Posted on 16 May 2013 | 1 response
In case you haven’t seen via facebook, Carly (that’s me) is currently in Perth, Australia, visiting friends, looking after babies and hanging out in their suburban permaculture food forest, Thyme Lords Cottage. My friends are aiming to become as close as possible to self sufficient one day. I am loving spending time with their 2 year old and newborn, as well as seeing what they are growing and cooking!!
The mum in this beautiful little family developed allergies around 15 years ago – to wheat, soy and tomatoes. As you can imagine, this has made cooking a little difficult, buying anything processed is next to impossible and of course, she really misses the flavours, the diversity of food options, and the rich tomato-based sauces, especially spaghetti bolognese! The great thing is that she’s creative and has developed a tasty alternative that we made up this week and I want to share with you today. This sauce has a wonderful flavour that is slightly sour from the citric and malic acid in the tamarillos and sweet from the red capsicums… check out the recipe here (click for a bigger size)… we used 25 tamarillos, 25 onions and 25 capsicums for our batch
Normally, the fruit is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. When lightly sugared and cooled, it makes a refreshing breakfast dish. They give a unique flavour when made into a compote, or added to stews (e.g. Boeuf Bourguignon), hollandaise, chutneys, and curries. They are also tasty and decorative in, for example, radicchio salads. Appetizing desserts using this fruit include bavarois and combined with apples in a strudel. In Colombia, Ecuador and Sumatra, fresh tamarillos are frequently blended together with water and sugar to make a juice. It is also available as a commercially pasteurized purée. The flesh of the tamarillo is tangy and mildly sweet, and may be compared to kiwifruit, tomato, or passion fruit. The skin and the flesh near it have an unpleasant bitter taste, and usually aren’t eaten raw.
This sauce is pretty healthy too. Tamarillos are one of the very low calorie fruits – 100 g of fresh fruit contain just 31 calories and they contain slightly more calories, fat, and protein than tomatoes. (100 g tomato has 18 calories). Nevertheless, they have good amounts of health benefiting plant nutrients such as dietary fiber, minerals, anti-oxidants, and vitamins. They are high in antioxidants and especially the chlorogenic acid helps lower blood sugar levels in type-II diabetes mellitus. We used the red variety but apparently the yellow and gold varieties contain more vitamin A and carotenes than red varieties and the yellow tamarillos are also a good source of carotenes, and xanthins which are known to possess antioxidant properties and, together with vitamin A, are essential for visual health. Further, vitamin A is also required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin. Consumption of natural vegetables and fruits rich in flavonoids helps to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers. Tamarillos are also a good source of B-complex vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, and pyridoxine (vitamin B-6), which help as co-factors for enzymes in metabolism as well as in various synthetic functions inside the body. Lastly, tamarillos are a very good source of potassium. 100 g fresh fruit has 321 mg or 7% of this mineral. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids helps controlling heart rate and blood pressure; thus, counters the bad influences of sodium. In addition, the fruit contains a small amount of minerals such as copper, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc and iron.
Since we separated the juice from the seeds whilst making the sauce, we saved the seeds for planting too.
Tamarillo (Solanum betaceum; syn. Cyphomandra betacea; also called tree tomato) is a small tree or shrub in the flowering plant family Solanaceae (along with tomatoes, eggplant, chilli peppers, etc.). They are thought to originate in the semitropical high altitude Andes forests of Brazil and Peru and are also native to Chile, Ecuador, Colombia and Bolivia. They are erect, branching, shrubby, fast growing evergreens. They have large, heart-shaped leaves, 15-20 cm long. The flowers are small, pale pink and fragrant. The trees are generally grown from cuttings (but my friends have had great success with growing seedlings) and are very frost-tender when young. It will bear fruit after two years and a single mature tree in good soil will carry more fruit than a normal family can eat for about 3 months. A well-nourished tree can produce up to 66 kilograms of fruit in a year. When the tree is about 1 to 1.5 meters in height it is advisable to cut the roots on one side and lean the tree to the other (direction of the midday sun at about 30 to 45 degrees). This allows fruiting branches to grow from all along the trunk rather than just at the top. Tamarillos need a rich, moist, well-drained soil. It will not tolerate waterlogging or drought and the roots are very shallow, so keep it well mulched. Commercially it is only suitable for frost-free subtropical and warm temperate areas, however the range for a home orchard is wider, as it survives light frost, by dropping affected leaves and shooting back in spring. They require protection from wind and frost.
So, whether you have tomato allergies, enjoy exotic fruits or wanted to learn a little about this great permaculture plant, I hope you got a little something out of this post… feel free to share your recipes with us too!
Posted on 6 May 2013 | 10 responses
Relaxing in each other’s arms and sipping our local organic coffee we are now enjoying the stunning subtropical vista of the mountainous Andes from an eco-lodge in Coroico, Bolivia. We are surrounded by diversity, coffee plants, avocado trees, bananas, hummingbirds, butterflies and myriad of insects. It feels like bliss, however this moment of peace and quiet has been well deserved…
When we were preparing for the 4 day Choro Trek (most people do it in 3), we knew it could be difficult as we had to carry all of our camping gear, first aid kit, food, water and clothing to suit everything from the cold dry Altiplano at 5000m to the subtropics at 1300m. I was already skeptical. With myself only weighing 43kg my pack weighed in at a hefty 16kg and Jean’s at 22kg. However, everywhere online said this was an ‘easy’ trek, downhill all the way. We could do it!
We woke up at 430am to get ready and travel to La Cumbre, the starting point near La Paz, so we could begin walking by 730am. The view was breathtaking! Bare, enormous mountains towered over us as we descended into the valley. Iced waters became flowing rivers. Llamas, small yellow flowers and red beetles appeared. We were thrilled to observe this gradually changing landscape and so happy to be walking this ancient Inca path. I soon began struggling with the weight but the view kept morale high until my left knee gave way. Thankfully Jean had packed some knee braces and while it certainly helped with support it didn’t take the pain away and I wondered how on earth I would continue for 3 more days. I won’t lie – there were tears! When we finally reached our first campsite, at Challapampa, the vegetation was already dramatically different. In contrast to the bare rocks at the beginning of the day we were now surrounded by lots of greenery, including large trees and bushes – in just 9.5 hours of walking. We settled in for the night, cooked our dinner and decided we’d need to reduce the weight we were carrying for the coming days.
Day 2 of the trek started with an adorable white puppy introducing herself over breakfast. We called her Sheepy because of her fluffy white appearance. I was in pain. My muscles were stiff but more worryingly, my knee had not improved. So, we gave some of our heaviest (canned) food to some locals and Jean transferred all of the heavy items to his backpack, leaving me with a lighter load. Now he was carrying probably more than 25kg! I felt so guilty. We set off, surprised to see Sheepy leading the way. She actually ended up staying with us through to the end of the trek and her presence helped me enormously. That second day, there were more tears but that little girl with her joyfulness and desire to be with us kept spirits high. During the pain, I would feel my heart swell with happiness as I looked ahead to see Sheepy playfully observe the butterflies rising from the piles of manure, running through the wild strawberries, grabbing our walking sticks, following right on Jean’s heals or waiting ahead for us to catch up. Why was she with us? Where would she go? We had many questions about her, but for the time being we were loving getting to know her. That day passed without seeing another person – at all. We camped high in the mountains at Buena Vista with a couple of chickens and a cat for company. That night as darkness set in we saw the silhouettes of mules and my hopes were raised that we could finish the trek with help. When Sheepy saw these seemingly threatening creatures, she ran to my side and growled at them. Was she scared? Was she protecting us? Why? Whatever her reasons, there’s no doubt that she had decided to choose us – that night she slept right outside our tent door, occasionally growling at disturbances in the night and joyfully waking us by tapping her paw on our tent before jumping all over us excitedly.
Day 3 and the realisation that we would have to finish this trek unassisted set in. Actually, this helped me a lot. Despite the pain, I focused on simply placing one foot after the other, knowing that this was the only way forward, the only option and no way out. I was making sense of things again – my internal battle, finding gratitude despite pain and falling in love with Jean all over as I appreciated his support, love and strength. I thought about something I was told by a friend… there are 2 ways to get to know someone, through talking and through doing. It’s true that during this trek, due to our physical exhaustion, deep conversations were limited but through walking together, supporting each other, being kind with one another and sharing responsibilities we felt our respect and love for each other grow deeper.
I also accepted that a) despite the ultimate changes in altitude the walk itself was NOT all downhill b) carrying all our own gear (especially food for 4 days) makes any walk more challenging and c) I was not physically fit enough prior to doing this. Lastly, being in nature with no services en route (contrary to what the maps indicated) meant it was our first true self-reliant expedition . This meant that we were fully responsible and had to constantly think ahead in terms of access to water (normally collecting and purifying stream water) and finding a balance between walking more and choosing a place for the night. With no guide and inaccurate maps (we had 3 maps that were all different!), these decisions were important to our safety and well-being. We were really making sense of self-reliance… In saying that, our struggles were both a reflection of Bolivia`s poor organisation and tourism support and our limited experience. Many tourists hire a guide despite the path being clear and we can understand this decision as it takes the pressure off. Also, we were surprised to meet some locals as well as a handful of foreigners actually walking in the opposite direction, from low to high altitude! Whilst walking mostly downhill was tough on our knees, we can’t imagine doing this trail with all our gear the other way round!
Our third day ended at Bella Vista, but not before a 45minute climb up the aptly named Devil Uphill Slope. It was here that we were once again reminded that this is the ancient so-called Inca trail. This pre-Columbian road network, which actually preceded the Inca Empire, was one of the most extensive and better infrastructures of its time, linking what is now Colombia in the North all the way South to what is now Argentina and Chile. The pavement, platforms, terraces, channels, contention walls and other formal works of construction show evidence of its continued use from ancient times until present day. The ‘Choro Trek’ constituted one of the principle access routes to the Northern Yungas where coca was produced and used as a stimulant for manual work and for performing rituals. It’s hard to believe that this path has been walked and maintained throughout centuries and it felt humbling to be part of this.
Day 4 we woke with enthusiasm, partly due to a very excited puppy who was bursting with energy and love to start the day. It’s hard not to feel good when engaged with that purity. What struck us most with Sheepy was her loyalty. She had only known us for a few days but whenever we met other hikers she would be wary of them and constantly come back to us, choosing us. We thought about our friend’s facebook page, Known not Owned. Sheepy had chosen us and we had been blessed to get to know her but now we worried about what would happen next. Should we take her home? Would it be right to confine her to a small urban apartment in La Paz? But would it be right to leave her to fend for herself out here? When we arrived at Sandillani, a stop for hikers 3 hours before the end, we noticed that the elderly man living there was alone and his face lit up on seeing Sheepy so we suggested that she could stay with him. My heart broke as we tied her up to prevent her from following us, but we really thought this was the best decision. As we left, I cried thinking about how this beautiful free puppy was now restrained but I hoped she would have a better life there. However, 45 minutes further we were suddenly surprised and thrilled by a very excited Sheepy who had chased after us as soon as the elderly man had released her!
Even though we were close to the end of the trail the last 2 hours proved very difficult as the sun was hitting us hard, the path seemed endless and the humid, dense, claustrophobic jungle felt heavy. Snakes, parrots and other wildlife continuously sharpened our senses. As we entered Chairo we felt a growing sense of pride, joy and relief. We had made it! The most difficult was now to say goodbye to Sheepy to leave her to live her life as she chooses. I don’t think there was any right decision but we are so grateful she accompanied us on our journey. In some ways I wonder the real reason she was with us… her lively presence helped me overcome my struggles and taught me, yet again, about this incredible connection we have with all other beings.
Looking back on these 4 days we feel grateful for what we have learnt and seen. Although difficult at times, walking the Choro Trek was also a great adventure and armed with this experience, we are looking forward to our next hike!
Enjoy the following photos which are from our time relaxing in Coroico….
Posted on 25 April 2013 | 1 response
Today became the day for seed saving. It wasn’t what I had planned but it’s what I ended up doing since I had a stomach bug, was lacking energy and, as it turns out, one of our mizuna plants was well and truly dried and ready to drop her seeds.
I’m not very experienced with seed saving and propagating but I try to learn whenever an opportunity arises. I’m keen to learn more and I figure nature teaches me if I’m willing to observe and spend time with her.
While I was pulling tiny black seeds from fragile dried pods I had [...] Continue Reading…
Posted on 22 April 2013 | 3 responses
Recently we posted this photograph of our lounge room garden on facebook where you can see some of the plants we are growing indoors. In addition to these, we are also growing more tatsoi, mizuna, spinach, rosemary, laurel tree, oregano, thyme, parsley, mint and some cucumber seedlings have started to take off!
As I’ve mentioned before, we don’t produce enough to make any huge contribution to our food supply but we enjoy doing what we can experimenting growing and seed saving indoors, at an altitude of 3,200 m (La Paz, Bolivia)! Our lounge room is perfectly situated to make the [...] Continue Reading…
Posted on 1 April 2013 | No responses
When we arrive at the Lazy Dog Inn near Huaraz in Peru, we feel like we are coming home. Not only do Diana and Wayne run the eco-lodge like their family home welcoming guests, but for us, the way the way they run the property and engage with the neighbouring communities is exactly as we would like our home to be. Following is a little video we have made to share some of our photos with you this unique place; it’s our first time creating such a video, so feedback is welcome… we hope you also enjoy the jazz! We provide more information [...] Continue Reading…
Posted on 26 October 2012 | Enter your password to view comments.
Posted on 5 October 2012 | 3 responses
Okay, so this definitely isn’t a health food but with a French man in this household we needed to try a healthier version of nutella… also one that doesn’t use palm oil, contributing to deforestation!
What’s the deal with palm oil, you ask? Well, check out this this article (among many!), which reminds us that in 2012 things have gotten even worse than the headlines from 2007/2008, when the huge ecological impact of Indonesia’s relentlessly expanding palm oil plantations first really started being scrutinised. A report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tells us that the palm oil situation is even worse than we [...] Continue Reading…
Posted on 11 September 2012 | No responses
We almost always have something sitting on our bench sprouting away! Here is a small infographic we did up about sprouting:
There are many methods of sprouting – you can buy a special sprouter, use a clay sprouter, a special jar with a mesh screw on lid, or keep it simple like we do by reusing a glass jar and attaching a piece of tule with a rubber band. The process is really very easy! It’s just a matter of firstly soaking the seeds (see the appropriate time for the specific seed below), then keeping them moist by rinsing [...] Continue Reading…
Posted on 4 September 2012 | No responses
You might remember our post on practicing gratitude… but wonder to yourself, ‘how do I stay feeling grateful when bad things are happening?’
Well, honestly, in the past I haven’t been that good at seeing positives during times of stress. My emotions tend to overtake me and then much later, when all has calmed down I try to reflect on how I could have handled things better. However, last night I realised that I’ve come a long way in the past few years.
Let me explain… I took this photo at around 530am this morning as the sun was coming up and [...] Continue Reading…
Posted on 1 September 2012 | 1 response
We are so happy with how our homemade coconut milk turns out. While we can get fresh coconuts we won’t buy the canned stuff anymore! This is what we discovered through this process: one coconut = 400mL coconut water, 1L coconut milk and lots (maybe 1kg) of coconut pulp!!
Also, we are pretty lucky here to get such a range of food. Did you know that Bolivia contains 40% of ALL animal and plant life in the world (called biological diversity or biodiversity). Its tropical rainforests and Pantanal Wetlands are some of the most biologically abundant ecosystems in the [...] Continue Reading…