Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Santol Harvest In Full Swing! 25 July 2009

A HARVEST OF WOOD APPLES..or better known in the Philippines as SANTOL FRUIT!

In my past blogs, I have uploaded photos of our anticipation of the ripening of the santol. I took photos of the santol fruit tree at different stages, showing the progress from bloom to the time when the fruit was green, and now it is finally ready to be harvested. Well, today IS THE DAY Betty came to help pick and pickle some of the fruit!

Betty, my good friend joined me once again at my farm. She came to teach me how to make santol preserves.

Harvest day was in full swing. A natural bamboo ladder is tied to the tree and our garden attendants climb up to pick ripened fruits. Betty took the camera and enjoyed doing what I normally do...walk around and enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of my organic farm.
I took this photo of my friend Betty while she paused to sip some tarragon herbal tea while waiting for me to ready the ingredients for our project of making her spicy santol preserves.

A Bamboo ladder leads up the Santol tree and we are busy harvesting hundreds of this southeast asian fruit that is definately ready for picking. The santol starts to ripen during the typhoon season. I wondered why some local fruits prefer to ripen during the typhoon season. I then realized that these plants ripened fruits will be tossed great distances by strong winds from hurricanes. In this manner, the seeds of the dispersed fruit will fall on soft ground, during a time where water is abundant. The young tree needs to grow deep roots and anchor itself once summer arrives, and the dry, hard soil stiffens up.

The santol and other such fruits would eventually dominate an entire area. This is a way for the tree to expand its domain far and wide within the rain forests and pretty soon there are santols growing everywhere!

The "Bangkok Santol" is a variety of the same kind of fruit, but are much larger and sweeter than our local Philippine santol. Fruit imported from Thailand are almost 3 times bigger than local fruits, and easily identified as a variety of santol fruit that vendors will brand as imported " Bangkok Santol."I planted a single tree when I bought the land, from a marcot of a variety of santol known as the "Bangkok Santol." In about five years, I noticed many smaller saplings are descendents from the original mother tree, and are growing all over the farm.

Santol trees can be fertilized using organic material, and these plants prefer to be pruned to encourage more blooms the following year. Never spray your orchards or fruit trees...pollinators are sensitive to chemicals. I really only prune my tree and fertilize them with horse manure.

Upon learning that I would be swamped with santol, Betty came over and taught me to make "Spicy Santol Preserves." Her main ingredients were: about 10 santol fruit, 12 Thai Chili Peppers; enough water to cover the fruit; 1/2 brown sugar, and a pinch of salt. The simple procedure was to boil the santol fruit, and cool down. The cooked santol is left for several hours to infuse the chili peppers and salt helps preserve the fruit. The preserves are delicious, and have variety of flavors, ranging from sweet, sour, and spicy. Sounds really easy to do?

Well the procedure sounds easy enough, but actually it took two trials to get it to taste right. The preserves should have a good combination of the spicy heat of the chillies, blending at the same time, with the sweet & sour flavor of the santol fruit.

And the outcome was a very interesting product.Gee...a lot more chillies perhaps the next time we make this would give more of a "POW" to the taste buds, but I liked it anyhow!

Well, Betty and I had fun but it was time for lunch.

The dark clouds were approaching from the southwest. Betty wandered around the farm. She was confident the light would be fine, as the sun was still shining. She took the chance to meet some of the wildlife that frequent my farm and take photos of anything interesting while I was busy making our lunch.

There is a plant in my garden which is a favorite perch for "dragons"...not the one with fire coming from its mouth and claws on its feet.....but a flying dragon all children are all familiar with!

Betty caught some interesting visitors to the farm. Her first photo was this little tiny flower on a vine, called the "Dragon's Slipper," it is flaming red, and it usually will emerge with the rain. Well, here is the flying dragon captured in the next photo....

Here is a photo of a little neon tinted "dragonfly" .

A cane toad is hiding in the corner perfectly camouflaged around dried leaves. Cane toads are a menance since they will eat anything, including fish and other amphibians like smooth skinned frogs. Frogs are becomming rare even in the tropics due to the use of herbicides and pesticides.

Cane toads do have a good purpose though, as these ugly amphibians will eat anything, like toxic bugs, and the large roaches that emerge at night, and other creepy things like spiders! The skin of a cane excretes a poison that is very toxic to dogs and other predators.

A little green lizard crawls over the wall and seems to be in pursuit of a bug for its lunch. Can you notice that there are two green chameleons in the picture? One is larger and the photo caught the chameleon shooting out its tongue to catch the bugs.

This milkweed bug are toxic and birds avoid them. They do make a good meal for some ants.

Ants drag away a small milkweed bug into a burrow in the rocks.

Almost obscure with its neutral colors, this lace winged, mocca colored butterfly almost escaped attention! Butterflies are more friendly during the rainy season. They are tame enough to sit quietly as Betty takes its photo.

While Betty was getting acquainted with the flora and fauna of our farm, I prepared my "Green Chicken Curry" for our lunch. All the ingredients are available on my farm, or at any local market.

The main ingredients are found in my herbal patch. This dish is spicy, and has a savory blend of exotic herbs such as lemon grass, coconut milk, coriander, basil, chillies, pepper, lime leaves, tumeric, curry, ginger, and our own organic chicken.

Betty and I plan to return to the town of Amadeo, we will post our photos of our trip, next posting. We hope it will not rain hard next week. We are really full from eating santol.

I also harvested basil herbs that are beginning to flower and produce seeds for next summer season. One cup of basil leaves lightly packed, mashed in a food processor with extra virgin olive oil, pine nuts, salt, garlic and pepper makes 1 batch of fresh pesto. Later on, after a full day at the farm, Betty and I discussed our plans to find Busay Falls on our next road trip....we dined on hot pasta and used the pesto I made for a light dinner.

Our day ended with a light dinner of pasta with farm fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, nuts, garlic and parmesean cheese.

Till next time, we will be enjoying the spicy santol way beyond this very interesting day.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pardon my chicken, a rainy day in Silang...July 17, 2009

A hurricane skirts northern luzon, pouring down rain upon the southern Tagalog region of Silang, Cavite. Mists descend over the landscape, and the temperatures drop about 4 degrees to a pleasant 26 Celsius.

Bright yellow oncidiums are about to bloom.

A single pink dahlia braves the storm. Tied up with abaca, a kakauati branch serves as support to these tall plants.

Pardon my chicken.... on this rainy day in Silang, a few have been selected to roam in the garden pen during breaks in the rain. Rain washes bugs from plants to the ground where they become easy pickings for my chickens. Chickens will run about and forage for insects, grubs, worms, or eat flowers and vegetation that come out after a downpour.

These pardoned chickens can live out their entire life laying eggs, or as they age, become my "bug" police.

Chickens are quite beneficial to an organic farm as they will keep your garden free of ants, termites, grasshoppers, spiders, even eat small lizards.

A tiny circle above the ear of the females will indicate what color of egg they will lay. A white circle indicates white eggs, and a red spot will indicate that the hen will lay brown eggs. Rooster chicks and pullets have a red comb, whereas female hens have a pale one. Female's combs will gradually redden when its time for them to lay eggs. Roosters have a spur on the back of their ankle, whereas hens don't have this fighting cock spur.

These 2 month old pullets are Bancrest and will grow to about 3 kilos when adult.

The santol tree is heavy laden with fruit. This kind of fruit has a thick pulp under the dense outer skin, and several luscious seeds that are delicious. Some like to eat it peeled with salt...others like the bottled in a variety of preperations. My friend Betty gave me a recipe I have yet to try for making santol preserves with chillies.

We finally have reached this day of the santol harvest.

Santol has a lot of antitoxidants and also helps prevent diseases relating to immunity. Eating santol restores balance. Care to have one?

This fruit has very thick skin, fiberous pulp and large seeds. This is where the sweet flavor comes from. It is like a workout to eat this fruit, but its well worth it. One has to take the fruit, cut it open, and what I do is, scoop the seeds into the mouth, carefully manipulating with the tongue to extract the sweetness from the seed which is wrapped in a soft, cotton-like covering.

These santol fruit has the same type of sweetness similar to that of a ripe apple.

Once the rain stops, everthing becomes very quiet.

The back area of my farm house is facing in the direction of the China Sea. Looking out from the terrace, my view takes in fields of coconut plantations waving their fronds in the sky on rolling hills of green.

I often sit on my terrace just watching the rain bathe and cleanse the landscape. The air is always fresh after a rain.

Its time to sit back, enjoy the cooler temperatures, catch up on my reading, and have a cup of organic coffee from upland Cavite region.

See again next week!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Weekend With Bugs, July 11, 2009

The idea of capturing photos of different colored butterlfies have been in my mind since a few weeks ago when I saw one with a flag type pattern on its wings. The elusive butterfly had exactly one half of its wings in the color white and the other half in lemon yellow.

This particular interesting butterfly liked being photographed. Her cooperation made taking photos of its species very easy. This one greeted me when I arrived at my farm and alighted on a leaf of my Santol tree. I took the opportunity to take out my camera, run to where she was resting, and snap as many photos as I could before this butterfly could fly off. She stayed still for quite some time, posing for me as it sat on the leaf, and let me take my shots. After I was done, she quickly flew away.

In contrast to the pretty butterfly, the following orange bugs gathering on the okra plants and are quite comfortable staying still for me to photograph them. These orange bugs are actually "Milkweed Beatles" and are very common in summer gardens. Better left to nature to deal with these "pests".

This is the monsoon season, a favorite time for bugs meet & mate with their kind. Once finished breeding, these bugs will fall to the ground, and eventually become food for a toad. Birds seem to avoid eating them. Only toads will eat everything and anything they find edible. The bugs advertise a warning with their bright orange color. takers except for wasps and salamanders.

These stingless native bees are sipping early morning "resin" sap from the rainbow eucalyptus tree.

Oncidium "Sharry Baby" with its mahogany colored flowers, has delicious aroma of Vanilla-Chocolate.

The following exotic blooms are "Lobster Claw" Heliconias.These large heliconias grow well in an area near a wall. These can grow to a very tall size like their cousins the banana plants and must be cut down during the rainy season or they will form huge clumps of shoots. The heliconia is a resilient plant and will grow back quickly.

The Lobster Claw Heliconia adorn a clay jar on my terrace.

Our cat named "HEART" takes a nap hidden in the grass, watching ducks play in a nearby field. She is named "Heart" because on the nape of this cat is an image of a Valentine heart.

Green papayas are used in Filipino "Tinola" chicken stew made with ginger, chilli plant leaves, that make a hearty, satisfying meal during rainy season. Eat with rice and fish sauce or "patis".

A favorite of bumble bees and other pollinators is the "Blue Butterfly Vine"

Asparagus spears must be harvested early in the morning to savor the tender flavor of a young spear. Aspargus need to be fertilized with organic matter, and once the rainy season come in, these little shoots surface during the cooler months.

Till next time, I thank you for visiting!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Happy Fourth of July, 2009

I spent the "Fourth of July" at Silang. In the Philippines, " Philippine American Friendship Day" or the 4Th of July is spent quietly among those whose memories of the American period, or those with strong Filipino -American ties. My friend Betty and I had that bond. Our fathers were both World War II veterans, and they were both friends during our high school days. I couldn't think of a better way to spend this American holiday than to cook a traditional Southern Fried Chicken. Betty and I motored down the south superhighway towards my farm and we passed by one of the little "food courts" along the way to pick up some coffee rolls, a slice of pizza and some french baguettes at Deli France for our anticipated lunch later on.

The day finally arrived where my sweet organic corn could be harvested. The variety of corn I planted took 70 days, and is very sweet and tender, an ideal food for weaned babies and old people with difficulty digesting.

Gloria went over to cut the ripened cobs and bring them in the kitchen for washing and boiling.

We also harvested our organically grown broilers a week early since the chickens have reached 1 kilo weight each.

The corn was still oozing out its sweetness and I couldn't wait to cook it right away while it was still fresh.

Plump, and tender chicken, was marinaded in milk, garlic and herbs cut from the garden, then fried in the traditional American way. A second version was cooked by Gloria in the old Filipino way-- marinated in toyo or soy sauce, kalamanci, then fried directly in corn oil. Well it was "FILIPINO-AMERICAN FRIENDSHIP DAY" so we just had to have two styles of home cooking for lunch.

A few lovely White Ginger flowers adorned our table. The Camia flowers will bloom during the rainy season. These plants love the constant downpour, and will flower when skies turn gray and heavy with rain clouds. Common in the tropics, they give off a delicate aroma.

The rosal is another flower that enjoys the dampness of the monsoon season. I usually place these petite rosal blooms in the house to act as an air freshener. I do have to be wary of an occasional large spider, or tiny brown tree frog that hides under the leaves and almost always surprises me when these garden creatures leap out suddenly!

The fourth of July came and went, but I did remember my Father who was part of the brave men who came from across the oceans to liberate the Philippines. Side by side with their Filipino allies, they spilled blood to restore democracy to the islands we are privileged to call free nation once again. Betty's father fought in Bataan, and walked that terrible "Death March". He was incarcerated at the Tarlac P.O.W. camps waiting for liberation that came when General Douglas MacArthur kept his promise to return to the Philippines. After several battles, the Americans surged forward and defeated the Japanese.


Till next time, no worries...and HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!