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.

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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!

The Bountiful Summertime

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Mangoes in my kitchen

Ah, Summertime on St. Croix…the time of year when the pace slows down, the temperature rises a teeny tiny bit, and we all look occasionally to the East for the possibility of a storm, while relaxing on the beach, drink in hand.

The official start to Summer is actually June 21, the Summer Solstice, but on St. Croix we know that it’s actually a different day – and that day is the day you get to eat your first delicious, juicy, sweet, floral scented and tropical flavored MANGO of the season.  For me, it is a day I look forward to all year!  And that first mango is also a sign of more delicious bounty to come in the form of avocado, carambola (starfruit), soursop, and more wonderful tropical fruit treats, ready and ripe to enjoy in a recipe, on a dish, or simply out of hand.

And while the bounties of summer flourish, the pace of life also slows.  Our beautiful little island becomes a bit quieter and softer, as the hustle and bustle of the tourist season comes to an end and we enjoy our summertime visitors and the start of wedding season.  We watch the flamboyant trees slowly unfurl their summertime coats of red splendor and relish the scents of the greenery and flowers in the air.  The kids are out of school, the community gathers for picnics and family barbeques, and the beaches are the days of rum and long, summer languid moments of nothing but – peace.

Oh, and mangoes.  Have I mentioned mangoes yet?

This week I’ll be visiting Aberra Bulbulla and wandering through the variety of tropical fruit trees in his orchard, trees that are now laden with fruit and beauty.  I’ll have photos to share and hopefully some inspiration to try something new and local on St. Croix that perhaps you haven’t tasted before!  Our local bounty of fruits is tremendous, and today only marks the beginning of the season.  I hope you’ll stick with me over the next few months as I cover more of our lovely summertime, and continue to Go Local St. Croix!