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Monday, October 28

Kale Kraze

Kale is enjoying quick and wide-spread acceptance on the local market. It features in the diet regimens of the health conscious and fitness enthusiasts. But where was this kale before all this attention? Somewhere in a dark corner of the discerning backyard gardeners yard space. But now with the introduction to the commercial market, the consumer response has been described as hungry chickens rushing to feed on dried, chopped coconut.

Why you should have kale

To whom do we credit the kale movement? The individual motivation to healthy lifestyles must be acknowledged in the first instance. Increased access to information has fostered greater personal responsibility in the prevention and management of health conditions such as obesity and nutrient deficiencies. Perhaps, we are juicing kale for all its worth for its anti-oxidant properties as increasing mortality from Chronic Non-Communicable Diseases creeps closer to home.  The work of the local Ministry of Agriculture, Food Production, Fisheries and Rural Development in promoting said produce has also increased market share. I was witness to a long line of persons eager to sample juiced kale at the World Food Day 2013 activities.

Kale presented for sale at the Rodney Bay Farmers' Market

Interestingly, "kale" is slang for "money" as seen in the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary. This urban terminology is apt. While the seedling price for other green,leafy vegetables for example lettuce is $0.40, kale seedlings cost $0.80. Market prices are comparatively the same with parcels of almost the same size sold for the same price. So how is this new green gold adding to the pockets of farmers? The volumes of kale sold far exceed that of lettuce. This leafy veggie is worth your consideration whether you are living the motto "health is wealth", or simply for wealth,.

Tuesday, October 22

Your Cup of Tea- Gwo diten

A plant by so many other names, it is known locally as Gwo Diten, French Creole for Big Thyme. 

The herb is most commonly used to add flavour for meat and poultry dishes. 

Traditional medicinal uses include treatment of:

  1. Coughs
  2.  Sore throats
  3. Nasal congestion
  4. Rheumatism 
  5. Flatulence
Also called Indian borage and Indian mint, the plant is used in Indian traditional medicines for the treatment of:
  1. Malarial fever
  2. Hepatopathy
  3. Renal and vesical calculi
  4. Chronic asthma
  5. Bronchitis
  6. Colic
  7. Epilepsy
  8. Skin ulcerations and allergies
Admittedly, I had never before considered that gwo diten could be used as a tea until a very healthy-looking, middle aged lady with great skin shared that she had daily cups of the brew. Don't be misguided by the trend of thought that herbal teas are "old people's medicines". In fact, the younger generation has lived many more experiences than the older generation has lived in their lifetimes; increased exposure to increasing pressures of life leave us feeling worn and weary. Herbs possess very powerful antioxidants to keep even youth looking and feeling youthful.

Anthurium Adventure

Going by the book

All products come with the instruction manual? In this case it is the "Cultivation Guide Anthurium-Global Know-How for Growers aaround the Globe". However, I do not want to thoroughly read this 140-page book in one sitting on a subject that I will not be formally tested on. Luckily I have had the benefit of field trips of the St. Lucia Floral  Co-operative Society Limited during which I was privy to best practices. Also, mentorship has provided me with a live resource to refer to as problems require resolutions.  

Written guide

Getting down to work

The plants that I am responsible for are already planted but are in desperate need of some tender and devoted loving care to bring them to optimal productivity. Light work, I imagined....
New beginnings

Leaf Cutting

Did you know that old anthurium leaves use much sugar at the expense of flower production? Leaves are  therefore pruned to divert more of the plant's energy towards flower production. Too many leaves results in aborted buds, damaged flower buds and crooked stems. Regular pruning is also necessary for better air circulation which reduces problems of molds and bacterial infections. My ideal number of leaves is 4.

Weeding and Irrigation

"Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them" says Winnie the Pooh character, Eeyore. In the flower production business, weeds once identified have to be removed. Regular weeding of ferns and other weeds are required for its control. Chemical control of weeds in anthurium production is not recommended particularly  for newly planted crops and when new shoots are desired. If your production site is not near to a water source then your next labour-intensive task is irrigation.  Mostly I just hope and pray and watch the weather forecasts for rain to save me this task.  
So much to do...


Everything that can happen will happen. Slugs and snails feed on root tips and damage the leaves and buds. Caterpillars feed on the leaves.  The slug bait has been set and I am monitoring for progress. While white flies are present in the shade house they do not present much of a challenge. Butterflies lay their eggs on the underside of leaves and caterpillars when hatched feed on the leaves and flowers. While frogs are not a problem to the plant they do reduce my own life line every time one jumps from the coconut husks at me!  

One of  the better flowers

Wednesday, October 16

The Jam Diaries-Golden Apple

It takes a community to make a pot of jam
'Tis the season of golden apples. The green fruit ripens into golden yellow and that is how the fruit got its name. That is my version of the golden apple story and I am sticking to it. Sticking to my fingers will be sugary brown golden apple jam. As I take stock of the ingredients, I realise that one key ingredient is missing-bwaden: one of the spices of life. A special effort is made with my home-made jams, since the commercial jams have a smaller spice content. I walk down the hillside, cross the river and up the slope to the neighbour's to get some leaves. Its time that I plant a tree near my home.
Fresh picked golden apples

Does size matter? 
Large product representations are often used in marketing to capture the interest of the consumer. For instance, cereal boxes advertise large flakes on the front of the package. Despite previous purchasing experience and the fine print disclaimer, we are hooked every time. Jam making is not an exception to the marketing rule. I opt for medium- to large-sized golden apples. This allows for losses in the cooking process as some of the golden apple will break down into the 'sauce'.

The sugar and spice and everything cooks nice
Golden apples are picked, washed and peeled. The coal pot is lit. I prefer cooking jams on charcoals. Some argue that anything cooked this way tastes better and its true. My other reasons are to save cooking gas and to keep the coal pot traditions alive. 
The spices of life
My select spices are cinnamon, bwaden and nutmeg (both the nut and the dried mace). I have been saving up nutmeg mace since I learnt they are great in jams.The sugar and spice are boiled with water to reach a thick sticky consistency. It is important that there is not much liquid in the pot at this time. When the golden apples are added, they will simmer in their own juices.The fruit is added and the pot checked periodically to check the progress of the jam.

Red hot glowing coals

And the pot bubbles over

It takes a community to eat a pot of jam
The pot is off the coal pot and cooled. 
Golden apple-y Goodness
It is time to test my jam making skills. I think it tastes delicious but that is unconfirmed until I receive feed back from the community. I prepare small packages of jam for neighbours and friends. And before you know it there is no jam left. It is time to prepare another pot.