How big is your baby?

Spring time is a time of rebirth and renewal and much focus is given to cute bouncing bundles of joy like this one

 

and in our area, babies like these…

(picture of a local postcard)

 

Yesterday I was out looking at other babies.  Subtropical fruit babies.

This is an avocado pear

 

and some baby mangoes

 a litchi

and some oranges (not on the farm we live on)

So here is what I am pondering…………

All of the above fruit trees blossom and start bearing fruit around the same time (spring)

We will be eating the mangoes and litchis by the end of this year  (3-4 months to mature ripe fruit depending on cultivar) yet the avocados and oranges will only be ripe and ready in 6-11 months time (winter fruit for us).

Why would some fruit be able to ripen and mature so fast and others take so long?

Farm fresh veggies!!

One week in and I have found a source of fabulous farm fresh vegetables and fruit.  The system is run by a lass called Chene and she drops off your bag weekly. You can also order farm fresh duck and duck fat from her.  

This is what I got for R60!

I am now on the hunt for a source of good grass fed meat and farm milk.

A little about health

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I have gently been making a few changes in my life. Taking a few steps towards living a little healthier. I gave up smoking on the 3rd of January, and have started cutting down on red wine consumption as my body really just doesn’t like it. I am now getting ready to go all the way when my food garden is producing.  Ideally I eventually want to be producing at least 75% of my own food in a natural and healthy way.  This will take some time and I am also not going to be an extreme purist about this.  There will be times when I will just feel like having a pizza in town and I will then do so.

Towards this goal I have been given a little gift. A friend of mine here in Hoedspruit was caught between homes while she is building her home and over this same time, I have had to keep Jackal’s Den closed due to our ongoing water problem, so she and her husband and young daughter have moved onto my farm to stay with me.  Karen is a whole food cook book author and a trained chef, so in exchange for accommodation, she has taken over my kitchen and provides and prepares all my meals for me. What a blessing!

This week we started on a detox, with the menu provided to us by her co-author Heidi who is a nutritionist. I am currently on day three of my 5-7 day detox (depends what I can cope with) and am eating only fresh fruit, veg and brown rice.

So far, everything is going really well and I enjoy the foods I eat.  I  have never been one for eating much fruit, but love my veggies.  I have to push my boundaries a bit because I usually add butter to most of my vegetables and that is not allowed this week and I have had to increase my consumption of fruit (I battle a bit with fruit texture).

Tonight will be quite a test of my endurance because it’s art group and I must forgo all the wine and snacks.

Wish me luck!

Warning – marula beer update II

Be warned!

 

Don’t forget to release the pressure in your bottles daily or at least every second day.  We learned the hard way and the Bean and I scrubbed walls, floor, counters and tables till late last night.  At least they say that beer conditions hair because  I got a good dose of it over my head as it dripped off the roof 5 meters above the explosion.

Marula beer – part II : The results

This post follows my article published two days ago which you can read here.

I was highly sceptical of the marula beer I was making.  My taste of Warren’s beer put me off for life.  It was really so very sour and vinegary.  I was curious about my batch but was ready to pour it down the drain or give it to some of the local people who like it.

For three days the lid had been popping off despite the heavy cast iron pot that I had balancing on the container to keep it closed.  Every time I reclosed the container I got a slight whiff of vinegar – bleugh

Last night was the night to test the final product as it had been fermenting for three days.  I made sure I had had my dinner first because I was sure the beer was going to turn my stomach.  There was a huge glob of pulp that seemed to have formed in the beer and had floated up towards the top of the container slowly.  By last night it was all on top of the beer.

I moved the container to the sink to open it and gently raised the lid.  Surprise surprise – there was no smell of vinegar but a lovely yeasty smell similar to that of homemade ginger beer.  The glob had formed a nice foamy head.

The head was about 2 inches think and was really compact. I was able to lift it off the beer using a slotted spoon in two big blobs.

Underneath I found a fresh, sparkling, bubbly golden liquid.  My hopes were rising.

I quickly dipped a small glass into the beer to have a taste.  YUM!  It is so fresh, yeasty and bubbly – just like homemade ginger beer with a marula twist.  I am so glad that I added the sugar.

I quickly sterilised some old beer bottles that I had on hand and bottled my marula beer before The Bean could get her hands on it – she loves it too.

I still have loads of marulas so I think I will be brewing another batch next weekend.

Warning : Please read this update  – click here

Making your own homemade Marula beer

I know that most of you don’t have access to marula fruit so you won’t be needing this recipe – feel free to skip this post or just look at the pretty pictures.  I don’t think I will need this recipe again either.  I don’t even like beer.  You have to try once though. Right?

I roped in the expertise of Warren who makes quite a few batches of this beer each season. He just loves the stuff.

First collect ripe fruit from the ground beneath the trees and wash the fruit.

Remove the skins of the fruit.  I cut them round the equator and twist and squeeze the fruit pulp, pip and juice out.

Warren used this method for the photos but afterwards told me he is much quicker just using a butter knife, spoon or fork  and a special peeling motion. He told me that his friend, Masheplane does it so fast his hands blur.  I can imagine…

Collect all the pulp, pips and juice in a large container and once you have finished peeling the fruit, add clean water to just cover the fruit and mash the fruit thoroughly till the liquid in the bucket becomes quite thick.

Remove the pips and left over pulp by squeezing them a few at a time.

Cover and leave for 2-4 days depending on the strength you desire.

Skim off foam and pulp that has risen to the surface and if you wish you can strain the beer through muslin before bottling it.

Bottle in hot sterilized bottles and seal well

Store in a cool place till needed.

I added sugar to my brew after Warren gave me a taste of his beer.  Bleugh – it was VERY sour.

I will update this post in a few days once my brew has brewed and I have tasted it.

Edit:   To read about the final product and my opinion on it  please click HERE

Warning:  Please read this update HERE

Marula Jelly

As promised here is the recipe for Marula Jelly that I made this weekend.

Marula jelly is routinely served with any type of venison, but can be used with all types of meat.  It is delicious with cheese and biscuits or just on a slice of toast for breakfast.  It has a subtle flavour slightly reminiscent of honey.

  • Collect your marula fruit, wash them and cut or pierce the skins. Place in a large pot and cover the fruit with water and boil for 15-20 minutes.  Tip: It’s good to include some green fruit as they contain more pectin.

  • Strain the contents of the pot through a cloth (muslin or cheesecloth are good but I guess any type of clean cloth would do) and retain the water/juice

At this stage the juice looks just like fresh orange juice.

  • Wash out your pot, measure your juice and pour it back into the clean pot.
  • Add white sugar – volume for volume ie: 1 cup juice – 1 cup sugar
  • Heat gently while stirring to melt the sugar

  • Add the juice of 1 lemon per liter of juice
  • Boil rapidly for about 20 minutes or until gelling temperature has been reached (check by placing a drop or two onto a cold saucer, allowing to cool and then pushing it with your finger to see if it wrinkles)  I found I needed to boil for another 20 mins as I had a large pot of juice.  Tip:  Make sure you have enough space in the pot as the jam bubbles up very easily and you need to keep it bubbling ( I lost at least 1 bottle to “overflow”)
  • Bottle the jelly in sterilised bottles ( I boil mine)
  • Water-bath your bottles if this is your routine when making jams ( I don’t)
  • Allow to cool, label and store in a cool place until opening
  • Store open bottles in the refrigerator

I used about 5kg of fruit and this made 8 small bottles of jelly.

Mango mania

As many of you know, I work on a farm in a fruit packhouse.  Because I manage quality control, I am constantly running up and down the warehouse – controlling and checking.  In citrus season (winter) this is very invigorating because one is constantly surrounded by the zingy aroma of citrus oils.  In summer we pack mangoes. It gets rather hot in the packhouse and after days and days of spending time with zillions of mangoes you get a little icky.  The sweet cloying smell permeates your skin and clothes – it is really intense, especially when it is hot and humid.

At the beginning of the season we all used to eat a mango at tea time – yum.  This morning when I got my mango I didn’t want to eat it – yesterday I only ate half.  It’s the smell of them that gets to me now. I wonder if I will ever eat one again?

Time for a little sourness?

After all the sweetness of  Christmas and new year, I think it’s time for a little sour….

The sour plum trees on our farm are now fruiting.  When I say sour, it’s probably the  sourest thing I have ever tasted (and that includes all the crazy sour sweets available these days).  These fruit are chock-full of vitamin C and are enjoyed by birds and animals alike – how the heck they don’t have a sour attack each time they bite one I will never understand.  I have heard that it makes a divine jam or jelly.  I think that may be the only way I would be able to eat this fruit – with a ton of sugar in jam or jelly.  I am always looking for ways to use the natural plants around us on the farm.

The large sour plum (ximenia caffra) is a small tree or shrub with many traditional uses and colourful fruit which attract baboons, fruit-eating birds and various butterflies. The thinly fleshy, oval, attractive fruit are a glossy deep red with white-ish speckles. The larvae of various butterflies including the Natal bar, Silvery bar, Bowker’s sapphire, Saffron sapphire, Brown playboy and Bush scarlet butterfly feed on the leaves of this tree.

Ripe fruit has a vitamin C content of 27%, is high in potassium and contains protein. The seed has a 65% oil content. Fruits have a refreshing (ha right…) sour taste, best eaten when slightly overripe, but can also be used for making jam, dessert and jelly. They can be added to porridge. Oil from the seed is used to soften human skins and for softening animal hides. It is also used for lamps. The nuts are also eaten.

A decoction from the leaves is used as a wash to soothe inflamed eyes. Infusions of the roots are used as a remedy for dysentery and diarrhoea and together with the leaves are taken for abdominal pain and bilharziasis. Powdered roots are applied to sores to speed up healing; used in soup, and in beer as an aphrodisiac. Powdered dried leaves are taken orally for fever and infertility, and extracts of the leaves are used as a gargle for tonsillitis, and as a vermifuge. Porridge is made using a decoction of the roots, and eaten once a day for nausea in pregnancy; the root decoction is also taken for infertility.

I think, from all these uses, I may be able to cope with making the fruit into jam and maybe eating the seed (nut) – I will have to give it a try.

 

 

 

Fruit of the gods

Yesterday I went to visit the most unusual farm in our area.  Farms in and around Hoedspruit focus on the following products:

These fruit and veg prosper here due to our really hot temperatures and those that need lower temperatures are grown in winter instead of summer as in other regions of South Africa.  The peppers and tomatoes are grown under shade cloth to prevent sunburn, the many bugs we have here and to maintain lower temperatures.  We don’t need hot houses here.  We need cool houses.

For these reasons I thought it most unusual to hear about a highly successful grape farm just outside of town.  Grapes?  Here? No way!  I had to go and see for myself.

Mr A kindly arranged for me to visit and accompanied me on a farm tour given by the farm owner yesterday.  He grows table grapes.

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There are 15 hectares of grapes grown under shade cloth on this farm.  That is a LOT of shade cloth!  In addition to the shade cloth, plastic sheets are used to cover the vines just before picking to stop the grapes getting wet.  That is a LOT of plastic. The farmer told me that once the plastic has come off the vines he send it for recycling.

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When he started his farm here in Hoedspruit many people told him that he was crazy – that there was no way to be successful with grapes in this area.  He has proved everyone wrong and now produces the first table grapes of the season in South Africa – he has the market cornered until December when the grapes in other areas ripen.

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They started picking two weeks ago and pick from 6am to 9am before it gets too hot.

  • Each bunch is tasted first by the picker to see if they are ready.

They just pinch the bottom grape off the bunch and eat it! I think I want to become a grape picker.  The farmer told me that for the first day the pickers swallow what they taste – after that you can see little rows of discarded grapes where they have been dropped.  I guess it may just become too much but I would enjoy the challenge.

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The fruit is then packed on the farm in a specialized packhouse.  Each bunch is trimmed of underdeveloped grapes before being wrapped carefully and packed in cartons and shipped off.

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From next week we will be able to buy these grapes on the roadside just outside town.  We will only get the second class grapes as all the first class are snapped up by the supermarket chains.

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I am grape-ful for having the opportunity to visit this amazing farm. Yum.

Considered the Food of Gods by the ancients, the little juicy ball holds more mysteries than we can think of. Classified by biologists as a `true’ berry, it has fleshy insides all the way to the tiny seed, making it a strong powerhouse of nutrition and energy. As one of nature’s richest source of anti oxidants, the grape is priceless in its nutritional value. In fact many dieticians maintain that it helps lower the incidence of two of the deadliest diseases in the urban world – coronary disease and cancer. In its juice form, the grape is known to cleanse the liver and remove excess uric acid from the body. Besides the obvious good effects, grapes are found to be extremely high in potassium, encouraging an alkaline blood balance and stimulating the heart and kidney processes. They also contain chemicals that help to detoxify and cleanse the system.

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One interesting but little known fact is that grape seeds are healthier than the fruit itself. They contain powerful anti oxidants, serving to prevent premature ageing, disease and decay, by controlling free radicals.

With so much going for the little juice filled berry, it is no wonder that grapes have been a long time favorite of the human race.

Nutritional info from: http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/6-3-2004-55001.asp