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Monday, January 9

Purple Pigeon Peas

In the time that I have been apologetically absent from active blogging duty, my neighbors have been busy accumulating garden specimens. Yes, I do have a previous post on pigeon peas; however, this one is purple! The  pea pods as well as the peas inside are purple. Of course, I was excited by this addition since:

  1. Pigeon peas are delicious.
  2. The theory goes that purple-coloured fruits and vegetables offer increased antioxidant benefits.
The flower...

Pigeon peas are photoperiodic and therefore coincide with one of the popular holidays-Christmas. While this post just missed FAO's 2016 International Year of Pulses, anytime is the best time to celebrate the nutritive role of pulses in a balanced diet. Usually they are grown without pesticides, another food safety advantage that the conscious foodie might celebrate. And who can deny the benefit that domestic production affords to household economics?

The fruit...
I have since grown plants and cooked of the harvest during the festive season. Apart from the caterpillar pests, I have had stiff competition from the birds who prefer it to the green variety. But thankfully they allowed me to scrape together a decent amount to prepare as a side for the Christmas meal.

...And the food.

Best wishes for your heart's happiness in this new year. And when the balance of life shall deal equal share of disappointments, best wishes for  literal and spiritual food to sustain your courage.

Tuesday, November 18

Passionfruit Project

I had always imagined planting passionfruit, ever since my visit to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Saint Lucia office in 2010. The production model demonstrated was the use of reused materials for low-cost trellis construction (see pages 15-17 of document). So this year I put my imagination to work.

In all things Project, there will be...

1. Failed starts
It began in August 2013 when I commissioned my good friend at Agrocomplex to make some seedlings. They were beautiful. I transported them to another location. And there, too far from my home for too long. So I gave to them to someone else who had more immediate plants for planting them.

Healthy Passionfruit Plants

2. Starting over
I did not give up on the vision of passionfruit  production. In March 2014, I started with 20 plants bought from CARDI and 2 plants left over from the Agrocomplex batch. CARDI sells highly subsidized passionfruit plants at XCD$2.00 per plant.
CARDI collection

3. Hard work
This has been a trying year for food production. Already a low-rainfall location, it was exceptionally hot during the Dry Season which is from December to June. The heat dragged into the Rainy Season which begins in June. It was not until August that we were able to enjoy a slight reprieve. These were ideal conditions to test the hardiness for which passion fruit is praised. With very primitive irrigation I nurtured them through the dry spelling, daily lugging water at 5:00AM before work and on evenings. But before that, preparatory work started with sourcing the wood and erecting a trellis.
Withstanding the dry conditions
Given the dry surroundings, the butterflies took to laying their eggs on greener leaves. Scouting was another painstaking task.
The crunching culprits
4. Success
And if the greenery was not encouraging, flowers are nice gifts that plants offer to reassure your efforts.
Flower by day's last light
I had misjudged passionfruit as a low maintenance crop. Nonetheless, it was a fulfilling endeavour. With the support of community I was able to manage. More posts will highight milestones on this journey. Please submit any questions on growing passion fruit.

Wednesday, September 24

The Buzz About Breadfruit

Dear Breadfruit,

I have never doubted you.


Breadfruit Progressive Portrait

A D.I.G blog post on breadfruit has been published. However, I am compelled to review the subject since coming across an increased number of online articles on breadfruit. Has it been my own lack of attention or is that breadfruit has under renewed (or new) attention?

  • +GOOD Article: In providing a background to an article on a donation to the breadfruit cause, the Caribbean gets mentioned! The piece provides a historical background of breadfruit in the Caribbean:"When the sailors on the HMS Bounty mutinied in 1789, they were on a royal mission to procure breadfruit samples to cultivate a new food source for Caribbean plantation slaves". This context has long been used as an explanation into why the food is unpopular with many: "It’s just not that tasty. Slaves in the Caribbean refused to eat the fruit when it arrived in the late 18th century, and it took generations before breadfruit cuisine took hold in the region."The article describes the changing environment which has led to an increase of supporters on the breadfruit bandwagon.
  • National Geographic Article: Could not agree more with Diane Ragone, Director of the Breadfruit Institute in her introduction to why breadfruit is a crop for food and nutrition security: "Well it is here and it has been here for a long time". Innovation does not have to be the next new thing; but to create solutions from existing resources.
  • Huffington Post Article: The article describes breadfruit as "a new superfood".This is not the blog post to debate the term "superfood". The nutritional value of the crop is however undisputed-breadfruit is a source of carbohydrates (dietary fibre), fats and potassium and calcium.
A beautiful day for breadfruit

Beyond dining table conversations, breadfruit is now the subject of round table discussions. An International Breadfruit Conference is scheduled to take place at the University of the West Indies -St. Augustine Campus on July 5-10, 2015. The theme of the conference will be "Commercializing Breadfruit for Food and Nutrition Security". Sub-themes include:
  • Historical perspectives/agricultural policies
  • Germplasm collection, conservation, evaluation, distribution
  • Propagation
  • Post-harvest technology
  • Economics, supply chain and value-chain analysis
Breadfruit root stock in propagation bins

While we count down the days to next year's conference, the Jamaican government aims to plant approximately 5000 breadfruit trees over the next six months as part of the project named "Trees That Feed Schools". Apart from the nutritional value, breadfruit requires minimal crop maintenance. The project's objectives are:
  • Food and Nutrition Security, particularly for the benefit of youth in the school feeding programme.
  • Reafforestation
More information can be sourced from online article.

Breadfruit plants in potting bags for sale at Barthe Propagation Station, Soufriere, Saint Lucia

You may also want to check out Facebook Pages dedicated to the promotion of breadfruit for food security and/or reafforestation:
If you are not already the proud owner of the globally celebrated breadfruit, start today. For added encouragement, this breadfruit recipe is sure to convert you to a breadfruit believer.

Thursday, August 28

When Chives Grow Flowers

"Don't wait for someone to bring you flowers. Plant your own garden and decorate your own soul". 

What's more, it is not necessary to plant a flower garden. Flower gardens do have their unique allure. However, vegetables and herbs can provide flowers to beautify your garden space. 

So far, I have observed a minor leaf miner attack on my small plot of white and purple chive varieties. Leaf miners affect both the productivity and marketability of chives. Infestations cause yellowing, then subsequent browning of infected leaves. The irregular mazes of greenish-white mines are not attractive to consumers.

Can leaf miners be trained to carve out cute messages into leaves? Example "I Love You".

Nothing out of the ordinary until..

...imagine my surprise when I found my white chives with clusters of small white flowers! Was it good, bad; it definitely was not ugly. 

Upon enquiry, the first response received was that chives flower when they are under stress. My chives (local name: ti lonyon) under stress?! Was I misguided in believing that I maintain a happy garden? Not satisfied with that response, I consulted with the world wide web. In my online search I found that chives flower as per normal plant cycle. Most of the literature- written for temperate climates- states that chives bloom in May/June. However, in this tropical climate they are flowering in August. Consideration is also given to the fact that high rainfall consistent with the Rainy Season which officially begins in June has only just began, after a prolonged Dry Season. Either way, the dainty blooms are welcome.

They begin like this, shrouded in light veil of mystery:

,,,Then the light white sheath reveal closed buds:

...And then the buds open:
Beautiful bouquet

This source advises the removal of flowers after blooming to prevent the spread of plants throughout your garden. But what to do with all these blooms? The flowers are edible! They can be utilized in your culinary creations as garnishes, salads, flavored vinegar and other recipes available on the web.

The internet is rife with photos of purple chive flowers.No flowers have been observed with the purple chive variety as they were planted after the white chives. I look forward to a colour change in these flowers when they appear. 

Additional resources:

Wednesday, July 30

Fruit Feature: Cherries

Three's a crowd?

Why is it that I imagine that the idyllic picture of cherries have to be of paired cherries? The images I recall, though, are not of the West Indian variety. Nevertheless, I was excited to find a picture perfect pair of West Indian cherries.

A cherry by any other name...

Other names by which the West Indian cherry is known include:

  • Scientific Name: Malpighia Punicifolia L.
  • Barbados cherry
  • Native cherry
  • Garden cherry
  • French cherry
  • Acerola

When life gives you cherries...

More than your recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C from a single cherry?! After the initial grimace when taste buds first encounter the sour shock, the antioxidant properties should return your face to its previously wrinkle free countenance. Antioxidants combat free radicals which cause cellular damage which contribute to aging and a variety of non-communicable diseases. A greater number of cherries can be consumed by crafting recipes which reduce the acidity, from simple juices to wines.
Fun fact: So sour are these cherries that "[w]ine made from Barbados cherries in Hawaii was found to retain 60% of ascorbic acid".
Cherries are additionally a source of dietary fibre, Vitamin A, Vitamin B, magnesium, potassium and iron.
West Indian cherry tree. Cherries are hiding in there.
Additional Source:

If you found this post interesting, visit the links below:

Saturday, July 26

Organic Pest Control

You have been attempting organic production. Land preparation and establishment of crops has been a success with Compost. In the process of scouting, you observe one caterpillar. Then two. And overnight you have two hundred on one plant! Abandoning your attempt at organic farming seems to be the follow-up activity in the sequence of organic farming practices. But wait, there is hope yet! At a training workshop held on Thursday July 24, 2014, the use of plants for biological control of pests was demonstrated.
L-R: Adelfa (red), Adelfa (pink), Neem

The plants selected for today's demonstration were:
  1. OLEANDER: A fixture of the home garden, this plant has great POTENTial for organic pest control. You can identify the plant by the dull green, slender pointed leaves with clusters of flowers at the end of the branches. The flowers range in colour from white through cream, pink rose and red. Participants were cautioned of the toxicity of the plant. In handling the plant, one should not eat, drink nor smoke. So poisonous is this plant, that even food cooked on the wood is poisoned. Does this leave any doubt in your mind that the Oleander can be effective in pest control? It can be used to control ants, flies, caterpillars and other insects. Other names by which this shrub is known includes Adelfa, Rose Bay and Rosa Fancesca.
  2. NEEM: The use of neem as a biological pesticide is known far and wide due to its commercialisation. The seeds are a more concentrated source of the pesticidal ingredient than the leaves. The seeds (kernels) are used to make neem oil. Neem is used in the control of pests such as beetles, termites, scale insects, mealy bugs and aphids.
    It's bubbling and it's not soup
  1. Crush and boil leaves, seeds or bark for 30 minutes
  2. Let cool 
  3. Pour into spray can
  4. Add soap mixture (Grate one bar of blue soap and add to 5 gallons of water; Use 500mL to 1 spray can)
  5. Spray!
  • The Oleander can also be crushed and SOAKED  for 30 minutes (See Step 1). It is more poisonous when boiled than soaked.
  • Neem is most effective under humid conditions or when the insect and the plants are damp.
  • Cover the container when boiling (regardless of plant selection) to prevent the entry of light as light reduces the potency. The cooled extraction should also not be be exposed to sunlight.
  • The boiled contents are only good for 48 hours.
  • After mixing with soap, the solution is only effective for 8 hours.
This can be tailored to both large scale production and production for home use. For home use, I would recommend Adelfa as the better option as it is widely available and can be soaked instead of going through the boiling method.

Saturday, July 19

Farmer Field School Open Day

"A farmer is a person outstanding in their field". Get the double entendre?

At Farmer Field School, farmers perform outstandingly at a learning program which is very practical and participatory. What is Farmer Field School? The following video provides an overview of the program with the description of the project, teaching methodology and participant feedback:

On Wednesday, July 16, 2014, an Open Day was held for the the Farmer Field School for the region of Choiseul/Soufriere. Field School for this region is conducted on the farm holding of Mr. Compton at River Doree, Choiseul. The program which is currently funded by the Taiwan International Cooperation and Development Fund also benefits from technical support of the Taiwan Technical Mission. The sessions are also facilitated by the Ministry of Agriculture Extension Services. In attendance were representatives from the Embassy of Taiwan, Taiwan Technical Mission, Ministry of Agriculture, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Hotels and Ministry of Social Transformation.

The event was organised with a presentation on Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) in the production of watermelon and corn-these were the two crops grown by the Field School participants. These GAPs presented ranged from production to post-harvest to marketing activities.

Audience to Mr. Pilgrim's (CARDI) presentation

Afterwards, the group was taken on a tour of the field cultivated by the Field School trainees. The varieties of watermelon planted were the Empire No. 2 and Dark Belle. The corn varieties cultivated were the White Pearl and America H5. 
Intercropped corn and watermelon

After the walk in the afternoon sun, we were refreshed with the Watermelon Tasting segment of the activity. The fruit of the labour of the Field School trainees were on display whole and sliced for the enjoyment of the visitors. Following which there was a Question and Answer Segment.
Taste test: Which variety do you prefer?
Congratulations to the trainees who will be graduating from the Farmer Field School at the end of the month on their achievement!