Looking for a New Owner

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Due to personal circumstances, I must end my time with Go Local St. Croix.  If anyone is interested in picking up this site, please email me at stxjuliekay@gmail.com.  I will leave the site up until my subscription expires for anyone who would like to refer back to previous posts as a reference.

Keep on going local, St. Croix!

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Homeland Security

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Fruits

St Croix Source: Community Supported Agriculture Taking Root in the V.I.

This is the time of year that we all start thinking a bit more about the most common natural disaster in the Virgin Islands:  Hurricanes.

I’m already seeing online reports about the current tropical storm to the Southeast of St. Croix – Chantal – and today it’s making me think about one of the aspects of buying and eating locally that people don’t think of as often.  And that aspect is – food security.

Less than 1% of the food eaten in the Virgin Islands is grown locally, according to an independent study performed for the St. Croix Farmers’ Cooperative.  And what that means is that we are tremendously dependent upon the continued supply chain of boatloads of food arriving weekly on our island – food that travels thousands of miles to make it to our plates !  We are always one natural disaster away from that supply chain coming to a halt.  What would happen if there was a large enough disaster that the boats simply couldn’t come for a while?  I can tell you what would happen, we would all be eating out of the bush, and we would rapidly deplete the fish in our ocean.  Iguana and mongoose might just become new ingredients on our tables.  Hermit crabs might become a new delicacy.  Tan tan seed pods are edible, and we might just be eating a lot of tan tan salads.  Personally, I would rather not get to that point!

By buying locally, and eating locally, every dollar you spend goes towards supporting our local farmers, and maintaining (and hopefully increasing) our local food supply.  This is TRUE homeland security folks, as we are building up our local food safety net for the possibility of a natural disaster.  By supporting our local food economy, we are supporting our local community, and each other.

So next time you’re buying meat or produce in the grocery store that wasn’t grown or raised locally, please consider what that dollar you are about to spend is supporting – is it supporting our local food economy and security at home?  Or is it supporting a corporation somewhere across the ocean?  Every dollar spent is a vote for the future – and I hope we all continue to vote for OUR future, here on St. Croix and in the VI – keep our food money, and our food security – Local!

The Wacky and Wonderful Jackfruit

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So on Saturday, my husband went alone to do the produce shopping (I was sleeping in after two weeks of family visits).  I figured he’d buy the usual – cucumbers, okra, papaya, mangoes, eggs, greens etc. etc.  I did NOT, however, expect him to come home with this:

Jackfruit

And what is this, you may ask?  This, my friends, is a jackfruit.  One of nature’s largest edible fruits, if not THE largest (let me do some research and get back to you).  This particular jackfruit was about 15″ long from stem to tip, give or take an inch.  You may remember the photo of them growing on the tree in Aberra Bulbulla’s orchard – and I believe that Doug bought this one from him.

Jackfruit are prized in the Far East, and there are many recipes created to cook with them.  You can also just eat them straight, as we chose to do with this one as a first experiment.  Jackfruit also grows throughout the Caribbean and is considered a delicacy (and a full meal) by those who enjoy its delicate fruity flavor.  It can be cooked and prepared in recipes green, or wait until it’s ripe for out of hand eating and sweeter delicious flavor.

I will warn you though, that it is not a fruit for those with a queasy stomach.  A ripe jackfruit such as this one gives off an odor reminiscent of sweet sweaty feet.  It isn’t particularly terrible, but it isn’t particularly pleasant either.  This is due to the amount of latex in the skin, which is the next hurdle to get past.  The sap is very sticky, and doesn’t wash off of your skin with soap – rubbing your skin with oil is the way to remove it.

Gloves

To cut open our jackfruit, we grabbed an old pizza box (local pizza, of course) to serve as the cutting surface and to catch the sap and juice and so on.  My husband – whose hands are modeling for me in this demo – wore gloves to keep them from getting too sticky, and we got out a large serrated knife and a bottle of grapeseed oil to grease it with (again to stop the sticky sap).

Cutting the jackfruit

Cutting the jackfruit wasn’t hard.  A thin layer of oil on the knife, and it cut right through the skin easily into the soft fruit interior.  We cut it more of less straight down from stem to tip to make it easier to remove the fruit “pods” inside, and then my husband pulled the two halves apart.  But this is where it gets really insane.

photo 2

AAAAAAGGGGHHHHHH!!!!  *hyperventilates*

*catching breath*  Okay, okay, it’s not that bad.  The interior of the jackfruit may – ah – look like some sort of terrible alien dissection experiment gone wrong, but remember – IT’S A FRUIT.  Those aren’t really organs and spines and tentacles inside.  Trust me.  And the sweet scent is actually amazing!  This was the point when I started to think I might be okay actually eating some of this behemoth.

Fruit "pod"

This is what you’re going for.  Nestled all inside the strands of flesh are the fruit “pods.”  Each pod contains a seed which is also edible when it is boiled.

Seed

Splitting open the pod with a finger reveals the seed, which you pull out and set aside.  The fruit “pods” are then put in their own dish, and they are ready to eat!

pods

But of course the question is – Julie, what do they taste like?  They actually taste wonderful!  They are sweet and citrus-y and fruity all at the same time.  One of my friends says that they taste like Froot Loops, which I definitely can taste, and another friend has told me that jackfruit is the inspirational flavor for Juicy Fruit gum!  And that is really what they smell and taste like – outside of their latex skin, the scent is definitely reminiscent of Juicy Fruit.

We ate this jackfruit simply as you see it here, as fruits.  After a day in the refrigerator, they actually set up and had the consistency of peaches.  I could see using them in various recipes and smoothies that call for peaches, and they would be quite delicious!  There are also many recipes available on the internet that I have yet to try.

The seeds we boiled with salt for about 1/2 hour, and then peeled off their membranes and ate them.  They have a starchy consistency and taste, a bit like a fruity sweet potato or chestnut.  My husband enjoyed them more than me, but they weren’t bad.

Young jackfruit is also available canned, and is catching on in the states as a meat substitute for vegans in BBQ.  I may get brave enough to try it!  But for now, we’ve enjoyed this first foray into the wacky jackfruit.  If you get the chance to buy and try one, you should!  They are well worth the bit of creepy factor for the delicious fruit.  Happy hunting!

Tasting the “Bee Kind” Life

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I recently was lucky enough to be invited to a private local mead tasting at eat @ Cane Bay on a day the restaurant was closed for business.  Wanda Wright, owner of Wright Apiary and local mead artisan, asked myself, Katherine Pugliese (eat @ Cane Bay and the St. Croix Food & Wine Experience), and Roger Shepard (Premier Wine & Spirits) to sample her meads in preparation for her attendance at upcoming food and wine shows.

Wanda Wright

Meet Wanda Wright.  Local beekeeper, honey producer, mead artisan, owner of Wright Apiary, and all around amazing and wonderful person.  Wanda is an eternally youthful soul with a big smile and a heart to match.  She gives the best hugs!  And the flavors of her meads reflect the love that she puts into them.

Mead Varieties

For those of you who may not know what mead is, it is also known as “honey wine.”  It is fermented honey and water, and the flavor can range from sweet to dry, depending upon the age and the ingredients added to the mead.  Meads may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling, and they are served at all temperatures, from room temperature to chilled.

Wanda adds local fruits and spices to her meads, and she has six different varieties available – carambola, suriname cherry, mango, yellow plum, passion fruit, and guava.  It is important to note that these are not flavors – the mead carries only the lightest essence of flavor from each of these ingredients.  Rather, each added fruit juice to the original honey prior to being created into mead adds notes of distinction to the final product.  You can read the notes on the final tasting sheet for each variety.

Wright Apiary meads are recommended to be served at room temperature or slightly chilled, before or after dinner.  They make a delightful drink just for sipping while watching a beautiful St. Croix sunset as well.

Mead Tasting

Wanda gave us some interesting facts about mead, such as “mead has been enjoyed for centuries by nobles, notables, and ordinary people, but especially by lovers, honoring their union in a month long celebration, punctuated with drinking “honey wine,” giving rise to our modern day tradition of the honeymoon.”  Mead truly is a drink of love!

If you’d like to purchase and try Wright Apiary meads, the best way to find them is by contacting Wanda Wright directly.  She can be reached at (340) 277-6727, or (340) 718-2142.  Wright Apiary honey (not mead) is also sold at ARTfarm, which you can find on my map of St. Croix farmers markets and farm stands.

I hope you get a chance to taste these wonderful meads, as I was fortunate to do, and enjoy a bit of St. Croix love.  And as Wanda says – “Bee Kind!”  Thank you Wanda, for caring for your bees, for St. Croix, and for making these wonderful products for us.

Try Some Free Fruit Tomorrow (6/19) at Southgate!

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TOMORROW (6/19) at Southgate – want to try a star apple or an egg fruit, but are afraid to spend the money to commit? Aberra Bulbulla will be giving away FREE star apples and egg fruits at his Southgate farm stand tomorrow when you mention that you saw this post on Go Local St. Croix!

He will be there from 9am to 2pm, quantities available while they last, so go get yours! Please feel free to share with your friends as well!

Don’t forget to not eat the skin of the star apple, peel and eat the tender fruit, and it is delicious. And egg fruits make wonderful smoothies!  Here are some videos to get you started:

Meet Local Farmer: Aberra Bulbulla

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Writing this post is a treat that I’ve been anticipating for some time now, because it meant that I was able to visit Aberra Bulbulla in his beautiful St. Croix orchard.

Aberra's Orchard

Aberra moved to St. Croix over 20 years ago, and worked as a research analyst at UVI as well as in the Cooperative Extension Service, specializing in irrigation.  He brought his love of tropical fruit trees with him to the island, and began planting his four-acre orchard 15 years ago – an orchard that is now full of mature trees loaded with delicious and beautiful fruits.

photo 3 (2)

And yes, Aberra’s smile grows larger as he walks amongst his trees, his passion and joy and enthusiasm rolling from him in waves that you can’t help but be caught up in, and feel a little happier for the moment being spent with him.

Aberra and his tree

Aberra is normally more quiet and reserved.   Such as he won’t tell you that he was Farmer of the Year four times at the Ag Fair, with the entire fair named after him in 2010.  He also won’t mention that he was Crop Farmer of the Year last year (2013) either.  But when you find those facts out, and ask him about them, he will smile broadly and say, “Yes, that was me” with no expectation of applause or fanfare.

Sugar Apple

Which means that Aberra is one of those wonderful farmers who – in my opinion – we don’t celebrate enough.  Because Aberra has not only created an orchard for his retirement, he has also planted into St. Croix’s future.  He has given us a blessing and heritage that few consider doing – and for me, the gratitude for this gift to our community runs deep.

Sapote Trees

Such as this tree – the “Mommy Apple.”  Many on St. Croix speak fondly of this fruit in their childhood, and most trees have all but disappeared.  But Aberra has one growing on his farm, and more on the way.

Mommy Apple

Or this unusual fruit – the chocolate fruit, one of many persimmons growing in the orchard, and my husband’s favorite.  Before Aberra, these fruits were tropical flavors that were not growing here, or were growing here very little.  But now they are here, and we are able to keep them growing for future generations.

Chocolate Fruit

Or the jackfruit tree!  I must admit to being seriously intimidated by this fruit, but it is quite popular in Asian dishes, and one of these days I’ll attempt my hand with one – each one being the size of a watermelon, or larger!

Jackfruit Tree

And of course, there’s an abundance of mangos, avocado, coconut, eggfruit, starfruit, guava, and many other local fruits, in several different varieties.

Orchard

And in addition to the fruit trees, Aberra is also growing decorative flowers, and has a greenhouse for starting plants that contains one of the island’s only miracle fruit trees.  The miracle fruit is called a “miracle” because of its ability to change a person’s sense of taste, leading to some entertaining experiences.  This is a really delicate fruit that lasts only about 12 hours, so having the opportunity to sample one is a rare treat indeed!

Miracle Fruit Tree

Aberra insisted on creating a giant bouquet for me of flowers and ornamental leaves, which I took home and enjoyed for many days.  I must admit to grinning from ear to ear as I walked behind him with this lavish gift.

Aberra's Bouquet

You can buy fruit from Aberra on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Southgate, from around 8:30 am to 1 pm.  The location can be found on my farm stand map.  Right now Aberra is bringing malay apples, coconuts, mangoes, eggfruit, and star apples for sale.  Avocados will be in another month or so, and there are more chocolate fruits and sapotes and sapodillas on the way, and guavas and surinam cherries and…well, the list goes on and on.  With over 300 fruit trees, there’s always something growing in abundance.

Mango

But there is one gift that Aberra exceeds in abundance even more than his fruit trees – and that asset that he holds is kindness.  Aberra is one of the rarest and kindest souls on the planet, and I find great joy and inspiration in being his friend.  I hope that by visiting his orchard with me, you do too.

Why We are Blessed

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English: Adoption of Genetically Engineered Cr...

English: Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S. HT = herbicide tolerance. BT = insect resistance. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something I think about quite often in regards to our local food and agriculture industry on St. Croix is how truly blessed we are.

Think about it – in the States (and around the world) right now there is a huge debate going on over Genetically Modified foods, as well as several harmful pesticides and herbicides (neonicotinoids and RoundUp, to name two)  that are commonly used in food production in the states. A lot of people are quite concerned about these food sources and the way in which they’re grown, not only from a health perspective, but from an environmental perspective as well.  There are theories that pollinators like bees are being decimated from the continued use of these pesticides, and I tend to agree.

Also people are concerned about the growth of large factory farms (agribusiness) and the loss of the small family farmer, and the impact that that loss has on agriculture as a culture in the USA.  There’s a lot that can be discussed here, but suffice it to say that the opinion that I see most often is one that when a few large companies control the food supply, we, as a population of people, lose control over the way that the food we eat is grown and prepared.

But regardless of any personal stance on GMOs, and large factory farms in general, we are blessed on St. Croix.  Why?  Because right now we don’t even have to enter into those arguments, because for the most part our local food is not grown like that here.  And if I can do my part with Go Local St. Croix, hopefully we will never have GMO crops or dangerous chemicals like I mention above being used here in our local food supply.  Yes, there are farmers here who do use non-organic poisons, but on the whole more and more St. Croix farmers are moving towards organic (or low-impact) growing techniques because those farmers care about the food that they grow – because they care about the people that consume it.  And the more that our local community in return shows that it cares about not only the food that it has to eat, but about our local farmers as well?  Well, only good things can come from that, my friend.

We are blessed here.  We may live on a small rock in the middle of the ocean, but in many ways that carries a gift for us – a gift of our own food identity, and our own determination of our food sources for our future, as we carry the heritage and culture of the Crucian past into the future.  Personally, I’m excited, and I’m doing my best to help us to always be blessed to not enter into the world of debate over agribusiness and factory farming – because our local Crucian farmers will take us into the future.

Go Local St. Croix – Local Food, Local LOVE.  We are blessed!