Cassava

Cassava roots.
Cassava roots.

A friend stopped by and left some boiled Cassava, some roots, and some cuttings. So, it’s time to plant Cassava.

But how does it grow? And how to properly plant it?

My wife, raised where Cassava, also known as Yuca, is a food staple, contemptuously says, “You just stick it in the ground!”

That’s not good enough for me. Is it a tree or a bush?  Planting? At what spacing? How deep? Does it need something special?

She heads for the shovel.

I head for the computer. First things first! Just how do you spell it anyway?

Once the hard part is done, there’s some great information at Wikipedia and The UN. And many videos at YouTube.

The Plant

Casava plantTurns out Cassava is a really neat plant.

  • 6′ tall tropical looking shrub.
  • 4′ spacing.
  • 4″ deep.
  • drought tolerant.
  • inter-crops well.
  • grows in acidic poor soils.
  • is sustainable.
  • has nutritious root and leaves.
  • has many culinary uses.
  • has good yields.
  • can be planted anytime.

Having eaten it before, I know it tastes good simply boiled or fried.

No wonder man has spread it from Brazil throughout most of the tropical world, where it has displaced many native foods.

Once thought of as poor-man’s-food, it now commands a high enough price that it’s sold as a cash crop. But it’s not without problems.

Planting

cassava in the groundTurns out she was right. A 15cm cutting is just stuck into the ground.

Not all is lost with the research. Did I mention I now know how to spell Cassava. :)

Get the wife and the shovel.

We’re headed to the garden. To do it her way.

In a couple of minutes, the Cassava is in the ground. Doesn’t get any easier than that.

The Roots

Although the leaves are edible, it’s the roots that are harvested. Here’s a look a the process from cutting to root:

Even the rooster is amazed!

Here’s how to do it on a larger scale:

The Eating

Beautiful.
Beautiful.

The cuttings are in the ground. And now there’s something to look forward  to. No, not a bunch of roots a year from now. It’s boiled Cassava waiting for us in the kitchen!

My wife does some magic on the remaining mushrooms and some Choi from the Farmer’s Market. What a delightful combination of flavors and mouth-feel.

Another great meal with my wife. Life is good! And will be even better when I see the first shoots and then roots from my own Cassava.

Repeating

And then I’ll make some cuttings and share them. This is how I’ll do it:

Cassava, with its historical and cultural ties, is a neat plant. Who would have thought that a Old Wyoming boy like me would be planting them in Florida while the rest of the nation is buried in winter snow.

-dm

Ft Pierce Farmer’s Market

In Wyoming

Not looking good for most of the US.
Not looking good for most of the US.

Got a call from a Wyoming friend. It’s:

  • -26F.
  • snowing.
  • wind is predicted to blow at 40mph.
  • storm should last a week.
  • forecast high temperatures in the low single digits.
  • the landscape is brown, gray, white.

After an idyllic fall, the weather has finally turned brutal there.

It’s a little late. But not unexpected. Usually the first real blizzard arrives Halloween week.

In Florida

my windowLooking out my window, it’s very different.

  • one rain day per week.
  • high temperatures approach 80F.
  • low temperatures around 60F.
  • with a gentle breeze to no wind.
  • verdant green landscape profuse with bloom.
  • azure sky and water.

Florida winter days are like the best summer days I remember in the Wyoming mountains. In Wyoming they are few. In Florida, there are months of them.

Memories

I remember the Wyoming winter with its:

  • crisp fresh winter air.
  • hunkering down inside.
  • pleasurable times stirring coals around the fire.

But it’s time to make some new memories. Florida winter memories:

  • in shorts and sandals.
  • with expanding horizons.
  • outside with the green grass, flowers and palms.

What to do? It’s early Saturday morning. So, it’s off to explore the Ft. Pierce Farmer’s Market.

One of the docks.
One of Ft. Pierce’s docks.

Arriving, the weather was idyllic. We walked along the boat docks observing sea life and  seeing what the rich and famous do in their spare time. Some of those boats are huge and very expensive.

 The Market

Approaching the market from the docks.
Approaching the market from the docks.

It’s at the east end of Orange Street, in historic downtown Ft. Pierce, next to the seawall.

  • dozens of craft and art vendors.
  • prepared ethnic foods.
  • fresh and organic vegetables/meat.
  • fresh seafood.
  • spices.
  • local honey.
  • orchids and tropical plants.
  • live music.
  • a very casual, relaxed atmosphere.
  • plenty of parking.
  • an idyllic seaside setting.
  • lots of seaside/park tables and benches.
  • it’s free.

The Music

The band.
The band.

Approaching the market, live music greets us. It’s good! So good in fact that we spent an hour setting on the seawall. Listening to the music. And watched pelicans feed on the schools of fish as they swim by.

A young couple begins dancing. The man in his 80’s, and a slightly younger woman captured everyone’s attention. They dance and swoop. Her head is just inches from the ground.

After the initial fear of an impending accident dissipated, the dancer’s joy spread throughout the crowd  as they demonstrated their youthful exuberance and skill. They clearly were not amateurs.

The music’s effect wasn’t lost on those 20 times younger, who instinctively jumped and twirled to the beat. They were having just as much fun.

Like almost everyone else, I was too shy and unskilled to join either group. If you’ve been here awhile, that’s no surprise as I written about my dancing  before.

 The Food

The prepared food was enticing. Who can resist those ethnic aromas?

It’s early, just 9am. But short lines are already forming as people succumbed to a treat while walking along the seawall.

For me, just after breakfast. It’s just too early. A little later in the day would be another story. Next time we’ll come a little later.

More time there relaxing, chatting, and enjoying watching the fish, birds and people. Then it’s time for a little shopping.

The Groceries

mushroomsThere’s some good-looking produce. The prices are comparable with the grocery store. But there’s no comparing the quality. This stuff is fresh.

Now, my wife is in her element.

  • looking for the freshest.
  • catching the bargains.
  • finding the rare and exotic.

My part is to stand back and get out-of-the-way.

When we meet, I’ll commander any full shopping bags. And she’s off again. We’ll share her finds later.

I buy a little honey, a strange act for a life-long but retired beekeeper, now without bees. Then I find myself gawking at some mushrooms.

That’s where we our paths cross.

Back Out

It’s some of our favorite mushrooms in the bag. It’s past 12 and time to go.

  • more leisurely time enjoying the music.
  • some people watching.
  • chatting with a few passers-by.

And then it’s home to a great lunch of:

  • fresh mushrooms, onions, garlic.
  • smoked salmon.
  • sliced heritage tomatoes and cucumbers with olive oil and herbs.
  • a little wine.

All but the wine and olive oil came from the Farmer’s Market. And it cost just $16. That’s a bargain for a gourmet meal that would cost 10 times that amount prepared at a restaurant.

What a beautiful day. What an enjoyable way to spend some leisurely time with my wife. And get a great lunch. This makes for some great Florida winter memories. And I’m liking it.

-dm

Carambola

Wyoming

Carambola fruit.
Ripening Carambola  or star fruit as commonly sold..

A year ago, Vivienne a Florida friend, shipped us a box of ripe Carambola fruit from her tree.

We had eaten a few purchased locally. In many stores, they’re marketed by their shape as star fruit. In the Caribbean they’re known as Carambola avoiding confusion with another tropical fruit. They were interesting but not inspiring.

Vivienne’s were different. They were fantastic. One bite. Oh my gosh! These perfectly ripe fruit were:

  • yellow with a rosy hue.
  • firm.
  • crisp.
  • very juicy with very little pulp.
  • slightly sweet.
  • slightly acidic.
  • subtly floral.

Perfectly ripe Carambola are the most refreshing fruit I’ve ever eaten. What a tropical treat for someone frozen in a Wyoming winter.

Most Carambola fruit is sold unripe. They are:

  • yellow with a green hue.
  • have green on the ridges.
  • oxalic.
  • not sweet.
  • lack floral aroma.
  • more crisp than juicy.

Given time, unripe fruit will ripe. But they don’t develop the sweetness and floral aroma of tree ripen fruit.

Ripe fruit quickly becomes over-ripe in just a couple of days. They:

  • loose the rosy hue.
  • rapidly develop brown ridges and spots.
  • have an off flavor.
  • are very soft.
  • are watery.

Over-ripe fruit to rotten takes less than a day.

Florida

Fast forward, a year later.

  • we’re living in Florida.
  • Vivienne calls us.
  • her Carambola tree is full of ripe fruit.
  • others are harvesting the fruit.
  • come and get some before it’s gone.

Don’t need to ask us twice. It’s an hour and a half to Vivienne’s. And it’s Carambola picking time!

The Tree

The tree with flowers and fruit.
The tree with flowers and fruit.

Carambola is a beautiful and unusual tree. The fruit crop peaks twice a year. But the tree blooms while fruit develops and ripens.  So there’s usually some ripe fruit available most of the time.

At Viviennes

Tree ripe fruit.
Tree ripe fruit.

Vivienne’s vivacious smile and sparkling eyes welcome us. It’s always good to see her.

Even after a week of harvest by others, her tree is still full of ripe fruit.

Tree ripe fruit falls at the slightest touch or branch movement. That makes fruit easy to harvest. But dropped fruit is bruised fruit which quickly spoils. So disturbing branches is bad. And any wind is devastating.

Fruit not reached by hand, is harvested using a small basket mounted on a long pole. Just touch a ripe fruit. It falls into the basket. Fruit not falling when touched is left to ripen. Vivienne grabs the pole and shows me how.

From the quantity of flower buds to over-ripe fruit, I’m overwhelmed. As a kid picking berries, the first one’s picked never made it into the bucket. So with Carambola.

I don’t think human history would have been the same if Carambola trees existed on the African plains. Our distant relatives would never have come down from them. And we’d still be up there eating Carambola fruit. ;)

Back Home

Vivienne showing me how.
Vivienne showing me how.

A nice visit and a large cardboard box of fruit later. It’s back home.

And from personal experience there’s nothing more refreshing and vitalizing that a chilled tree ripen Carambola fruit eaten on a hot Florida day. And just one fruit is never enough.

So Carambola is a must have tree for the yard.

Thanks Vivienne. And a special thanks to Ian Maguire who owns some of the images above. Yes, I was having too much fun picking and eating Carambola. And I forgot to take enough pictures. ;)

-dm

Beekeeper’s Smoker

IMG_0451
A smoker is an essential beekeeping tool. Using one is the first skill a new commercial beekeeper learns. It’s a given.

But there’s little written about  properly using them. For many non-commercial beekeepers, using a smoker is a frustrating, and sometime dangerous experience.

Smokers aren’t hard to use. But a few easily learned tricks make it easier. The next series of beekeeping related posts will cover:

  • smoker principles.
  • smoker fuel.
  • lighting a smoker.
  • using a smoker.
  • stowing a smoker.
  • smoker maintenance.

-dm

Linux Mint 17 Mate

Linux Mint 17 Mate
Linux Mint 17 Mate

A year has passed since dropping Windows and switching to Linux Mint. It was a great choice.

Since then I’ve tried other distributions. Some are very creative and interesting. But Linux Mint is simply the best. It just works great right out of the box.

And I’ve also tested most of the leading desktop environments. Mate is my choice. It:

  • is fast.
  • has a conventional window/menu user interface.
  • has a modern flat, square look.
  • isn’t cheesy or ugly.
  • has great typology.
  • is easy to customize.
  • has more than enough functionality.
Screenshot
My Mate desktop and a nice Linux utility, a virtual Windows machine.

Without Linux support for Canon scanners, I thought my scanner would be junk. But I installed Virtualbox and run XP as a virtual machine which works great with the scanner. In fact, XP runs better as a virtual machine under Linux, than it does natively on the same hardware!

There’s only one disadvantage. Linux has spoiled me. I find troubleshooting and working on Windows based computers onerous and frustrating. I don’t know why anyone still puts up with it.

Check it out. Linux Mint 17 Mate.

-dm

 

 

 

Sweet Potatoe – Pumpkin Pie Fruit

Getting

ripe green sapote
Looks like what I bought.

Last July I came across a hard-as-a-baseball, olive-green fruit. It was the size of a small cantaloupe. I bought one.

My wife recalled eating a few of them as a small child, and didn’t like them much.

She would nick the skin and eat them when the layer underneath turned reddish. So, I nicked, watched and waited.

Eating

green sapote
Ripe and ready to eat.

It didn’t take long.

Three days later, the knife met the fruit revealing a soft reddish-orange interior and a very large and uniquely strange seed.

And oh my! Do you remember when you mother or grandmother prepared the holiday yam dish?

Those yams would be wallowing in a deep baking dish, primed with brown sugar. Sometimes basted with 7-up. And then often topped off with marshmallows.

And who could forget the pumpkin pie filling!

Now, imagine mixing both of them together.  That’s how this fruit tasted! It was so sweet it would be almost illegal. In fact is was so sweet , eating it might be considered sinful in some circles.

That’s why a certain girl, so long ago, disliked them. They were just too sweet. Something that a certain young, sugar bowl raiding boy, wearing my shoes so long ago, couldn’t comprehend .

Growing

Mamey. Not what I bought.
Mamey. Close, but not what I bought.

What to do with that seed? Plant it of course. But how?

The seller said the fruit was a Mamey.

But a  little Googling and a look at my favorite tropical fruit reference revealed that this fruit wasn’t a Mamey at all.

It was a close, sweeter relative, a Green Sapote.

The Mamey tastes different. Has a different looking skin, seed, and its flesh is a more pinkish color.

Here’s how the Green Sapote sprouted and grew over almost 4 months.

-dm