Friday, March 20, 2009

Coco loco ponch coco part 2

Serve over cracked ice and be careful ....hick.....hick

Add white rum to your taste I used about three cups 43% proof. Add a generous dash of Angostura bitters, grated green lime peel and nutmeg.

pour into a jug and add 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk and stir until dissolved.

drain over large bowl in a colander or strainer

place in a blender covering with water and grate finely

wash and cut up into small pieces

pry the shell from the nut with the tip of a knife

Crack open the coconut with a hammer

tools of the trade for opening dry coconuts

Ponch coco is one of the traditional drinks of Martinique and one of my favorites. I was given the recipe by a good Martiniquan friend many years ago. I selected a good dry coconut, always shake the coconut to hear the water in it. If you don't hear water it is not good, please do not open you may regret it and I am speaking from experience LOL! The tools above are used to husk coconuts. I chose the little hand hoe. It took me about 10 minutes this time, it used to take me longer. After opening the coconut I then got a hammer to crack it open and then separated the meat from the shells. I used a round ended knife to pry the shell off the meat, a sharp short knife can also be used but it can slip and cut your hand. I washed the coconut and cut it up into smaller pieces. I then placed it in a blender with water and grated it finely. I left it for 10 minutes and then strained it with a colander over a large bowl. I added 2 cans of sweetened condensed milk and stirred until it dissolved. I added white rum, I used 3 cups, added a dash of Angostura bitters, grated green lime peel and grated nutmeg. Serve over cracked ice. Bottle up and place in the refrigerator. The cream will harden on the top of bottle in the refrigerator just take it out it, let it thaw a bit, shake well and serve over ice.

Gone coconuts part one

coconut jelly ready to be eaten

Fresh coconut water with coco brooms made from the fronds of the coconut. They make good outdoor brooms. The one on the right was made by an old man who comes by to collect the fronds and in return he has given me a broom.

The coconut can be referred to as the tree of life. After the devastating Tsunami in Asia, many survivors claimed that the coconut saved them from starvation. In Asia no part of the coconut is wasted and is a very viable crop. In the Caribbean it is widely used but not as much as in Asia. We use the water for babies and adults suffering from dehydration, from diarrhoea and as a regular water for drinking. . I have been yearning for some coconut water for several days now, not wanting to hurt my sore shoulder I kept hesitating about picking some. Today I finally got the courage to attempt to pick some of these yellow coconuts. These are very sweet and also known in Trinidad as Chinese coconuts. The tree is not very tall and produces at an early age. I found this tree when we bought the property 13 years ago. I managed to cut a bunch with my pole saw. There were nine coconuts on this bunch. I got out my machete and got to work. Many persons have lost their fingers and hands by way of the machete and coconuts. So be very careful when doing this. Some vendors here use a sharp knife and cut the top off holding the coconut in one hand. On Sunday mornings all along the highways many coconut vendors ply their trade. I 've cut the coconut at an angle exposing the jelly in the nut. I got a knife and opened the hole to pour out the water. I got exactly 8ozs from this coconut. I then cut open the coconut to extract the jelly. The jelly is the soft nut that hasn't yet hardened. This was delicious! There is a palm sugar that is derived from the nectar from the coconut flowers, it can be bought in the asian section of the supermarkets or from any store that sells Asian foods. I had never seen it until recently and have never heard of it being made in the Caribbean.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Chores I thought I'd like

I have been eyeing this bunch of bananas for the past few weeks. It will be ready in another three weeks or so if I can remember in time before the birds or the monkeys get to it. These are a short banana we call figs here on the island. They are sweeter than the regular bananas. I will have to get help picking these, I tried a few times and one large bunch came down suddenly........ it brough me down too LOL.

Yesterday I ordered a truck load of soil mix mainly for potting and mixing in the garden beds. This consists of soil, bagasse (sugar cane fibre after it has been crushed and left to decompose), sand, ashes and chicken or cow manure. It generates lots of heat so will leave it to cool down for a few days before using it.

I was passing by the pond after my chore with the chairs and couldn't resist this, any excuse not to finish the chairs.

the partially finished chair

I received my 4 white cedar adirondack in January, last Sunday George my handy man came and assembled them and reassembled one I had put together. Something about mine didn't seem right and there I was telling George how to put them together. Well they are now ready to be stained and I thought now I can do that. I started today this morning around 0900 and after an hour or so I have had enough. I am not even finished the first one but there are three more to be stained. HHHmmmmmm I think I will get Kris my weekend garden help to assist me. I was outdoor working in the sun, it became hotter and hotter so I am done! I will probably resume later in the day when the sun is going down. I should work in the shade but that was too much trouble lugging around the chairs even though they are not heavy.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bombax in bloom

Bombax or shaving brush tree

Brazilian red cloak

Bismark palm

On Saturday I visited Philip a palm grower in the parish of St. George. The St. George parish is located in the middle of the island. Philip is very knowledgeable about his palms and plants and had shown me some of his very rare palms. After a short tour of his home garden , we got into his pick up and traveled over very rough terrain to his nursery not far away. At the entrance to palm nursery I was in awe of the colours that confronted me. I saw the Bombax or shaving brush tree in full bloom. I was offered some cuttings which I gladly accepted. I have been planning to get a tree but was undecided where I would plant it since it is a very large tree. I purchased seven palms, two foxtail palms, two bottle palms, two canary date palms, and a red veined palm I can't remember the name of. I then stumbled upon this large specimen of a Brazilian red cloak, it was spectacular. I later discovered it at a nearby garden when I went to chat with a friend who then offered me two small plants. Philip took me to his mother's in law house to look at a spectacular Bismark palm and just to the side of it was this double poinsettia still in full bloom and didn't look like Christmas had come and gone. Philip also gave me two of these poinsettias for my garden. That was a great visit to his nursery and many thanks for the bonus plants.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A day on the job

I have a client who is presently landscaping a very large property on the west coast. I was contracted to supply and install water lilies in the above pond in December 2008. This pond is huge, and holds approximately sixty thousand gallons of water. As a rule before putting plants into ponds we check the pH of the water. A very low or high pH and I mean above 9 or below 6.5 is toxic to water lilies and fish, so it is important to bring it down/up to acceptable levels between 7.5 to 8.5. The pH of this pond was very high, this is typical of newly unpainted concrete ponds. Concrete leaches lime that makes the water alkaline, pH readings indicate the alkalinity or acidity of the water. Concrete ponds are usually sealed when plastering with water proofers and sealers mixed into the motar, however they do leach initially. One way of avoiding this problem is to paint the finished pond with a rubberized paint or any pond sealers that are available. We treated it for several weeks before the water lilies were installed. We used sodium bisulfate (pH lower for swimming pools) and treated several days with buckets of the stuff. We finally gave it a muriatic acid treatment putting in around 10 gallons of the stuff. That kept the pH down around 5.0 that was on the acid side which is just as bad as a high pH. We waited a week and then tested, it had risen to between 7.5 and 8.5. The client wanted the water lilies asap not really understanding the problems with new concrete ponds. We then waited for another two weeks, testing the pH on a weekly basis. The pH level had stabilised between 8 and 8.5 so it was time to install the lilies. So at the end of January this year we installed 30 water lilies. Yesterday Tuesday, after six weeks in the pond, I went to fertilize them and to remove all the dead leaves and flowers. There was one that I needed to replaced, but that was not too bad given the water conditions. It resulted in 4 medium garbage bags of debris. I spent 3 hours in the water doing this. Each plant took 8 fertilizer tablets, it was back breaking work but I thoroughly enjoyed it. I enjoyed their intoxicating perfume and the Kaleidoscopic arrangement that surrounded me. The pH is monitored on a weekly basis and we will continue to treat it if it gets out of hand. The fish are in the pond now so we have to be very careful not to lower the pH too rapidly since any sudden changes will kill the fish. I mentioned to the landscaper that the pond could take another 10 more water lilies but he says he will wait and see how they grow. I will check the lilies in the pond in another 2-3 weeks to see how the fertilizer kicks in. Water lilies are heavy feeders and must be fertilized regularly every 4-6 weeks.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

the blooming morning after

frangipani (plumeria) floating flowers and candles table centerpiece

Heliconia wagneriana one of my favorites

heliconia rostrata another favorite

Yesterday Saturday, my home and gardens was the venue for a social evening. This was for clients of my sister's business. There was a frenzy of cleaning and tidying up of the garden and the house with the help of my weekend garden helper. My house helper was not available to come and assist me so I had to forget my still painful shoulder and get to work. It started at 4 pm and finished around 8 pm. I was working putting the finishing touches to the patio and gazebo. When the first of several guests arrived and I was still in my grubby gardening clothes cutting flowers. The guests were enthralled by the garden and some asked me for personal guided tours which I had to decline. My mother and hubby assisted with the tours while I was doing my thing. Meanwhile my sister had gone to collect some extra chairs and ice for the cooler. She finally arrived ( seemed like a very long time) when almost everyone had gotten there. It was hectic in the kitchen my mum and I frying the samosas, fish fingers and preparing the snacks and drinks for around 40 people. I finally got ready around five and returned as a member of the family all washed and dressed. Well the guest loved it and wanted to come back for another social, some plan to come and visit during the day and buy a few plants. When it got dark I lit several of the garden torches scattered around the grounds. They just loved it. The next time I do something like this I will have paid help in the kitchen. Well my sister washed and cleaned up the kitchen for me for which I am most grateful. Whew what a day it was!!