Wednesday, 24 July 2013

If It's Too Good To Be True ... & Never Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth!

If it's too good to be true ...

I go to the market almost religiously and have been doing so for years but, that, I have discovered, is not enough to stop me from being taken. I'm always on the look out for bargains especially on a thursday, which is the sort of official wholesale market day. If you're lucky you can get some items at a better price than normal. It's not as common as it use to be but you might get lucky; so a few weeks ago I see a man in the market selling julie mangoes for a ridiculously low price and because I can't resist a bargain I had to buy a dozen. Even as I purchased them I'm thinking that they looked strange, but of course the vendor is assuring me that they were sweet and he'd already eaten several. No such thing , I was totally taken for a ride. They were sour in parts and looked as if they might have been young and been doctored somehow. I have to conclude that they were probably stolen. So, not only was I lied to, I lost my money and I probably ingested something that was not safe. The next time you're confronted with something that's too good to be true, pass it by, especially if from an unfamiliar source. Not everyone who purchases a spot in the market can be trusted. Don't talk yourself into purchasing something if you have misgivings about the item or the seller.  I am determined to try and take my own advice as I was really mad and upset about the whole incident. Become familiar with the people you buy from and ask questions. Don't take everything as gospel. Draw your own conclusions and make your own decisions based on the information presented. Going to the market is never a quick thing for me. I regularly spend three hours every week and I still make mistakes. Next week is another opportunity to learn as I shop for fresh wholesome foods. Life is a gamble. Do what you can to make the best of it and never buy a dozen mangoes from a strange vendor.

Never look a gift horse in the mouth!

In contrast to the mango fiasco I have a good story to report. Last week I went to the market on Friday after heavy rains on Thursday. There weren't as many vendors but I managed to get most items, but I ended up buying jelly (green) coconuts from a different vendor, but one that I also knew. There was another customer there getting coconuts as well. She was filling up a large bottle with the coconut water. After a while I realized that she was not planning to take the coconut shells with some fairly hard 'meat'. To my mind that was good 'meat' to eat or make coconut milk. I started chatting with her and encouraged her to make milk with the coconut flesh, but she insisted that she didn't like the hard 'meat'; anyway she did get the seller to scoop out some of the meat and take it along with her. In the end there were still several coconut shells with 'meat' that she did not take, so I decided to take them home along with the ones I purchased at a very good price. I did pay the vendor additional for chopping them for me but I think I was given a gift, thick coconut meat that was practically free. Some days you win some. (Good thing I had a large igloo in the car.)

I'm always disappointed if there is no 'meat' in the 'jelly' but I didn't have to guess with these. They were already chopped open. I think it's such a waste to buy a jelly coconut and not eat or utilize the meat  and such a shame to see the vendors with huge piles of coconuts that have 'meat' left in them waiting to go to the dump.
Here's how to make 'Coconut Jelly Milk' or 'Jelly Coconut Milk':
(Please note that it wont be as rich as coconut milk from a dry coconut but who's complaining.)

Using a large heavy spoon, scoop out the fairly thick 'meat' from the green coconut; wash and chop it up. Place in blender with a cup or two of water depending on how thick you like it and blend until nice and smooth. You don't even have to strain it. Add a pinch of (real) sea salt if you don't plan on using it right away and it can stay in the fridge for almost a week or you could pour it into ice cube trays, freeze it and use as needed. The possibilities are endless; plain milk to drink, coconut rice & peas, sauces, desserts, even ice cream.  If you want coconut cream put the milk in the frigde to cool and scoop the thick cream from the top. This is like a three for one special. Enjoy the savings especially bearing in mind the price of dry coconuts these days. See more on coconuts at the link below:-

Have a Happy Healthy Green Coconut Day! 

Friday, 7 June 2013

Sharing & Natural Green Remedies

It's 10:30 am, friday morning and I think it's been pretty good so far. I woke up early (4:30 a.m.) and planned to go to the market, but changed my mind as I did a little jewellery work for delivery and turned on the computer to tell my facebook friends about the local blackberries that I bought at the supermarket (Megamart) last evening. It's always great to see local versions of fruits that are usually imported, which I try not to buy. It's always best, healthy and green to buy local. I usually just eat them  but I made a smooothie this time. Here is my 'berry banana smoothie' recipe based on one from EatingWell:-

Blackberry Banana Smoothie

1-2 ripe bananas, peeled & chopped
1/2 - 3/4 cup black berries
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut water
1/2 cup ice
1 Tbsp. flax seeds, ground

Blend until smooth. Makes 2 servings. Enjoy!

I've been very busy lately as I've been involved with a learning to earn programme to teach inner city residents a variety of crafts. I'm teaching jewellery craft and it's been scary and interesting at the same time, but as I always say, "I live and I learn", but that's a different story.
I've thought about teaching for a while and I welcome the opportunity that the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) has given me to share some of what I have learnt and discovered over the years.
The programme is under the auspices of the JEA and the St. Andrew Settlement (Majesty Gardens), and is sponsored by the European Union and Jamaica Social Investment Fund (JSIF).

My neighbour across the street called to give us some information and I indicated that I wanted to come and pick some mangoes (common or stringy mangoes) from her tree (that she never eats). I actually have a standing invitation to pick the mangoes as it produces profusely and she would rather someone pick them than they go to waste or make a mess, but I prefer to let her know that I'm coming.  I'm always willing to help if it involves eating mangoes, 'King of Fruits'.

I decided to make my neighbour a natural antibiotic drink for a cold that she was fighting. This recipe comes from Sophie at Step Into My Green World :-

The recipe called for garlic, honey, ginger, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and lemon juice but I used seville (sour) oranges instead. I've been buying sour oranges at the market but I got some nice looking ones in Megamart as well. They were labelled 'Seville Sweet Oranges', so don't be fooled; they are not sweet. I made two batches of the antibiotic, one for myself and one for my neighbour. I had a taste of mine before packaging the other and it was very hot. Pepper is not naturally my thing so maybe I needed to cut down on the cayenne. I had to warn my neighbour so if you dont have a high tolerance for pepper, use less, but bear in mind that cayenne is good for you as it makes you sweat & gets rid of toxins. Honey and garlic are natural antibiotics; ginger and cinnamon have strong antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. There are also some other great natural remedies on the site, so check them all out.

My sister and I picked a bag of mangoes and as a bonus we got some sour sop leaves to make tea. Sour sop is another great healthy green ingredient. We regularly eat it as a fruit but it's more often than not used as a drink in Jamaica, usually with milk but lately with lime. Have a look at these sites for some great benefits:-

Google soursop for more information. In the meantime enjoy the fruits of the season.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Sprigtime Affair, Fruits in Season & A Short Rant

Large Red Flower in Bloom atop plant.  

Orange flowers in bloom.

I am in love with Spring time. I'm not sure how long I've had this 'problem' but I've only just realized it. I love to see flowers blooming especially the yellow poui, trees bearing fruit, little birds flitting in and out of flower laden shrubs. It's just magical with the exception of the lizards that seem to be in season as well. The ackees continue to open, the mangoes are beginning to ripen, there are cherries on the tree; there is just an outpouring of fruits at this time. My market basket has been heavy with fruits for a few weeks now. Have a look at this list from the beginning of April :-

Julie Mango ( 3 )                                  
Nameless Mango ( 2 )
Black Mango ( 12 )

Naseberry ( 24 )

Papaya (paw paws) ( 9 lbs. )

Ripe Banana ( 12 small )

Pineapple ( 2 small )

Soursop ( 1 med. )

Sour Orange ( 24 )

Tamarind  ( 1 lb. )

Cashew Fruit  ( 9 )

Jelly Coconuts  ( 4 )

Tomato ( 3 lbs.)

There are some fruits that I bought recently that  didn't make it on this list, namely, otaheite apples, custard apples, miniature tangerines, sweet cup, star apples, sugar cane and june plums. I guess I don't need to tell you that I love fruits. What could be nicer than biting into a ripe julie mango (substitute your favourite here) and demolishing it, skin and all? Maybe two!  I love julie mangoes & other non-stringy mangoes but I eat & love most mangoes. I can never understand how someone cannot like fruits. There are so many to choose from; sweet ones, sour ones and in between ones. Some fruits come wrapped in their own easy to peel packaging, like bananas; you just peel and eat, so they are very portable. The banana is the most popular fruit in the world.  Then there are fruits where everything is eaten, even the seeds sometimes. Others you have to carefully peel with a knife or other tool. Some fruits are best had at home, because they can be quite messy, like a large juicy mango; but you could peel a mango and slice it up in a container to go. Some fruits make thir own cup or bowl, like a paw paw or star apple; just cut it in two, scoop out the seeds and eat out of hand with a spoon (a grapefruit spoon works great on firmer ones).
I continue to discover new fruits and fall in love over and over again. Make sure to introduce a variety of fruits to your young children as a better option than getting them hooked on junk food.

One of my new favourite fruits is the custard apple. I can't get enough of it. It has the smoothest, creamiest taste; I can imagine it as an ice cream but can never have enough to spare any to experiment with. It's simlpy divine eaten as is so why mess with nature. I can't believe that I was unaware of the existence of this heavenly fruit until a few years ago.  I think we need to plant custard apple trees along with other fruit and food trees that grow well in Jamaica and if we can do it organically that would be great.

When last did you plant a tree? Have you ever planted a tree? My young trees continue to flourish at this time. There are small green apples turning pink and red on my tree. I look at them everyday. It's like a miracle seeing the progression from blossom to fruit of the otaheite apple.  I continue to be amazed by the wonder of nature.  Plant some fruit trees so that you can have this miracle in your yard as well as enjoy the taste of ripe, freshly picked fruit, as I did with the first East Indian mangoes from the tree in my yard this year. I picked one and had it for breakfast recently. I would almost swear that it was the sweetest mango  ever, but the season has just started.

Short Rant

Enjoy the bounty of fresh fruit in season, but eat responsibly. My other caution would be -  try not to buy stolen fruit as the scourge of praedial larceny devastates our farmers. Homeowners with  fruit trees are not spared either as thieves will pick every fruit on a tree, ripe or green. Then they'll come back two days later. This has been my experience and that of my neighbours in the last few years with theives and the mango trees, especially the east indian. I don't buy east indian mangos lest it came from the tree in my yard. I blame the lovers of mangoes who will pay ridiculous prices for them on the street. If we were more responsible when purchasing fruit and weren't willing to pay as if they were green gold then maybe we could start to control and stamp out this spiralling wave of crime in our beloved country.  When all else fails, dance as suggested by this mural, photographed during Kingston on the Edge ( KOTE ) 2009 in the Heroes Circle area of Kingston.

Translation :- Definition of dance - A lizard jumped on me this morning or dance is what happens when a lizard jumps on one. Look out for KOTE 2013, 'where Kingston art is happening', this June.
See for more information.

Healthy Green Tip !

Wash fruits and vegetables from the market or supermarket with vinegar and water or hydrogen peroxide and water. No need to buy commercial washes when you can make your own.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

It's Raining! (Some thoughts on a rainy Wednesday evening)

It's early evening and it's finally raining after days of threatening skies. This is good and I welcome the rain as the grass is very dry and sparse and my plants are looking tired as we struggle through the drought filled days. My list of dependent plants and trees has grown so we need all the water we can get.
The three banana suckers that were planted in the backyard two months ago are growing nicely. The first papaya tree that I planted seems to be holding its own; there are leaves all bundled at the top but it's gotten quite tall. The other one that was only recently transplanted from amongst the flowers seems to have perked up as well. Of course the most remarkable is my apple tree that has grown in leaps and bounds. Last year it bore two little apples that fell off. I had been lamenting that it wasn't doing anything this year but lo and behold one morning recently as I walked by I saw lots of red 'needles' around it. On closer examination I realized that there were quite a number of apple blossoms but they were knee high on the lower part of the tree surrounded by leaves. I was so excited I went in search of someone to share the joy and await the appearance of apples. (Please note, this is an otaheite apple tree.) Then there's my ackee which had begun to send out large new leaves at a fast pace. It grows in the shadow of my neighbour's ackee tree which towers over & above the partitioning wall. I actually picked a half dozen open pods that were hanging over the wall yesterday. How things have changed; It was only two or three years ago that said neighbour offered some ackees as he was picking and I told him that I did not eat them. In fact, I had never even tried them.  I've become more appreciative of the bounty that the land offers and  more open to trying foods that I never ate before, including ackee which is definitely on my new healthier diet, both cooked and uncooked. Thankfully, as I wait for my ackee tree to come into it's own, I am able to partake and share the bounty of my neighbour's trees. I sometimes see ripe fruit falling and spoiling on trees in some yards; what a waste.  There are too many hungry people in this country for us to waste food. Share what you don't or can't eat with others. 

Open Ackees On a Stick

Evening has slipped into night and the rain continues to fall; slower than before but sufficient to quench the deep thirst of the parched earth; for a while at least.  I wish I had a very large container to catch all this free water pouring from the heavens. I did put out a couple of buckets to catch some of it to water the plants in coming days but this will be a drop in the bucket compared to the amount that goes running down the streets and gullies unchecked. I pray that the farmers and the water catchment areas are getting some of it.

My wish is that you are able to capture some of this lovely rain for your own use and that your garden
will benefit. Having a backyard garden is high on the green agenda, so if you haven't started one yet
all this delicious rain would have been wasted; but wait, all is not lost. The rain would have moistened the earth sufficiently for us to dig some holes and plant something tomorrow when the sun comes up.
What do you have to plant? I have a recently acquired avocado (pear) plant that needs to be put into the ground. Happy planting!

What I did with the ackees!

I picked them out of the open pods, popped out the seeds & scraped off the pink membrane .
Then I washed them really well under running water, then dried off some of the water
before putting them to marinate in a very basic salad dressing that I made earlier.
I put them in the fridge & the next day topped some boiled yellow yam with the mixture,
heated it up in the toaster oven & ate it. The ackee was like melted cheese!
(Easy Cheesy Ackee  from Lorna's Experimental Kitchen)
This particular salad dressing consisted of :

1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)*
2 Tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
Juice from 1/2 a small Lemon
1 Tbsp coconut sugar
1/2 tsp celtic sea salt (I skipped the pepper)

Original salad dressing recipe from
*Normally, I would use Extra Virgin Coconut oil, especially If I intend to add heat to the dish 
and reserve the olive oil for totally raw salads. Olive oil should not be used in high heat applications.
On other occasions I've added garlic, turmeric, basil, chives & scotch bonnet pepper to the mix.
Sometimes I'll cook it & sometimes I'll have it raw with quinoa or millet or even a salad.
Here's another salad dressing recipe just because ...

Brawta! (Extra)

Moroccan Vinaigrette

2/3 Cup EVOO
2 Tbsp Lemon juice
2 Tbsp ACV
1 1/2 tsp Paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 generous pinch cayenne pepper, ground
1/3 Cup tightly packed fresh parsley, minced (or 4 tsp dried)
1 tsp natural salt or to taste
lots of freshly ground pepper (optional)

Combine & Mix well. Taste & adjust seasoning.
Will keep for two weeks in the fridge.

Recipe courtesy of Whole New Mom :

If you try this much with the ackee you might need a dozen or more.
The most important thing to remember about ackees is that they are poisonous if they  
are not allowed to open naturally. They should also be cleaned & washed properly before use.
After that you're free to experiment!

Monday, 21 January 2013

Healthy Green in Twenty Thirteen

Happy New Year & a Healthy Green 2013! 
Memories of a healthy hand of ripe bananas.

I'm sad to say that I fell off the sometimes raw, mostly vegetarian wagon at the end of last year.  I was tempted and gave in, to the christmas cakes, roast chicken and ham that form the normal trappings of Christmas. I'm sorry that I caved in to my cravings but I have the opportunity to start again and do a better job this year. I started by working on cleansing the body after the food binge that was Christmas. I went back to my aloe vera/grapefruit detox juice & aimed for simpler foods; fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible. It takes some work to be healthy and green so if it's one of your resolutions I hope you're prepared to put in the time.

It has been a bit of a challenge to find some foods as the agricultural scene has not fully recovered from the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. Banana plants were devastated and have not come back as yet. If you do find any the price is much higher than usual. I've been trying to tell myself that this is the perfect opportunity to wean myself from ripe bananas ( I eat way too many ) and I've read that you should give up the foods that you eat all the time if you're doing a detox or have issues such as allergies or food intolerances.

Papayas (pawpaws) were also affected by the Hurricane and have been scarce & very small in size for a while. They are beginning to come back but I have been in search of what I call 'original' papayas, those really large ones that a family could share rather than the 'single serve cutesy ones' such as 'Martha's Best' that only appeared in recent years. You can occasionally find them in the market from a few vendors. I use to think they were just big and tasteless but I've had some that were quite sweet and I've developed a whole new appreciation; I'm even trying to plant a few. I've learnt to look beyond the sometimes mis-shapen fruit to the sweet fruit under the skin to the point where I'm almost eating the skin to get every last drop and it still tastes sweet. Maybe it's edible, who knows? Usually I just have a half of one by itself or with a banana or two for breakfast. Other times I chop it up with some ground oats and flax seeds and have it like an uncooked porridge. You could also add a banana and some raisins or dates for sweetness if you wanted but usually it's not necessary unless you get a really bland fruit.

Locally grown tomatoes were also in short supply, but have been coming back at the Coronation Market and the high prices have begun to trend down, thankfully.  I've come across a few tomato based recipes that I want to experiment with and the one pound of tomatoes that I allowed myself at the market recently (because of the price)  just would not do.

The pear (avocado) season has basically come to an end, so there goes one healthy food that I really enjoy.
The only ones still available are what's called the 'agricultural' ones. I'm a little wary about the quality this late in the season sometimes and of course the prices tend to be higher but I'm willing to chance it until all the pears have totally disappeared.

I've begun to see otaheite apples as well as my beloved mangoes, but make sure they're fit before buying. It's actually best to wait until they're plentiful to ensure fit fruit, but some of us are too impatient and are disappointed when we get home and realize that they were picked too early. I did get some nice apples at the market this past week and in order to keep them a little longer I cut up some and put them in a mason jar with orange and grapefruit juice. They were quite lovely.
( Let me know if you're looking for mason jars in Kingston )

To add insult to injury, we're in a period of drought so some foodstuff are suffering from a lack of water. Cucumbers have been affected and are much smaller in size in some cases or just plain unhealthy looking. One vegetable that seems to be holding its' own is the carrot. It's still plentiful and fairly inexpensive. I've come up with a new way to utilize carrots in order to get more fiber into my diet. If you have one of those small home juicers that does not squeeze out all the juice, this is an excellent way to use the pulp if you juice a lot of carrots. If not you can just grate some. Blend grated carrot or pulp with orange, tangerine or grapefruit pegs and/or juice, then eat with a spoon and enjoy your 'fiber rich fruit salad'. Other fruits can be added after blending as well, such as chopped up bananas, papayas or whatever fruits you like. As different ones appear as the year progresses make sure that you enjoy your local in-season fruits.

 Green Tip

Utilize grey water ( water generated from domestic activities such as laundry, dishwashing and bathing ) in your backyard garden especially as the drought worsens and we have water restrictions. You could also set some containers to catch any rain that might fall, like it did the last two days, after many dry days. The weatherman predicts more for this week; prepare so you have extra water for your plants or general cleaning. 

I'm sorry I've not posted as much as I would have liked last year; I'm working on that but unfortunately it's off to a bad start as it's already late in January but we'll try to pick up the pace. Hope to see you all in healthy green places and spaces.

Please bear in mind that this is my healthy green journey and some of the information that I share may not be relevant for everyone so always do your own research or check with a medical practitioner if you have a medical condition.