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Thursday, August 29

Cool as a Cucumber Part 2- How I Prepare a Cucumber Salad


2 cucumbers
2 cloves of garlic/ 1/4 onion (grated)
1 sprig of chives
1 sprig of parsely
salt to taste
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Method: The top of the cucumber is sliced off and the two pieces are rubbed together until cucumber water becomes a white froth (My grandmother used to do this). The cucumber is then sliced in a rotating method to produce spirals (My grandmother's friend taught me to do this). The chopped seasonings are added in with the salt and coconut oil. Let sit for a few minutes. The salt would draw the water out of the cucumbers. The watery goodness can be slurped after the cucumbers are all gone.

Rules of making Cucumber Salad:
  1. Keep clean: Cucumbers are washed thoroughly to remove dirt and pesticides.
  2. Keep healthy: Cucumbers are sliced with the skins on to benefit from essential phytonutrients.
  3. Have fun: Cucumbers sliced in spirals are much more interesting than cucumber slices. Consider this a cucumber spaghetti!

Wednesday, August 28

Cool as a Cucumber- Part One

The sun is out after the rains of the past few days. It's an ideal day to be out in the field but I am not wearing the ideal shoes for such an excursion. A detour brings me on a long overdue visit to the farm site of Agrocomplex. Agrocomplex is a small agricultural business which aims to provide quality agricultural production and services which is operated by Mr. Henry.
Cucumbers keeping cool under shade

Mr. Henry produces lettuce, Chinese cabbage, corn, watermelons, eggplant, bell peppers, passion fruit, snake gourd, zucchini and tomatoes. In addition he produces seedlings as requested. Presently, most of the farm space is cultivated with cucumbers, with a smaller crop of butternut and zucchini. 

Cucumbers in the open. Cucumbers, cucumbers everywhere!

Today his usual busy self, Mr. Henry was met in the process of harvesting cucumbers for sale. As such, I had arrived at the right time to lend some assistance (other than photographing). Also making me right in time to be gifted a heap of farm fresh cucumbers. However the proof will be in the salad that I will prepare for breakfast next day.
Flower to fruit chart for cucumbers. Photos taken at Agrocomplex

Thursday, August 22

Your Cup of Tea- Vèvenn latjé wat

Some lament the decline in the population of species of local medicinal plants. The widespread use of weedicides is considered a contributing factor in the loss of these herbal medicines. One such plant is the vevenn latje wat (vevenn). But do not despair. Somewhere in a rural area not too far from you is a field of indigenous medicines as pictured below. The vevenn latje wat is alive and able to save lives.
Field of Vevenn (purple variety)

The fresh leaves of the plant are prepared in a tea as a remedy for 
  1. As a cooling tonic and blood cleanser
  2. Asthma treatment
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Worms
  5. Treatment for uclerated stomachs

The leaves are mashed, moistened and heated and used 
  1. To cure wounds and sores
  2. For inflammation

White Vevenn

There are two varieties of the plant: the white and the purple. The distinction is made by the corresponding colours of the flowers.
Purple Vevenn

Is is an old wives tale or there is healing power in this plant? Now it is your turn to try this herbal brew and share your experiences.

Additional resources:

Thursday, August 15


Orchid blooms are marketed as "exotic" and are priced accordingly. Recently, since the implementation of Value Added Tax (VAT), orchids have been re-classified from agricultural material to a luxury item. Therefore, the plants attract the tax and the sale price has increased.
The increased local production of orchids on a commercial scale is due in large part to the Taiwanese Technical Mission Plant Tissue Culture Project at Union, Castries. But it is also possible to grow these plants in your own backyard as a source of income or leisure. Many members of the St. Lucia Floral Cooperative Society, are small scale producers of flowers from their homes.
Despite the increased scale of production, there remains scope for new entrants in the industry as local florists continue to import orchids on regular basis for weddings, professional functions and as presents.
The delicate beauty of the orchid is matched by the delicate care with which these plants must be tended. The aspiring orchid producer should expect challenges with fungus and thrips.  For technical support in venturing into the industry, refer to the St. Lucia Floral Cooperative Society which is located at Vide Boutielle, Castries.

For more orchid photos visit the D. I.G Facebook page: D.I.G Facebook Page/Orchids

Rabbit Nutrition

Brer Rabbit

Rabbits are considered to have the same nutritional requirements as humans: water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

This requirement is of primary importance in the diet of rabbits as they will not eat if they have insufficient water. Rabbits must be provided a constant supply of fresh, clean water.


Commercial rabbit feed in the form of pellets were designed for convenience: long shelf life, easy storage and can be shopped for in the same manner as you purchase your household groceries. Pellets are a balanced composition of carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, formulated for optimal rabbit nutritional health in agricultural production conditions. Similar to the human diet, fresh food is required for good health of the rabbit. Gathering fresh rabbit feed from your backyard also allows you to spend less on pellets. 
Rabbits eating pellets

Plant-based diet

Rabbits are herbivores and as such their diet is derived from plants. These provide essential water and fibre. Fibre is especially important. Digestive problems may develop out of insufficient fibre intake, escalating to serious illness and even death. In addition, rabbits' teeth are constantly growing. Constant chewing of fibrous plant material maintains rabbits' teeth worn down to a proper length. Malocclusion- a painful dental disease in which teeth are overgrown and do not match up- develops out of inadequate chewing which fibre provides. Watergrass (local name: zeb gwa), pumpkin leaves and Ipomoea tiliacea Ipomoea tiliacea(Willdenow) Choisy (local name: lyenn dous)

Rabbits eating watergrass (local name: zeb gwa)

Sweet Treats
By this we do not mean human treats such as chocolates, sweet biscuits and sweets. Instead, fruits are the best treats-fruits which are high in fibre and and fed in small amounts. Mango, guavas, papaya, bananas and coconuts are suggestions. Rabbits also enjoy vegetables such as sweet peppers. A rabbit cannot "see" the food placed before it as its eyes are positioned to either sides of its head. Instead it uses it sense of smell to identify and locate the food. The scent of guava is enough to send the rabbit into an excited search for the tasty morsel. Witnessing the fervour with which the rabbits receive this tasty favour, one may be inclined to feed bigger portions. It is important to remember to feed fruits in small amounts.

Minty Fresh
At the end of every meal, humans like to have a minty treat or indulge in a cup of tea. Likewise, rabbits are said to enjoy fresh herbs such as mint, basil, rosemary and anise in small amounts. I have witnessed eager appetite towards basil.

What not to feed your rabbits
Also important to know is what NOT to feed your rabbit. This list includes beans, cabbage, corn, green beans, nuts and spinach!

Additional resources:

Monday, August 12

Your Cup of Tea- Basil

Basil Leaves

How do you relax after a grueling day in the office, out in the field or from domestic responsibilities? If a cup is how you cope, then your backyard is an ideal place to find your brew.

Herbs have long been lauded for their medicinal purposes. Basil (local name: Bazilik) is one of these “green” teas which has been credited with healing properties. One of basil’s benefits is its ability to protect DNA. Present in basil are two antioxidants, orientin and vicenin, which were proven in a study to significantly reduce radiation damage to DNA. Also due to these antioxidant properties, basil has been noted as essential for heart health. Basil has been shown to prevent the development of high total cholesterol by increasing the use of cholesterol for bile acid production. It also contributes to heart health by reducing blood pressure. Basil also has antibacterial potential. Not only do the essential oils found in basil restrict the growth of bacteria that cause bacterial infection, it has also been proven to have a remedial effect on species of bacteria which have become resistant to clinical drugs. The stress/anxiety-relieving properties of basil go beyond the uplifting aroma. Studies have shown the ability of basil to combat stress-related symptoms such as sleep problems, exhaustion, sex problems and forgetfulness. Basil also has positive implications for the management of diabetes as it lowers blood glucose level by reducing the absorption of glucose in the small intestine. Essential oils of the basil also have anti-inflammatory properties which relieve the symptoms of arthritis.
Apart from being used as a tea, basil also has its use in cuisine. It is recommended that the leaves are used towards the end of the cooking process to retain the flavor and the essential oils. Fresh leaves are preferred for full flavor.
Basil Flowers

If you do not already have this amazing plant growing in your backyard, sourcing one should not be a problem. They are available commercially. One such outlet is the Union Agricultural Station. An inexpensive option would be to locate a friend or neighbor who may oblige you a cutting from his/her plant. You do not have a backyard? No problem. The versatile plant also grows well in containers. There is double the therapeutic effect from gardening and from drawing the tea. 

Basil plant

Useful Links:

 Plants of St. Lucia
Basil as a Super Food

Thursday, August 8

Ripe for the pecking

Do you have a backyard vegetable garden? Of course I am sure that you produce nothing less than prime produce. However, if you ever had the experience of insects and birds reaping the fruits of your labour, I have compiled a list of options tried and tested by home gardeners.

1.       Fruit sleeves. My stock is reused sleeves. However, they are not available locally. They are available on the internet-they are sold in wholesale quantities at wholesale prices and recommended  for commercial use.

2.       Halved dry coconuts and mounted on stakes in your garden. The expected outcome is that the birds will feed on this food source provided.

3.       Mounted clothes coat on a wooden frame to create a 'scarecrow'.
'Scarecrow' in cabbage plot

4.       Coloured Christmas tree ornaments placed on plants before the fruit gets ripe. The expected outcome is that the birds will tire from pecking these “false ripe fruit” and won’t return to peck at the real fruit when ripe.

Many backyard gardeners have opted for the use of netting of varying degrees of shade. The primary use of the netting is to reduce the impact of the sun on the plants. However, it also functions as a safeguard from birds. This material is costly as one square meter can be sold for approximately $70.00. Therefore before making this purchase decision one should seek expert advice as different crops favour different types of shade.

PPlease share your tried and tested tips for bringing more of the fruits of your labour to the dinner table.

Monday, August 5

Love of Breadfruit

Butterflies on breadfruit

The breadfruit (local name: Bwapen) is a staple of the St. Lucian diet. Traditionally, hearty meals of roasted or boiled breadfruit with a choice of salted fish, roasted sardines or smoked herring were featured meals. With store branded starch products such as macaroni, spaghetti, and rice available on the market, persons have acquired new tastes. Culinary creativity has led to new recipes such as baked breadfruit pies which would appeal to the palate of the youth in particular. In recent discussions on food scarcity the breadfruit has been identified as one of the crops for food and nutrition security in the Caribbean. There has been a thrust to develop the breadfruit through the use of food technology. Breadfruit flour is an example of the value added products developed. The following are some reasons not to discount the breadfruit:

The breadfruit is an essential part of a healthy diet as rich source of dietary fibre. Fibre is required by the body for various functions. It regulates the  movement of the gastrointestinal tract. The carbohydrate content of breadfruit provides energy. In medical studies, fibre has been linked to decreased risk of heart attacks by lowering bad cholesterol levels in the body while increasing good cholesterol levels in the body.

Breadfruit also protects against against heart disease as it is a good source of Vitamin C. The benefits of this vitamin in maintaining the immune system is especially appreciated when one has a cold/flu. Vitamin C is also known for its antioxidant properties, blocking the damage caused by free radicals. The accumulation of free radicals in the body have been linked to the aging process and non-communicable health conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
Further, breadfruit also contains B-complex vitamins which contribute to general good health. The B vitamins aid in assisting the energy from the food we eat, generates new cells and maintains a healthy immune and nervous system. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids found in breadfruits also contribute to all round good health.
Potassium, iron and phosphorus are other mineral constituents of breadfruit of nutritional value. 

At present the sale price of breadfruit at the Castries market is $5/breadfruit. If you have a breadfruit tree in your yard then you are at an advantage. 

It is important to consume locally produced food crops like breadfruit, reducing our food import bill and improving the livelihoods of local farmers. Endure the added preparation time; take time to be healthy.

Here are a few additional resources for addtional nutritional value of the breadfruit: