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.