Wednesday, 26 May 2010

volunteer opportunity

We have a volunteer position available this Fall, to help with the harvest and processing of durian, mangosteen, rambutan, langsat, duku, keppel, kumquat, cacao and various other fruits, spices and herbs. The volunteer would be helping with the actual harvesting and then with the drying and preserving of the fruit. Ideally we would like someone for the duration of the season, which this year looks like early October through mid December. If anyone is interested please reply by comment!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

pineapple scones

The kitchen smelled wonderful yesterday, not only were the dehydrators full of papaya, pineapple, banana and jackfruit, but I was baking scones and an oat bar we've been enjoying for breakfast. A friend with an organic farm has a surplus of pineapples at the moment (he did something like we just did: plant 300 same age suckers at once!), and no electricity so he's selling a lot to us. This is great news. Not only have we been eating copious quantities of sweet and sour everything, and drying every day, I've also had enough to experiment with such frivolities as pineapple scones and pineapple jam.

Hating to waste any of the fruit, I've been simmering the skin and cores (they are organic) in water for about 40 minutes, or until the water reduces by a third and then storing it in the fridge, or adding sugar and cooking it down into a syrup. In Nicaragua they make a delicious rice pudding with cooking pineapple peel along with the rice, and in Belize they make a great iced drink with this pineapple 'tea'. The tops have been going to the kindergarten: we've got quite the pineapple patch over there now!

The pineapple scones are the best so far of all the scone flavours I've tried, the farmer says they're up there with the durian scones, but in my mind they're better. Here's the recipe, it's the basic scone mix with extras:

2 cups wholewheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch salt
about 1/4 cup sugar
about 3 tablespoons oil
1/3 cup dried pineapple chunks
about 1/4 cup crystallized ginger
about 2/3rds - 1 cup pineapple 'tea'

Mix dry ingredients, add oil and pour in about 2/3rds of the 'tea'. Mix lightly. For scones you want a soft dough, not much handled. Add remaining liquid until the dough comes together in a ball, you probably won't need it all. If it gets overwet add some flour. Turn out on a floured board and pat or gently roll to a thickness of 3/4 inch. Cut into rounds and bake on a cookie sheet in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes. Allow to rest for 5 minutes then enjoy warm.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

rain stops play

This is the month of thunderstorms and heavy rain showers. This morning I had planned on transplanting tomatoes and basil from here on the farm over to the kindergarten. But the rain is lashing down and would gladly smoosh any new transplants so I'm waiting it out cooking up dog food and browsing the web. The following is an extract from the Roots of Change site, from a report from the Kellogg Foundation Food and Community Conference:

  "(T)he need for deeper research on the biological realities underlying health is clear and exciting. The research findings related to secondary plant metabolites (plant properties beyond the carbohydrates typically discussed for their impact on nutrition) provide a pathway for humans to understand the synergistic or relational nature of ecosystems, plants and human health. We need more variety in our diets from a diverse set of plants that emerge from deeply healthy ecosystems. Diets rich in plant diversity will ensure that our cells receive the full spectrum of nutrition that evolution has made available to us."

I feel especially inspired by the phrases "relational nature of ecosystems, plants and human health", and, "plants that emerge from deeply healthy ecosystems": it sounds like change is coming!

Thank you to all those who responded to the last post. The holes are slowly closing up, hurrah!

Friday, 14 May 2010

holey schmoley

I'm sitting here with a pack of ice on my knee, the cold numbing my leg while drops of condensation run across my skin. A moment ago a hot pack was sitting in the exact same spot. I've got leishmaniasis, or papilamoya as it's known locally. I've had it for over a year now, one spot on my arm that we treated with injections which we thought had worked, but it came back in almost the same spot and two more places beside. I was using a silver cream which was keeping them more or less steady, but not making any improvement. Then I tried gavilana, known in Panama as tres puntas, and known in local English as jackass bitters. It seemed to work brilliantly and within two days the holes in my arms had gone. And the three on my knee, or so I thought. We went off to Panama and returned without putting anything on my knee. It began to look infected, the dogs and flies were showing interest, so I thought I had staph and we went to the clinic. The doctor seemed to delight in telling me that it was leishmaniasis and went on to explain how painful the injections were, how I would forget things, how I would taste metal as long as the injections lasted. I left the office horrified.
Leishmaniasis comes in various forms, the form here in Costa Rica is subcutaneous, which is a lot better than the other kinds. It's a protozoa which is introduced to the body via the bite of a sandflea or mosquito. I spend very little time on the beach, but I do live in the forest: sloths are carriers. No doubt some mosquito fed on a sloth before biting me. Now while I would normally find that a cute idea - sloths have thick fur, the only place a mosquito can bite is directly on the nose - in this case I'm not so enthralled.
The protozoa multiplies and gradually eats away a hole in the skin and then the flesh. It makes an ugly crater like wound with the surrounding skin raised and hard and red, falling away into a smooth or jagged edged hole with a thick whitish fluid at the center. Looks like a volcano. It isn't painful unless the area is touched directly, but it can itch. It seems that everybody who lives here gets it at some point. And there are as many cures are they are sufferers.
Hot banana peel, roasted lime juice, gavilana, hombre grande, silver, coralillo, tiger's paw, milk thistle, green clay, hot and cold - are a few of the recommendations I've heard. Each person has something that works well for them and will work repeatedly, it seems to be a case of finding the right thing. The other 'medical' option is to have a series of injections. If the papilamoya is small the injections can be given directly into the surrounding area. However if it is more serious the injections are given daily into the glutes. We have friends who have received up to 90 such injections day after day until the hole closes. The main active ingredient is antimony, a heavy metal. The treatment really thumps one's liver, as well as one's glutes. I REALLY don't want to go there.
The hot - cold seems to be working. I've been at it for 8 days now and the sides of the holes are lower and less angry. I was using tiger's paw too which is a beautifully shaggy philodendron, but the sap stung like crazy and hasn't made so much of a difference except to make my knee extremely sensitive to touch. Plus I wasn't keen on keeping the wound so wet all the time. I've been letting it air and dry out for the last two days and it seems so much better. 
The thing about leishmaniasis is that it will eventually go away by itself, but the hole will be much bigger which brings greater risk of secondary infections, and larger scars. The scars I'm not so worried about, but the secondary infections I am. In this hot humid climate, living on the farm there's potential for all sorts of nastiness creeping in. Ah the rainforest. Alright, time to change to the hot pack.

Monday, 3 May 2010

browsing: food carbon

It's my custom of a morning to spend a little time after breakfast browsing online. Oftentimes it's research into what we're doing on the farm, or in the kitchen, but I also read Mother Jones, Grist, Culinate and the Climate Desk. An article on Mother Jones led me this morning to a Carbon Calculator for food. Really for the US market (for example our coffee and sugar is local, our wheat is imported, but in the main this is reversed for the States), it can only serve as a very general guide, but it is interesting.

Seemingly 30 plus percent of all greenhouse gases generated in the States comes from food production, the premise of this calculator (and a number of other sites and articles I've seen recently), is to help reduce this percentage by reducing food waste, making conscious choices and cooking efficiently. There's a danger of becoming puritanical, or of stressing oneself out so much that one can no longer do anything, but taken as a starting point for a more conscious approach to how one takes one's food it seems like a good thing.

What's more this particular calculator has come from a company which manages many college and university on campus cafeterias: this in itself is heartening news.

According to their data, our breakfast of wholewheat oatmeal pancakes with orange syrup and coffee produced 700 grams of carbon. Now I need to find out what that means! How do I sequester that? Yesterday we planted two clove, 3 gnetum, a moringa and a jackfruit tree. We started some purslane cuttings, transplanted basil, sowed some papaya and sapote seeds. I weeded a couple of beds and thinned out tomato starts - what does that do to my carbon footprint?

To me, no matter how I cut it, it comes down to living simply and deriving a lot of pleasure from simple living. I'm truly blessed by being able to grow some of my own food and by having a good variety of local foods to buy. If I was living in the city I would be more frantic about growing as much as I could, or refusing to eat any other green but the sprouts I could grow on my windowledge.

Living lightly, living simply, practicing moderation has to become the way forward, or I have to stop reading the news completely.