Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Transitional Time of Year

Here in the tropics there are seasons. They aren't like the ones you get in colder parts of the country but they are none-the-less noticeable seasons. Right now we are transitioning into moist, thunderstorm, tropical depressionish more humid and hot kind of times. This makes a difference when it comes to gardening and the general routine. Most days still start with sun but usually get the cloud buildup with huge thunder in the later afternoon. Sometimes we'll get a refreshing rain shower around 5pm and sometimes it may be a little earlier and disrupt the hang-the-clothes-out routine. The cats are in sleep-only mode due to the heat and tend to ramble more at night once it cools down. When it is raining they know they have a good thing and settle in inside. Blanco and Pollo are having a moment during one of these hotter afternoons.
This is kind of a transitional time for fruit as well. All year we wait for mangoes and aguacate. First the lower elevations get the "teaser" mangoes - the wild ones with lots of fibers in them. These are good for chicken mango curry, preserves, etc. but the big fiber less mangoes are the ones you wait for! About the time the local small ones start dropping and rotting (there is no way to eat 5 million mangoes) the good ones start to color up and the harvest begins. About now they too are finished - down to the last handful of ones we can reach on the ladder with the long picker. Gone is the smell of smashed mango on the driveway from all that have fallen and we are savoring the final few. The freezer is packed with mango slices for smoothies, purees for on cheesecake etc. Although this time is kind of sad, it means the avocados are in full swing and it is avocados every day at least a couple times a day. These are not your little black Hass avocados either - these puppies weigh in at 2 to 2 1/2 pounds each! The last harvest was 21 pounds!
So what can a person do with all these avocados? Guacamole of course - with culantro (from the yard), onions, vinegar, cumin, salt, pepper, and tomato. Avocado sandwiches. Sliced on salads...and my favorite way to use a bunch at once - chocolate pudding! Sounds disgusting but it isn't green and it tastes great. It is a raw food thing that is packed with nutrients not demolished by heat (cooking). So you chuck a few things into the food processor and whir away- an avocado, sweetener (agave, honey, or dissolved white if you have to), unsweetened cocoa powder (or carob if you like that - I'm not a fan), and that is it! Sometimes I will add a decadent 40% less fat coconut milk or unsweetened soy milk (I like West Soy). You could add dairy if you wanted. You could add vanilla or almond extract or a touch of salt as well. The "good" fat from the avocado whirs up into a creamy pudding that is delicious! Here are a few of our remaining good mangoes - they, like most stuff here, are huge!
So as we transition out of mangoes and into avocados the days get these wonderful thunderstorms that most of the time just stop right behind our house. We get the huge booms for hours but generally don't get the rain from them - that stays in Mayaguez!

This is a cool flower that is a succulent/desert thing. Here in San German we are dry enough to be able to grow about everything. This flower starts out like a little package and then kind of "pops" to open into this big, flat kind of flower that is only open for a day or so. It attracts flys (I rarely see flys except around this thing).

I am kind of hoping the new place doesn't have chickens. We end up with everything on our property here because we don't have dogs. We have had up to 40 chickens roaming around (I wasn't feeding them),a turkey, guinea fowl, the big green iguana that whipped me, ducks and of course cats. I have been picking up all fallen avocados since they seem to be kitten attractors and we can not have any more cats! If I drive up the driveway and see little faces munching on avocados I have to step in, so hopefully with no avocados there will be no more cats. Our last arrival was a year ago (Rip) and despite having 3 cats who want to join in we have stabilized at 11. We suspect some will take off once we try to move them but that is how it'll go and we can only do what we can do. I don't want chickens around because their crap pretty much dissolves paint, they circle the house and are quite demanding (I have been known to give the babies food), and they scratch around all the plants. On the flip side they are like dogs and follow me around the yard, Tuca loves Big Red, the chicks are really cute and I am sure they are eating a bazillion bugs. It might be nice for them not to be around though, although in Puerto Rico you are never free of roosters! Big Red's "bitches" like to peer into the porch when I am there. They sit on the doorstep, and if I leave the screen door open they will come in. Even I am not that much of a crazy animal lover. I have seen them eying the pulled out screen the cats us as a cat door. I have limits.
So being in the tropics you would think vegetable gardening would be easy. It isn't. What ever you can't grow, no one else can either so it is always the same things you can find (unless you go to Sams Club - hurray for Sams). Guineos (bananas), platanos, mangoes, avocados, quenepas and calabaza (a kind of pumpkin) are the things you find now.

I haven't seen parcha (passion fruit) in the stores before and I don't understand why not. It is awesome as juice and it makes a nice tangy glaze, curd,salad dressing or marinade. You can freeze the juice and the vines are prolific! We are actually out of parcha right now. In an effort to make moving easier (if it ever happens) I have been using things up and not replacing them. The last of the frozen parcha is gone and it'll be a few weeks for green fruit to ripen on the vine. The vines are a couple years old and need replacing (we won't be here) so we are out of parcha until I get my parcha starts started at the new place. Even quenepas are just about over. So what fruit it next? The carambola is blooming again so those are a few months away. Oranges (chinas), chinojas (orange/grapefruit mix), lemons, coffee. It'll be slim pickins for awhile. Fortunately it'll be time to plant vegetables in another month or so. If  you plant cucumbers or tomatoes right now if they fruit and you get a big rainstorm you end up with balloon animals - cucumbers that are skinny, then fat, then skinny again....and tomatoes that crack. I've got plans for vegetables but we have to move first and at this rate it will never happen. So here is the latest harvest in this transitional time. The final parcha, some of the last quenepas, mid-season avocados and a few not-quite-ready but ready-enough lemons. Where else can you live where you can live like this?


casas tres pequeñas said...

when do you move?

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

At this rate never! First buyer couldn't get Private Mortgage Insurance, second buyer's appraisal appraised the house and denies the solar exists (at least as part of what house is worth - they don't know how to price it so they are ignoring that it is there) and the third buyer we hope will be just right. We'll know in a month (or not). Sigh. Then our contract for the house we want to buy will be expired and it will be back to square one again. Puerto Rico Does It Better!

casas tres pequeñas said...

crazy isn't it? I think our house was on the market for 2 years (mainly because it was in an estate and the family was in Germany), we just came along at the right time. I love your yard. Luckily things grow fast but I've enjoyed all your plantings so I will be watching with "baited breath" for your new property. I can't wait till we get back down (november maybe)??!!