Thursday, November 10, 2016

Growing Cassava

Manihot esculenta 001.jpg
Cassava, also known as Yuca, is a shrub native to South America.  It was served at the best steak houses in Venezuela in the 70s, where I grew up, before the country's economy collapsed.  I doubt there remain any steak houses open there, but surely there must still be people growing this delicious staple.

Cassava grows well in Central Florida were we live.  Although it is readily available at the grocery stores around us, most of the time it has been sprayed with a shiny wax material, so roots bought at the store will not grow.

Thankfully, there are plenty of people growing cassava in Florida, so either you get some from a friend or buy some on eBay.  I bought organic cuttings from a seller (goodsam330) in Ft. Myers because I can grow the plants in our small greenhouse and have them ready to plant in March after the ground warms up again.

I think the plant itself is very nice, looks quite ornamental/decorative, so it could even be grown as edible landscaping in a subdivisions property with strict rules about keeping ornamentals only.  It also has an interesting use that my eBay seller pointed out on his item description:


"TROPICAL JUNGLE: One cassava plant can block the view from a neighbor you don't want to see.  The picture (above) in a 70 gallon pot is doing just that."

My favorite way of eating "yuca" is fried with a cilantro/tomatillo dip.  You first have to boil it until soft before frying.  It is also good boiled with olive oil or butter and chopped parsley over it.  In college I had a friend from India who would boil it, then sautee mustard seeds and pour them over it - delicious!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016


Young Calabaza pumpkin currently in our garden
In the last two months, I have been in a whirlwind of learning new information and change.  I recently discovered the concept of food forests and permaculture.  It has been an eye-opening experience.  Through the years, we have discovered a few vegetable varieties which are well suited to our Florida, semi-tropical climate - calabaza squash and everglades 
The banana patch
tomatoes, for example.  These crops pointed me in the direction of the permaculture ideas, focusing on species which naturally produce very well where we live without the addition of pesticides.  I have discovered that many tropical plants can do well in Central Florida in spite of our yearly frosts and even hard freezes.  We have a cluster of banana trees which has been producing bananas for years.  I planted it in a sheltered location where it receives morning sun and filtered afternoon light.  It grows near our chicken coop, which I know provides fertilizer for it year-round.  This has been proof for me that tropical plants can and will grow well here if we take advantage of microclimates around our property.  

It has been exciting to find books like Gaia's Garden and blogs like David the Good's, which have been resources that have reinforced what we've learned and encouraged us to begin planting our own nascent food-generation machine..  We have about an acre of available land that we have begun working on, preparing for perenial plants which we hope will grow and produce great food, as we watched recently on this inspirational Return to Eden video.

This weekend we have plans to go to the h.e.a.r.t. 4th Garden Celebration.   I am looking forward to the lectures and getting a tour of their food forest and gardens.

Here's a video about h.e.a.r.t. - "It's about thriving, not just living..."

Image result for banana blossomLast weekend, we went to our local oriental market and saw banana blossoms for sale in the produce section.  That reminded me that we actually had three banana bunches with beautiful blossoms hanging, ready for cutting.  Little did we know we could actually harvest them.  I found this recipe, and everyone enjoyed it.

Delicious Banana Blossom Curry


2 banana blossoms
1 lemon, juiced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Chopped banana blossom
2 tsp black mustard seeds
2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 dried red chili, crushed
20 curry leaves
3 cm piece ginger, grated
½ tsp ground turmeric
120 g (1 cup) fresh coconut, grated (see Note)
125 ml (½ cupr) settled coconut cream (see Note)
steamed rice, naan and eggplant and mango chutneys, to serve


Remove purplish-red outer bracts from banana blossoms. Discard flower-like clusters and chop inner bracts into 3 cm pieces. Place in a bowl filled with 2 liters water, lemon juice and 1 tbsp salt, to prevent browning. Cut the banana blossom cores in half, roughly chop and add to acidulated water.

Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add mustard seeds and cook, shaking pan, for 2 minutes or until seeds begin to pop. Add onions, chili, curry leaves, ginger and turmeric, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until onions are golden. Remove from heat.

Drain banana blossoms. Return pan to medium heat, add banana blossoms, grated coconut and coconut cream, and cook for 2 minutes or until heated through and banana blossoms have changed color. Serve with rice, naan and chutneys.

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Break, 2013 through mid 2016

During this time, we continued to garden and keep a small flock of goats.  We were somewhat discouraged with the difficulties of growing garden vegetables which do much better in temperate zones.  The calabaza pumpkin was our great success, and we produced hundreds of pounds of pumpkins during those years.  We saved the seeds, shared them with friends, and selectively improved our pumpkin line which we began in 2004.

Late 2016 opened a new and exciting chapter in which we began our food forest journey...

Stay tuned!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Another Doeling on St. Patrick's Day

Gladys and Patti, moments after birth - 3/17/13
We had a nice St. Patrick's Day yesterday.  We were in and out, checking on the kids that were born last week, making sure they were ok, as we had them outside most of the afternoon.  We had been checking on Gladys, our other pregnant doe, and noticed by early afternoon that the ligaments around her lower back had softened. 

When we put the kids away for the night, we went back to check on Gladys.  We found her in the goat shelter, lying down and straining.  We all scrambled, thinking she would have to give birth there; but somehow, we managed to get her to stand up and walk most of the way to the birthing stall.  Birth was imminent, and she gave up walking two thirds of the way there.  We were concerned about the weather and that it might start raining, so we had to improvise with and old sheet, making a sling to carry her the rest of the way.  She was pushing by this point!  We got her settled in just in time to see the beginning of the bubble showing.  Soon thereafter, I saw the nose and hoofs - what a relief it is for me to see that the baby is coming in the right direction!  All I had to do was clean her face when her head came through.  About a minute later, with the next push, I gently helped pull her out, dried her up a bit, made sure her nose was clear, then place her by mama's face. 

We gave Gladys some Nutri Drench - a vitamin drink with glucose which is advertised to be absorbed into the bloodstream within a few minutes.  Both she and Legacy did seem to liven up a bit after having it.  We want to make sure they bond with their kidlings during those first minutes, and that they will be able to stand as soon as possible for them to nurse.

Mission accomplished!

Patti will be a welcome addition to our herd.  The two that were born last week will be moving to other homes.  Ruby will be going to Whiteacre Farm up in Gainesville, where Legacy came from, as that was part of the arrangement we made with them. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Kids - 5 days old

The dogs have been over the moon about the new kids.  So much so, that we've had to keep them separated for now.  They just want to love them in their big Great Pyrenee way.  So, there is a fence between them, especially when we aren't there to watch.  I don't think they would hurt them intentionally, but the kids get panicky when they are surrounded by such big bears.

Basking in the sun after running and jumping around.  They are really fun to watch...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We celebrated St. Patrick's Day with food - Michael wouldn't have it any other way.  The drink on the right is home-brewed mead.  We had Sweet Pea Soup, Irish Corned Beef Stew w/ Cabbage, Carrots & Potatoes, and Soda Bread. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

First time out for kidlings

Legacy and her two kids, born 3/12/13
The new kids spent an hour yesterday, under our watchful eyes, meeting the herd.  Legacy was out for longer, even though she wasn't too happy at first that we took the kids back to the barn stall. 
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