Regular readers will recall that it was but two weeks ago I was helping our friend Berdardo plant coconut trees on his sea-side property. That's right, the week of "no moon" or as the astrophysicists like to call it, the "new Moon" when the celestial orb is hanging somewhere between earth and the nearest star. Will his plants turn out better than mine? I think not. We live in the tropics where one can esentially stick a branch in the ground and it'll grow.
The holes for the coconut trees were, as I was advised by our friend and nearby neighbor Bienvenido, well, big. Almost 3 feet across and 2 feet deep. He advised this would be sufficient to provide good dirt for the roots of the young trees he gave us. Truth is I would have needed dynamite to go much deeper as I think I hit bedrock. When it came time for planing and refill, I used the dirt from the holes (less the many rocks and stones) combined with a lovely mix of organics from our mulch pile and a touch of all purpose fertilizer.
I planted three coconut palms along the front fence and it was but divine providence that no large rocks blocked a reasonably equidistant distribution. The two end palms are typical green coconut palms. The middle plant is a yellow varietal (Golden Palm) that produces the same kind of coconuts but the fronds are slightly yellower than the normal green as are the coconuts themselves.
Coconuts are a fascinating subject. "Tree of a Thousand Uses" as they say in Malaysia. As the vegetable version of the pig, nothing in the coconut tree need go to waste. From frond to roots, it's all usable in some way. Did you know the semi-clear coconut water is sterile and isotonic? Which means...yes, it can be used for emergency intravenous rehydration and volume replacement. How handy is that? Coconut milk requires grating the white "meat" and mixing with warm water to extract the milk, cream, and oils. It's work, but most satisfying especially with a spot of rum.
Also planted with the full moon was a row of blackberry bushes. These twigs came from a young, growing bush and consisted originally of two long stalks with a couple of side branches. Following directions, I removed all the dying leaves, cut the branches underwater into stalks about 18 inches long, then buried them about 4 inches deep into prepared soil. We'll know soon enough how this turns out.
Fortunately, since the planting, we've had lots of rain. Not constant but certainly enough to cause some serious flooding in places. We're lucky, as I reported before, to have excellent drainage here. Despite that, we had a couple of persistant puddles that had to wait for the rain to stop before they drained completely. I think these few days of rain will do as much if not more for the success of these plants as did the full moon.
You may recall, I think it was back in April/May, I had planted 6 banana trees. They are growing very well, easily doubling in height, and one has given us two baby plants for the next generation of bananas. It's a good sign. The elephant ear is enjoying it's new spot near some rocks, and the mango trees are growing well. That is, two of them are doing well and growing new leaves. One doesn't look like it's going to make it which is just fine with me. Located in the middle of the front yard, I didn't appreciate having to dodge it with the lawnmower.
We had some friends from Belize coming to visit this weekend. Since they have just returned from a summer in the "land of plenty", I thought they'd enjoy some down home Caribbean cooking. Even though they canceled due to rain, I continued with my plan of making a modified version of "Oil Down" (the national dish of Grenada) made with pork and breadfruit. It's my first attempt cooking breadfruit but after reading many recipes on the internet, I think I understand the concept. Enjoy!
The breadfruit in this recipe is an addition that certainly isn't necessary if you don't have access to breadfruit. If you do find some, the fruit should be light green and still fairly hard. If it is soft, it's too ripe (and sweet!) for this recipe. When cutting the breadfruit keep the knife well-oiled as the starchy juice will be sticky and make cutting difficult. Slice the breadfruit in half and then continue slicing each half until you have a succession of wedges. After cutting, put each wedge in a bowl of salt water to prevent the meat from darkening. When the wedges are done, take each wedge, remove the center core, then peel the outside skin. Return wedges to salt water bath until needed for cooking.
This is the recipe I used for 4 people with hope that there would be leftovers. Turns out there probably would not have been!
Oil Down Pork with Steamed Breadfruit
4 lbs pork shoulder cut into 1" cubes (I'm going to try this recipe with chicken next!)
1 TBS salt
1 tsp black pepper, ground
3 TBS Worcestershire Sauce
2 TBS brown sugar
1/2 tsp Angostura Bitters
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup sour (or Jamaican) orange
(Note: substitute fresh orange juice and juice from 1 lime/lemon if you can't find sour orange)
2 green onions, chopped
3 sprigs fresh thyme
4 TBS cilantro (or parsley)
1/2 habanero pepper (or other hot pepper), seeds and white removed and chopped very fine
(Note: Peppers are a taste thing, everyone is different. I try not to over-spice the dish when cooking, people can do that on their own with the various sauces and condiments but like salt, a little bit is necessary to add flavor to the dish while cooking.)
6-8 cloves garlic, sliced very thin
2 TBS fresh ginger, sliced very thin
1 TBS lemon grass, puree'd
1 onion, chopped roughly
2 tomatoes, chopped roughly
(Note: You can chop them gently, just make big chunks, yes?)
Another note on spices: The spice mix here is based on the kind of ingredients customarily used in the islands. Nothing fancy and you can adjust to your tastes after making this once. That's the "joy of cooking".
Mix all this together and marinade pork at least 2 hours, preferably overnight, turning once or twice. Remove from fridge at least 2 hours before cooking to warm up to room temp.
In large, heavy-bottom pot, heat 4-5 TBS or so of oil and about 1/4 cup brown sugar. You need to pay close attention because burning the sugar is easy to do. When the sugar is dark and caramelized (but before it burns!), add the pork pieces and vegetables to the pot and stir so the pork and veggies are covered with the caramalized sugar. Do not add left over marinade. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
Now comes the "Oil Down". Remove cover and using high heat, boil down the pork until there is nothing left on the bottom of the pan except the original oil you started with. All of the liquid is evaporated or absorbed into the meat and the spices are concentrated. You'll need to stir more toward the end of coooking so the meat doesn't burn to bottom of the pan. Once you've "boiled down to oil" add two or three cans of coconut milk (meat should be just covered), stir, add breadfruit wedges to the top where they will steam. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the breadfruit cuts with a fork (about 30 minutes or so).