|Cashew nut tree in flower|
Summer's here and the garden needs watering. The taps and hoses have been set up again and as soon as the sun is off the plants in the late afternoon I'm off on my rounds.
There's the front drive...too imposing a name really for the gravel road from the gates to the house, but it is beginning to look something now we are here all the time to make it worthwhile planting it up....there was a huge cactus and papyrus and gingers to make a background screen for one side and on the other we're planting flowering climbers on the boundary wire and putting in avocados and ornamental trees.
Then there's the house garden....palms and flowering shrubs and the vegetables behind....
And then there's the messy end of the garden, down across the wooden bridge over the stream - a torrent in the rainy season - and out to the old tilapia ponds and the asparagus beds.
The latter are looking a bit battered after the rains, but are picking up now and giving the first spears of the season, but there are other things down there....things previously unknown to me.
How about these?
These are naranjillas...a member of the solanum family...and I first saw them in the gardens of CATIE, the tropical plant research station out at Turrialba. We have a plant with similar leaves but with ferocious spines and much smaller fruit growing wild on the slopes, but Danilo, who looks after the coffee, tells me it is poisonous and this coming from a man who uses everything to hand is good enough to persuade me not try it.
So we grew the non poisonous variety from fruit that the CATIE gardeners gave us.
Danilo brought some up to the house to make into a drink....into the blender and mix with sugar and water, but it was so acid that it left my mouth dry for some time afterwards and I thought no more about it until watering down in the messy end when I saw that the fruit was turning a soft gold in colour and thought to try it again.
Its acidity was now balanced by sweetness, but I think I'll make jam from it rather than drinks...if I can find out its level of pectin.
And that's something else...making jam at altitude.
At higher altitudes, atrmospheric pressure is less so water boils at lower temperatures...which has altered my tea making techniques already as far as brewing is concerned.
So when you're making jam, the water evaporates more quickly and the fruit and sugar syrup reaches jelling point at a slightly lower temperature...so if I boil it to 105 C, then it turns out sticky rather than set...I have to boil it until only 101C at my altitude, some 900 metres above sea level.
Sounds like pedantry, which is what I thought it was until my first jam turned out sticky rather than set...
And what about these whoppers in the photograph above? I have no idea what they are called as I had the originals from a neighbour last year and accordingly used the tuber in stews..where it gave texture rather than taste...and cut off the top of it to replant.
I think they're some sort of yam, but I'll have to ask her for the name when she next comes round for coffee.
Now this is not a good photograph, but can you see a white flower on top of the spiky leaves? It's called Flor d'Itabo...but to me it's a yucca flower. You cut down the flower spike, take the flowers from the stems and nip out the bitter stamens. You blanch the flowers, then add them to an omelette or cook them with cooked boiled potato, egg and onion as a side dish. I've seen a quiche recipe but have not yet tried it.
The cashew tree in the photograph at the top of this post overlooks the messy end.
Later this year we will have the fruit and the nut to use.
I find the fruit too astringent, but having seen cashew wine for sale on the Caribbean side of the country it's back to home wine making...I have the airlocks, so I'll be looking for carboys or anything else suitable for the fermenting brew.
The nut contains a powerful acid...friends have shown me how to heat the nut over the flame to break the casing, but I'm a butterfingers and the whole thing ends with a charred mess.
Another technique to learn.
And then there's banana vinegar...
We've made so many gardens in our time.
I do wonder, as I stand with the hose pipe in the soft evening light, whether this will be the last one.