jun 3, 2022
Turnips and Truffle Hunting


Turnips and Truffle Hunting!


Welcome back our Dear Readers;

First, I would like to present you a new article with surprising hydroponic guest. As shown in the following images, Turnip will take the top course of our menu. I will share you an attractive childhood story of mine as well. Mysterious plants with their rare Libyan dishes will be introduced afterwards. Finally, I will end this article with a spring flavor, as the flourishing Sakura front is still passing along the Japanese Archipelago. Hence let us start with our Laboratory Turnip experiment!


This bulb is grown inside water, while leaves are energized by Shibakawa High-Tech LEDs



Turnip is part of the Mustard vegetable family, such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and African mustard “Aslus” grown in Libya. They grow in temperate climate areas around the globe.  Some of these family plants used to produce vegetable oil such as mustard oil and canola flower oil. In fact the Turnip flower is almost identical to that of canola, with same color and structure.

As the first image shows, the bulb and green leaves are growing well. When growing in hydroponic environment, you can choose where you want the bulb to grow, whether inside or above water. Although it is observed that in water, the bulb size grows bigger. The second image shows 2 other different growing phenomena. One bulb fully grown above the water, while the other grown with 2 halves, the upper in air and the lower in water. One advantage of growing Turnips hydroponically is that you can have a closer watch to the growing cycle of bulbs and pick them at the best size and time that fits your menu needs.

The bulbs can be grown fully or partially submerged into water, or even out of water. The peel turn to pink as exposed to light.



Health Benefits of Turnips

Beneficially, beside a large amount of vitamin C, Turnip bulbs contain many minerals mostly in small amounts such as copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, calcium, zinc. Actually larger amount of minerals with different vitamins; such as A and K, goes to greens. For example, 100 gram of bulbs offers third of the daily needs of vitamin C; while same amount of greens offer more than 100%. Practically, the precise amount of minerals and vitamins in Turnips varies depending on soil or hydroponic conditions in where they are growing.


For Preparation and serving, Turnips and its top greens can be used in raw salads and in cooking too. Try to choose a young Turnips as their bulbs are sweeter and their greens are softer. Young Turnips do not require peeling as well. The young Turnips have almost no yellow leaves and the bulbs are firm and have no holes or clear internal white lines. The raw slices of baby Turnips can be added to cherry tomatoes, green pepper, cucumber cubes with olive oil and little natural salt to offer a delicious appetizer.


Truffle Hunting, A childhood Adventure!!

The elementary pupils’ school year starts around September and ends sometime in May. Beside the long summer holiday, we enjoyed winter vacation in the first half of February.  Actually it is a nightmare for many pupils as we get used to receive very heavy home works in every subject we had. On the other hand, vacation gives pupils great experience; it is our family trip for a special open air picnic. As in summer our people go to have family picnics on the Mediterranean coast beach, they also go to internal Libyan area of Jefara plain (Sahal Ajefara) where; after winter strong rain, this large area become an endless land of flowers spreading along 10 of 1000s of square kilometers.  At that time, it was a real paradise and natural resort on earth.


Here in this occasion also we go with other 2 or more families of relatives, after filling our camping cars with natural wood and all day necessities for our camping and food cooking. Cars go as a line to our rain-fed agricultural lands with a depth of around 40 kms southwest into Jefara plain. This time no need to use tents as we camp under the shades of any available big tree on that huge open land.

Upon an early morning arrival, we immediately help downloading carpets, water, tools, and other things from cars. In a short while after our families begin cooking Imbakbka on a natural wood fire as well as the Libyan bubblous mint tea, we kids start enjoying our adventure. Girls mostly go with their elder sisters for collecting young flower stems of Aslus and uprooting the Rozy garlic. We boys go with our experienced elder brothers for the hunting of Mason honey and Truffles! As we never use any kind of animals for hunting, we challenge ourselves of who can hunt more quantities or larger sizes of these truffles. Truffle bulb of our areas has a brownish pink peel and beautiful internal pinkish white color. When fresh; truffles are so soft and tastes as nothing else. You will just wish you can eat them endless.


The mason honey can be found as a mud made honeybee houses on stands or attached to some plants or any available rocks in their forage range area. Often, this mason honeybee nests in a large empty snail shells as well. Although the amount of collected honey is little; but you may not find any honey tasting more delicious or fragrant.


At mid day, our families call us for lunch. While enjoying the spicy Imbakbka, we talk about next steps and make the rest-of-day plans. Partially, we help our families to cut and collect varieties of grass, plants and flowers for our sheep and goats those living in our home farm (see the fifth image of Jan.2020 article). Then load the collected plant varieties into our vehicles. We take a look also into the grown wheat and barley of our rain-fed lands and help fixing or replacing the wood stands of their simple fences. Afterwards, we continue Truffle hunting in new areas on new directions that differ from morning. Our expert uncles sometimes show us some of truffle hunting spots where you can see above the ground even their yellow weird tendrils.


As time passing fast, with short winter days, our families call us to get into cars to back home before sunset. In those areas, night is not safe for children with the existence of wild animals like wolves, foxes, and poisonous snakes and scorpions. In the way back, we love to ride on the open back of our camping vehicles to enjoy max the fresh aromatic air, the beautiful scenes of flowers, wheat fields, and the extreme romantic scene of the sunset.


Even after we reach home, the dynamic images of our trip still come to our mind as we close our eyes until we have a deep sleep. In the following few days we enjoy many rare dishes using truffles, Aslus, Rosy garlic, and many other natural herbs. But the most attractive for me, is looking to our goats and sheep while they are so happy of eating the collected plants and flowers from our trip. Consequently, you can feel that happiness while drinking their fresh and very tasty herbal milk.


Usage of collected plants!!

Only the collected honey would be eaten immediately as its amount is little and not suitable for preservation. Truffles, Aslus, and Rozy garlic, were brought home for very special and rarely eaten Libyan dishes.


Aslus, the African Mustard

Aslus grows naturally with rain, and used as an herb in a dish called Aslus-Cuscus. This dish contains cuscus, steamed Aslus’ fresh flowering stems; sometimes mixed with herbs such as cumin or dell leaves depending on Aslus’ availability, and finally served with hot and fresh homemade tomato sauce. This dish is eaten once or twice a year depending on the availability of rain at the beginning of spring in each year’s February.


Rozy Garlic

The Rozy garlic is small wild garlic perennial bulb, goes to 30 cm tall or longer depending on the availability of rain, generating a narrow, carnation-like leaves. It has also small, loose umbels laced with intense colored fragrant cup-shaped florets having small six white, pink or lilac tulip-like tepals. Its flowers often decorated with some dark pink bulbils that look like Pomegranate seeds.

The Rozy garlic used as an aromatic herb in variety of Libyan distinctive dishes such as Bazin, cooked often on Friday lunch as a weekend main dish. As Bazin can be heavily seasoned with this pink garlic, you can clearly realize its herbal aroma within breathing distance and the extreme sharp flavor as your tongue touches its sauce. In fact, this plant can be served; for the contained antioxidant and antibacterial properties, also as a natural medicine, especially to curing headaches and colds.



Truffles are fragrant natural fungus species from the tuber genus and their weird little tendrils fling out above and under the ground wherever they like and cannot be steered. Even with the technology we reached to in this era, human being is not able to cultivate this amazing Truffle yet.  As a health related point of view, because they develop their tubers completely submerged in nutrient rich soil, truffles have a rich and completely fancy flavor quite unlike any other food delicacy. They have also a deep fragrance and dizzying taste no other plant can possess. In shape, they look like potatoes with a firm, spongy texture and a sweet earthy aroma. I do prefer them fresh, although you can cook them with any dish. In fact after cooking them in a water based sauce, they lose their original taste and become taste closer to mushrooms. Roasting them in oven alone or with different foods might be a challenging idea.


Mason bee honey

Mason bees are so called because they construct their nests usually out of materials like mud and small pebbles. In my childhood time, I got used to observe those bees also invading empty snails and nest them. When they utilize those shells, they clean them well then mark them beautifully like Japanese colorful fireworks. At that time, we did hunt the fresh honey injected in those shells and eat them immediately. The honey and nectar inside is very little but it is much sweeter and has deeper scent than normal honey.

In that period of time, the native honey bees were the main source of pollination to our farm fruit trees blossoms such as Limon, Orange, Grape, apple, Olive and many others. In fact, these Mason bees are 80 times effective than normal honeybees especially for pollinating apples. A single Mason bee can visit 15 flowers a minute and set more than 2400 apples in a day; compared to 50 flowers set in a honeybee’s day. In Japan, the Mason horn-faced bees pollinating up to 30% of the country’s apple crop, apple growers need around 600 of these bees per Hectare.

If you have a chance to visit the suburban areas of Aomori prefecture, which is the main source of Japanese delicious Apples, you can find easily supportive bamboo filled boxes made just for Mason bees and covered carefully against the winter frost, which these small bees are not tolerant to. This implies how farmers there are giving much care for such natural resources.

Canola flower is blooming near Shibakawa area. Turnips and Aslus have similar blossoms.



Spring in Japan!!

Although Japan has a huge diverse of very beautiful flowers, in spring Sakura is the representative of them. A few days ago, Cherry blossom/Sakura front was passing Yokohama where Shibakawa Company is located. Not far from here; around 300 meters, every spring, Tsurumi River is flowing while loading a carpet of Sakura flower petals to the nearby Pacific Ocean. On the river, hundreds of ducks and other birds are enjoying eating these petals as a rare event each year. Here are images I would like to share them with you!!

Sakura, the blooming phase.



Sakura remain beautiful even after the fall of its petals



Ducks at the end of their Sakura carpet season



Sakura blossom near Shibakawa



In Libya, from mid of February, we also have many similar blossoms such as that of Apricot, plum, peach, pear, apple, almond, and many others. I think in Japan, one of the most attractive spring scenes is that of Sakura blossom surrounded by the flowers of canola fields as they are blooming simultaneously. Of course in Libya we cannot have such, but we can compete by just filling the existing plum or almond fields with the similar flowers of turnips!!


Next article

In the upcoming article, Oats will be our guest. If you have any questions or you would like to share us any comments just direct a mail to info@shibakawa.co.jp, and we would be so glad to answer you. Thank you for your interest.



Sep 16, 2021
Innovative Watermelon Delights!

Deep greetings to our Dear Readers!!

Long time passed since our last article and I am so happy to be able to deliver you a new interesting and beneficial article again. I just hope the Corona situation can become controllable soon with the availability of vaccines and health care measures around the world. I hope also our readers could manage the high weather temperatures in these days as well. This year even in Siberian areas the temperatures reached around 40 °C. Of course Shibakawa continuing developing efficient lights to successfully accelerate and improve plant growth and harvests and safe our earth as I wrote at the end of this article.

In this article, first we will deliver our readers the surprise and show by images, how we succeeded in growing melon and watermelon totally indoors with Shibakawa high-tech lights. Afterwards, I will share our readers a story from my childhood related to water melon from the Libyan Mediterranean coast. Finally, a proposed method of saving our Planet will ends this article. So let’s go on reading!

Image from our research lab: Success of hydroponic and indoor growing of water melon with Shibakawa high-tech lights. Surprising isn’t it?


29 days after seeding, this is the 1st bloom. The same flower became the watermelon fruit in the first image above. Cute water melon stripes can be seen clearly. The pollination is done by hand, as no available honeybees inside the laboratory.


Melon & watermelon: An overview

Melon and watermelon are annual fruit plants of the gourd family similar to cucumber, zucchini, and pumpkin. They have large leaves, with long petioles, and tendrils with diclinous yellow flowers as shown in the contained images.

The beauty of a melon female flower on its full blooming day. How you feel its attractiveness?


Melon Varieties

Melons (including watermelon) are normally summer time refreshing delights with elegant aroma quite unlike anything else. Thousands of varieties exist around the world. They also vary greatly in size, shape, surface texture, odor, flesh color, sugar content, flavor and fragrance. Some varieties are grow-able in low temperature environment, have higher resistance to plant diseases, and some even have longer shelf life after harvesting. The start of growing season also varies too depending on the variety as follows: Early ripen of late spring, early summer, summer, and autumn. But undoubtedly, with Shibakawa lights, melon and watermelon are grow-able all year-round.

This image shows one of 3 cantaloupe fruits obtained from growing one plant. Cause of the hit of powdery mildew leaf disease, it had no chance to ripe properly. Its seeds were used to grow next generation melons.


Melon and watermelon are rich in vitamins, minerals, choline, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Although both of them have similar minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and trace minerals such as manganese, zinc, selenium, iron and copper; they still differ in the vitamin content. While Melon has higher value of vitamin C, K, B3; watermelon have large amount of Lycopene and vitamin A. Lycopene in watermelon is still higher per gram even than that of Tomato. Particularly, the watermelon seeds are edible and excellent source of many minerals as well.

It is the same water melon of the first image above. It was really so delicious! You may try to grow such in your home as well.


Water melon & childhood Story

In our childhood, we get used to go swimming with our families in the nearby coast of the Mediterranean Sea, especially in the mid of summer as the temperature raises over 30 °C. As Libya has the highest temperature record of the planet with 58 °C. Normally we go to beach together with other 2 families. All necessities are prepared and loaded in the traveling cars from the previous day. As we arrive to the beautiful greenish-blue beach we kids just jump from cars to the cool water. While fathers and elder brothers prepare the tent and getting things out of cars, mothers and sisters do start to prepare the big lunch of Imbakbka with lamb or goat meat over a natural wood fire. They also start preparing the aromatic Libyan bubblous mint tea. While we kids are swimming under the unsparing sun, we make a lot of games, such as swimming deep and trying to catch the legs of each other or see who swim faster, or who can stay under water for longer and many other games as well. In 2 to 3 hours, as time passing fast, and we became extremely hungry and thirsty suddenly mothers call us for the spicy Imbakbka. With the extra thirstiness from the spiciness, and over sufra; a 1 meter diameter big open plate, giant watermelons were already cut into large slices. Here is the real enjoyment; kids can feel a restorative power to swim once again after their face being buried into 2 or 3 of these slices while the juice is dripping down their arms. After looking to the romantic sunset we all back home, make showers, pray and deep sleep.

This is the Mediterranean coast nearby our home in winter time. In summer it becomes more colorful and so attractive.


Cooling up our boiling Earth

The rising of temperatures have become clearly visible around our globe, especially this summer. In fact many people thinking that this is happening just because of the consequences of the earth’s green house effect. Yes that is partially true as the concentration of CO2 has increased by approximately 44% in the period from the beginning of industrialization up until recent years. But there is another fact even more important. It is the desertification in North Africa; as in Libya, that caused by the lack of rain, by the shortage and drainage of natural water reservoirs under the ground, and by the invasion of salty seawater into these reservoirs. In my childhood the rain was very strong and continues for several months along its autumn and winter season. At that time, the rain fed agriculture; where farming is relying on the rainfall for water, was very popular and profitable as well, the water level in water wells was so close to the surface. Moreover the spring was like a paradise, flowers everywhere covering even a part of the desert. Now everything is different, a winter with no rain became a norm, the rain fed agriculture is almost disappeared. Moreover, the water in water wells became either far to reach or salty or drought out. Not only that, in the past the summer has only around 3 of very hot days at a temperature over 40 to 50 °C, but this year these temperatures continued for more than a month. It is a kind of tragedy. One of the essential solutions; I do think, is to desalinate the seawater and insert its drinkable water back into the drained natural water reservoirs as done successfully in the agricultural areas of California. Another mutual solution is to perform forestation with rain based palm trees, olives, and other perennial trees like figs and grapes in the drought agricultural areas that already have been hit by desertification.

In this sense, all efforts to improve the efficiency of lighting systems; for buildings, as well as for developing the agricultural sector, are required and can provide a significant contribution to safe our earth. There is no time to lose, and we must devote ourselves with vigor to saving our planet. Shibakawa is developing such technology day by day, where I hope we can make a valuable contribution to our environment actively as well.


Next article

In next article, I would like to introduce new type of plants again. To know more about Shibakawa high-tech LED lights or if you would like to ask me any direct questions please don’t hesitate to send us email through the link “shibakawa.co.jp/en/inquiries”. Of course we will be so glad to support you. If you are living in Japan, I would like invite you to visit our booth in the 8th Exhibition of Next generation agriculture expo of Tokyo from 13th to 15th of this coming October.



Dec 7, 2020
The Productive Peas with Shibakawa LEDs


Peas, edible flowers and healthy seeds

Hello, our dear Readers. I back to you with a new article and new guests.


I hope all of you doing well, and preparing for the coming cold winter; especially for those who are living in the northern hemisphere of this planet. Our readers in Pavlodar, Tatarstan, and other Kazakhstan and Siberian areas already have heavy snow and below-zero temperatures.


This time we would like to introduce you a new guests from the leguminous vegetable family. Yes!! As you can see from the image, the first guest is the sweet green peas.

Flowers, baby pods, and fresh seeds are all edible.


The story of peas with Shibakwa LEDs

As we always get used to, we implemented Shibakawa High-Tech LEDs to grow up these peas. We applied on them a full indoor environment with an average temperature of 20℃.


As an experiment, I grew around 14 seeds of these peas in an area of 0.15 square meters (50 cm in length, and 30 cm in width), with an available height of 120cm.  Practically, they grew very quickly and so productive.

Counting from the date of sowing seeds, their flowers start blooming after 30 days, first edible pod with full seeds in around 40 days, and the harvest of the whole production have been done in less than 50 days.


In the final production we gained around 130 pods in the harvest day with a maximum of 6 seeds per pod. That gives an average of 9 to 10 pods per plant with an approximation production of 40 times the original sowed seeds (although the exact number of the produced seeds was not counted).

So quick, so productive!


Healthy Peas

Peas are nutritious with high levels of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals comparing to grains such as cereals’.


From the minerals’ point of view, peas have a considerable amount of Potassium as the most prominent element, followed by Phosphorus, Magnesium and Calcium. Peas contain as well traces of Iron, Selenium, Zinc, Molybdenum, Manganese, Copper, and Boron.


Regarding Vitamins, peas are rich in the B group of them. Fresh peas have also A, C and K vitamins. As a large portion of these vitamins can be lost by cooking or canning, eating the peas fresh is still healthier.


Peas have low fat content as well. For instance, the dietary fiber content of raw peas is over 20% of the edible portion on fresh weight basis, while in contrast; white rice has just 1%.


As an optimum way to reduce the dependence on fatty animal protein sources such as meat, one can try to shift to; or at least put extra focus on, eating legumes and pulses like peas. The requirement of the majority of protein types essential for human body; in our daily diet, can be met by including adequate and balanced quantities of both pulses and cereals, as their proteins are complement to each other.


To say the truth, it might be hard for anyone to drive his meals far from meat or any animal based proteins. But instead of fatty food, indeed it is healthier to include adequate amount of legumes and pulses such as peas, lentils, and different beans in our daily diet.


For culinary purposes, peas are edible in all its growing stages, including edible white flowers, baby pods, fresh green seeds, as legumes with their pods, and as pulses with only their dry seeds. You can eat flowers and fresh green seeds with salads as well. So here in this article, I would like to introduce you a vibrant Libyan recipe.

The beauty of Peas!


Libyan dynamic recipe of a Mediterranean fresh salad

This healthy recipe of a Libyan salad can be adapted depending on your preferences, vegetable availability, and season. Basic ingredients to serve each person can be just 2 mid-size tomatoes, half cucumber, and quarter of mid-size onion.


Now you can make your salad goes the following dynamic and healthy way:

  • Colorful, by adding cubed slices of carrots, ginger, or any vegetable you love.
  • Spicy, by inserting enough pieces of fresh green or red hot peppers.
  • Tasty, by mixing your salad with big spoon of olive oil and sprinkling little natural salt.
  • Aromatic, by adding pieces of a preferable fresh fragrant herb, such as parsley, celery, coriander, thyme or any herb you wish.
  • Rich in proteins by adding some soft fresh Peas.


Now enjoy your handmade Libyan salad!!

Soft peas are so suitable for a fresh salad!!


Broad Beans


Broad beans are member of the leguminous vegetable family as peas. Broad beans and peas have equivalent health benefits, as their nutrition content is very similar. Here, in this article, I would like also to share you the following images of our broad beans experiments by applying the light of Shibakwa LEDs.

Broad beans family!! You can see clearly its growing cycle. So cute isn’t it?



In fact, my town in Libya; Agelat, is very famous by being a large producer of Olives, Palm trees, fruits, and vegetables including broad beans in the whole country. My father got used to grow broad beans as well in our farm in the time of my childhood. Mostly we have been using their full legume in couscous; which is the main traditional and original food of Libya since thousands of years. It is my pleasure to introduce to our readers the couscous recipe in one of the coming articles.



Broad Beans’ blossom, simple, quiet, and energetic!!


Hopefully you enjoyed our Peas article. For the upcoming article, I am glad to tell you that the next guest will definitely surprise you!!