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Beyond The Backyard – Paternal Instinct

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This foot long pod can be seen as revered and depicted in the Pre Colombian ceramics of the early Incas and pods found in tombs. With over 300 species of Inga growing in the tropical Americas perhaps for the past two million years, many of which are recorded as growing in Belize, how do I know which pod I hold in my hand? I was introduced to this as the ice cream bean and told there were three types growing around Dangriga. Searching pictures I found Inga edulis, Inga punctata, Inga feuillei and Inga spectabilis all referred to as the ice cream bean. Other names are Shimbillo, Chochoki, Guamo, Joaquiniquil, Pacay and here at market and in Maya back yards…

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Hugelkultur

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Hugelkultur, pronounced hoo-gul-culture, is an ancient way of gardening or farming. Practiced for hundreds of years in Germany and Eastern Europe, hugelkultur is now receiving widespread attention and interest by farmers worldwide. The word hugelkultur is a German word meaning raised mounds or hill culture and is constructed on top of decaying wood debris and other compostable material. These growing mounds hold moisture, build fertility for the plants, maximize growing space, and provide nutritious soil for growing fruits, vegetables and herbs. They are particularly useful in places where water is scarce, allowing farmers and gardeners in the tropics to continue to grow during the dry season. Instead of burning wood debris, pile it up for hugelkultur mounds; they can be…

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Beyond The Backyard – Fabulous Forest Food

in Featured/Issue 28 by

Twelve species of Chamaedora are reportedly found in the understory beneath the forest canopy of Belize. Three of these have value for cut leaves, the best known being Xate. As usual I search for plants that are edible and nutritious giving us interesting food alternatives. The Chamaedora tepejilote, date palm or Pacaya is an attractive ornamental palm but also produces a vegetable well known to many as chib. The tree thrives in shady locations and usually grows a single trunk reaching as high as twenty feet but there are also clumping varieties. The petiole has a prominent yellow stripe, the tree produces very showy decorative berries and the male and female flowers grow on separate trees. The stems can be…

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CASSAVA – The Old Becomes New Again

in Featured/Issue 28 by

When CARICOM member states met in September 2014 to discuss regional agricultural policy and strategy, they assessed the region’s food imports and made recommendations for production and trade opportunities in foods. They recognized that the Caribbean is heavily dependent on imported foods. With a population of 16M people in the 15 CARICOM countries, the annual food import bill is in excess of US$4 Billion. This figure has doubled in the last 10 years. Further, they recognized that often these imported (and often processed) foods also contribute to the increasing incidence of diet related diseases. Thus the CARICOM delegates have been seeking alternative commodities which can reduce the import bill and increase consumption of healthier alternatives. Cassava and sweet potato were…

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Soil Analysis A Necessity for Good Crops

in Featured/Issue 28 by

If it were possible to accomplish improvements in just one step considering all aspects of soil fertility and fertilization, where would be the place to begin? Many answers will likely come to mind depending on the past experience of each person. But all types of growers from farmers to gardeners should consider that without a proper foundation on which to build an excellent soil fertility program, it will not be possible to achieve the full range of benefits that could otherwise be available. Working with farmers and growers on fertility needs for all kinds of crops in all states of the US and many other countries, learning or obtaining the experience, knowledge and understanding concerning how excellent soil fertility works…

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Spices

in Featured/Issue 27 by

Spices are plant products used to flavor or preserve food. Some spices are also used in medicines, perfumes and cosmetics. The spice trade began thousands of years ago by Arab merchants who controlled it. Later, Europeans dominated the trade, taking advantage of the monsoon wind (wind patterns between continents due to seasonal temperature differences). In 1499, the Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama landed on the Malabar Coast of Kerala, India (where the author was born and raised), in search of spices. At about the same time, Columbus, while trying to find a western route to reach India (also searching for spices), found the “New World”. The spice trade strongly influenced world history. Colonial powers controlled many spice growing regions of…

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From My Perch – The Chiquibul Forest Reserve – Ours to Keep

in Featured/Issue 27 by

In the last column, warnings were issued to all Belizeans about the dire situation in the Chiquibul Forest Reserve, the incursion and theft of natural resources and the woeful lack of personnel and equipment to deal with the problem. In September 2014, a tourism policeman was murdered at Caracol in the middle of the day, witnessed by horrified tourists, tour guides, and a fellow officer. The police had confiscated horses the previous day from illegal loggers who returned to issue their revenge on the unsuspecting young Danny Conorquie, who gave his life in the battle for sovereignty of this great nation, Belize. The resulting outcry was immediate and agonizing. Finally, Belizeans woke up to the unpleasant fact that Belize has…

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Drought Relief for Corn and Forages – Is Zinc the Answer?

in Featured/Issue 27 by

Corn growers are aware perhaps more than most crop farmers about the value of supplying adequate zinc for the crop. Among other uses, zinc is known to be needed for moisture absorption in growing plants. That is, when you don’t have enough zinc, it requires more water to grow the same amount of yield because water is lost due to the inability of the plants to take it up in time. One of the farmers attending our introductory workshop on soil fertility admitted he never had much faith in soil testing to help determine his fertilizer program. But he and all his neighbors had a persistent problem. They all had cows, and every summer during July and August the grass…

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