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Friday, December 20


Sorrel plants with Saint Lucia's iconic Gros Piton in the background

Red-The Colour of Christmas

How did the colour red become the accepted colour for Christmas? My theory is that Sorrel (local name: Lozèy) is in season at this time. As the red calyces begin to develop, so does the seasonal cheer. Crops of sorrel cannot be grown throughout the year. The plant is photoperiodic and thrives in the shorter days towards the end of the year. Planted in June, the plants flower in September/October with the harvest due date in November/December. The life of the plant may extend to January/February.
Sorrel on branches

Sorrel-The Drink of Christmas

Detached seed pod and calyx
Christmas celebrations in Saint Lucia would not be complete without a sorrel drink.  In fact, most if not  all local Christmas songs mention it in their lyrics. It is especially important to have something cool and refreshing to drink to pass our sunshine Christmas. The calyces are harvested by cutting in a circular motion around the base of the seed pod and lifting the calyces off. Be wary of tiny, prickly bristles which get stuck into your fingers and hands in general. I generally keep my fingers clear of them or wear something protective. To avoid the prickles altogether, a purchase of ready-cut calyces can be made at the local market or supermarket.
Recently I learned that sorrel juice can be drawn by steeping it for a few weeks in water at room temperature to preserve the nutritional content. Some recipes instruct boiling the calyces. I am somewhere in the middle. My sorrel drink recipe is made special by infusing it with spices such as cinnamon, ginger and dill. I pour hot water over the calyces and spices and allow to steep overnight. I prefer my sorrel drink very concentrated. There is no need to be sparing on something in such abundance, so delicious and so healthy. After the mixture has been drained, sugar is added to taste. The drink is best served cold.
Dried calyces can be dried and stored so that you may continue to enjoy the joy of Christmas throughout the year.

Sorrel flower
Sorrel flower

As much as it is a pleasure to make, it is a pleasure to drink. If you will be having some, do enjoy. And for my friends who will not have the privilege, I will keep you in my thoughts. Do share your own Christmas special traditions.

Additional resources:
Purdue University:
Plants of Saint Lucia:


Wednesday, December 18


What is PIP?

When this learning opportunity came knocking on my email address, I immediately took to Google. I had so many questions: "What is COLEACP?" and "What is PIP?" among others. Maybe you are like me- new to these acronyms and scouring the internet for information. In that case I will direct you to the official  COLEACP website at this link: . The full term for PIP may prove more difficult to find. What was previously called the Pesticide Initiative Programme has grown to be more inclusive. The programme was first developed in response to the challenge of pesticide concentration on agricultural produce in excess of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs). Now the initiative has grown to embrace food security and sustainable agriculture issue such as: 
  1.  Ethical Trade
  2. Environmental Impact of Pesticides
  3. Integrated Crop Management
  4. Alternative Production Systems including Organic
COLEACP and the Caribbean Farmers' Network (CaFAN), hosted a two-week training in Saint Lucia for Caribbean extension workers and affiliates from December 2-14, 2014.

Each participant received a training kit containing ALL of these. Thanks COLEACP!

New Methods of Training
It was a tight schedule for the two-week training. Participants were trained in both the Training of Trainers Techniques and the Field Training Workshop Methods. Even before we arrived at the workshop venue on the workshop start date, we had been assigned projects. The momentum was maintained until the final day of workshop activities.
Some of the topics explored included:
  1. Adult Learning
  2. SIOM-Subject, Interest, Objective, Method
  3. Food Safety
  4. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and Sustainable Agricultural Production
  5. Pesticide Label
  6. Pestcide Resistance
  7. Questioning Techniques
  8. Traceability
  9. Training Aids
  10. Training Programmes
Field Trip! Farm Visit

Group work

What did we learn? How are we going to use it?

On the last few days of the workshop we were honoured buy the presence of COLEACP PIP Managing Director, Mr. Guy Stinglhamber who listened to the final presentations of each represented country's action.

On the first day of the training, we were daunted by restrictions to our use of good old Power Point presentations. Dare I say that some of us were lost! But in short time, we came to the realisation that Power Point was just old. We were all converted  to the Field Trainer Workshop technique, acknowledging that adult learning requires participatory training technique and tapping into our creativity.We all vowed to continue the momentum, using these techniques in our professional and individual capacities.

Congratulations to the Graduands!

Friday, December 6

Pigeon Peas

What's in season?

Local Pigeon pea (local name: Pwa Angol) trees are flowering. Lovely blooms of red and yellow are forming against the green foliage. The flowers are an attraction for hummingbirds and bees. Aside from aesthetics, these plants support biodiversity. Pigeon peas are a fixture of the home garden in rural and sub-urban areas. They are regularly intercropped with sweet potatoes due to their nitrogen-fixing ability.


Touch and Feel

The pea pods can be harvested as soon as you feel firm peas. Both the mature pods as well as dry pods are collected. After collecting, shelling the peas is the next step in the process in preparation of peas for consuming. This chore can be uneventful unless you have a phobia of caterpillars. Peeling back the shell will reveal caterpillars feasting on the peas. As a result, there will be need for sorting of peas-removing the half-eaten peas from the whole ones. Peas can be stored in the refrigerator until ready for cooking. The next opportunity for selection of peas is at the time of washing. 

Caterpillar out for a walk on pigeon pea pod

Wholesome Goodness

Pigeon peas has been a favourite from childhood days. They can be enjoyed as a separate dish or as part of a dish. As members of the food group, Legumes, they are an excellent source of plant protein.Still your food safety concerns. Generally pests, not even the caterpillars, are not controlled by agrochemicals.

Yum! Ready to cook