sábado, 27 de junio de 2009


Although i've been something of an absentee farmer,on the farm growing must grow on! The rains have come and all plants are growing like cRaZy, whether i'm there to watch or not. Probably the most satisfying crop has been BEANS

For about $2 i buy several pounds of beans at the market, toss them into the awaiting fertile ground, and before my very eyes they spring out of the earth!

Here in Nicaragua RED beans rule, as a rule. The Nicaragua national dish, gallo pinto, is a red beans + rice combo; no other bean will suffice. Our neighbors to the south, Costa Rica, tout a gallo pinto of their own, more commonly with black beans. Nicas tend to be overly-possessive with the red bean thing and the Who-created-gallo pinto-issue is very sensitive. i personally will eat any and all beans, because they're ALL good. However in this household, our on-site cook has blatantly ignored the black beans i buy, even complaining to me that "there are NO beans," meaning no red beans. And my favorite Nica adamantly prefers los frijoles rojos over all others, going so far to claim that gallo pinto with black beans is not gallo pinto.
Needless to say, we go through a LOT of beans. The bean return is supposedly 7lb to every 1lb planted; our goal is to grow a year's supply. This has been tricky to figure out, as gallo pinto is served with every meal.

I have many more updates, stay tuned!
and to provide some explanation for my absence, i plead monkey business :)

viernes, 12 de junio de 2009

the good, the bad, and the ugly

Good: flowers are blooming!Calendula, Calendula officinalis

Borage, Borago officinalis

African Marigolds, Tagetes erecta

Girasol, Helianthus giganteus

well, the squash/zucchini situation has gone from Bad to Worse. i should have taken some photos to share, but a passionate burst of rage has rendered that an impossibility. Upon realizing that the poor dears were not only infested with Squash Bugs and Striped Cucumber Beetles but also a despicable pest called the Squash Vine Borer, i tore their ravaged carcasses from the earth to spare them any further humiliation. In my hunt for the aforementioned bugs, i had dismissed the presence of the interesting buzzing black and orange "bee" in my garden, who meanwhile was busy (as a you know what) injecting its caterpillar eggs into the stalks of my squash plants.
Apparently it's possible to salvage your plant if the worm is removed early; in my Three Sisters Garden, it was too late.
On the upswing, while the zucchini plants were of no further use to me, they were a special treat for a new friend....
more Good: Introducing EZMERALDA!
A voracious eater, Ezzie was happy to obliterate every last trace of my squash plants,
not to mention, EVERY last piece of greenery in our backyard. Goats! there's no stopping 'em!

Finalamente, the Ugly

All three varieties of the tomatoes i planted are exhibiting classic signs of the fungus Early Blight. note the yellowed to brown circular spots.
Tomatoes have been the thorn in my side since the beginning (remember the UC-82s??) so maybe i'm not even surprised. Early Blight feeds on moisture, and unfortunately thrives in areas with heavy WEEDS. oooops. so much for my pro-weedy garden campaign.
The other huge mistake i made was planting tomatoes in the same darn garden plot--the fungus was most likely living in the soil since the first tomato crop. arrrgh.
still, the grape tomatoes continue to produce fruit.
¿fruta fea?

viernes, 5 de junio de 2009


Cool fruits you don't see every day (that i do):

Inga edulis

Inside the massive green pods of the guaba tree, seeds are encased in a velvety white EDIBLE flesh! One taste and you'll understand why it is nicknamed the "cotton candy fruit."
There is huge confusion around the name of this fruit. According to the books it is guaba, but is referred to here in Nicaragua as guayaba.
However, guayaba is translated as the spanish word for guava, a distinctly different fruit with juicy pink fruit and green skin.
Luckily, i enjoy both fruits so whatever i call it, or they call it, i'll eat it!

This might be the weirdest one yet:
Anacardium occidentale

Would you have guessed that this is the fruit and nut we call cashew??! Although the nut has gained international popularity, Nicas rave about cashew fruit and frequently grow the tree for the fruit only.It gets weirder: the nut, or seed, of a cashew is protected in the brownish cashew-shaped shell; inside the shell is a dangerous liquid containing the chemical urushiol, the same irritant in poison oak and ivy: cuidado! The common allergen may seriously injure your skin, not to mention your mouth. For this reason cashews are opened by roasting, steaming, or boiling, a process that should not be undertaken lightly.

Personally, i don't love cashew fruit. the flesh is pulpy, too smooshy for me and not sweet enough.

This one ain't so strange, though you might not recognize it so close up:

how about now?
Cucumis melo reticulatus is regular old canteloupe, and my plant is finally fruiting!!!!!

And, your everyday banana tree, in all its splendor:

jueves, 4 de junio de 2009

out of the garden, into the frying pan

The past few months of gardening I've been testing different seeds, various varieties of my favorite vegetables, most of which i purchased in the U.S. For this reason i've planted sparingly, noting which plants are adaptable to the hot tropical climate, which are pest-resistant, which are tasty, etc. Later i will know which varieties i want to plant in great quantities.
i came home the other day with my latest harvest, eager to cook up a farm-fresh meal!
this was my bountiful cornucopia:


Luckily, i have access to an excellent local market where other farmers regularly bring in diverse harvests! So with a little help from my friends,
and this friend,

dinner began to take shape.
My corn and zucchini, plus broccoli, peppers, onion, carrots, and cabbage quickly fried in olive oil, tossed with a garlic, ginger, and soy sauce combo, toasted cashews on top, all served over brown rice:
One day i hope to grow such a gorgeous array myself!
I tried garlic earlier this year; somehow it all disappeared. rabbits? And ginger grows here as well, though i haven't been able to get its watering needs right. keep on keeping on, eh?

I am bringing in a larger percentage of this delicious Italian favorite:


1 large bunch of basil
1 head garlic
1/4 cup almonds
1/2 cup olive oil
salt and pepper
1) Separate basil leaves from stems and rinse well; peel garlic
2) Toast almonds (if raw) in an ungreased skillet over high heat, stirring CONSTANTLY, until golden brown

3) Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor (sorry i have no photos of this, but i'm sure you can picture it), adding salt and pepper to taste
4) Spread pesto onto homemade carrot bread

and find a taste-tester


I used almonds because pine nuts are unknown in these parts, as is fresh parmesan. i've also heard of using walnuts, but you don't see those around here either.