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Beyond The Backyard

Beyond The Backyard – Ghosts Of The Graveyard

in Featured/Issue 33 by

They stand erect and tall as guardian soldiers, swords at the ready, ever on duty in our cemeteries. The dagger like plants of Draceanaafromontana and then Yucca were planted at the headstone or in place of one at unmarked graves to ward off evil and keep restless spirits from wandering. They are profoundly significant as a symbol of eternity and mourning in the cultural beliefs of tropical Africa. The tradition continued throughout the Americas and the Caribbean settlements, the Yucca becoming our sentinel. The name Yucca applies to more than 50 species that have mostly adapted to all types of terrain and share characteristics of appearance and chemistry. They are evergreens, drought tolerant, spread rapidly, fire adaptive, prefer full sun…

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Beyond The Backyard – A Leaf From My Recipe Book

in Featured/Issue 31 by

Eating from the wild can create an unexpected culinary masterpiece or become a recipe for disaster. It is important to have sufficient information. Knowing something to be edible is not enough to prevent you from harm. Knowledge of content and preparation is essential. My daughter-in-law decorated our dinner plates with the wonderful heart shaped leaves of the taro plant commonly called elephant ears placed under some delicious stewed chicken. Whilst scooping up the juices my son popped  the leaf in his mouth chewed it up and moments later was gasping for water and on the verge of a trip to the emergency room even though that would have meant  thirty miles of rough roads at night. These plants have saponins…

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Beyond The Backyard – Paternal Instinct

in Featured/Issue 29 by

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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Beyond The Backyard – “Mother, May I?”

in Issue 29 by

In March 2015 alone more than 100,000 visitors flocked to Washington State USA to see the Cherry Blossoms. They fly from around the world and join the feeding frenzy sucking up the sight of these marvelous trees. They marry under the confetti of petals, dancing and reveling in delight, taking shots with their i phones and sharing their joy on Facebook. In Belize there is a blossom that momentarily takes my breath away, as I am stunned by its beauty, every bit as impressive as the cherry blossom but with much more versatility. It has a fairly humble position as it is used mainly as a living fence and nicknamed “quick stick”as it is really that easy to grow in…

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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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Beyond the Backyard – Ginger Up Your Flower Beds

in Issue 27 by

The garden of my childhood hosted a multitude of colourful plants: roses, cornflowers, geraniums, gladiolus, sweet williams, lavendar, pansies, violets, phlox et al and my favourites were the sweet smelling ones that had nectar which could be sucked and petals that could be eaten. Today I choose to plant only edibles and steer clear of anything allergenic or potentially poisonous. I was therefore very pleased to find that most gingers fall into this realm. Turmeric, galangal, cardamom – all have beautiful flowers and foliage and have valued culinary uses. When I first encountered Zingibar Zerumbet I was awe-struck and simply had to have some. It was introduced to me as shampoo ginger. The act of squeezing the bulbous head and…

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Beyond The Backyard – “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside”

in Issue 25 by

People ask me, “What is your favourite thing that grows in your garden?” Without hesitation I say, “Asparagus” which surprises them – that it actually grows here in the tropics. I walk out most mornings and check the patch in hopes of a few delicate shoots to eat, raw and delicious. For me this is the best way and feels very healthy as it is rich in all kinds of nutritious vitamins, A, C, E, B12 and K, plus minerals and antioxidants. It is low in calories with no fat, no cholesterol, and no sodium. First off I always consider what it can do for one’s health. It is a good source of fiber, a natural diuretic, improves mental ability,…

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Beyond The Backyard – Just Kidding

in Issue 24 by

High on the hill was a lonely goat herd..” A very, happy, catchy song that got me wondering why we do not see more goats. It is claimed that goat is one of the most eaten meats in the world yet we hardly ever see one here, let alone find someone who has ever tasted it. We see a lot of those long legged unkempt Barbados black bellies roaming freely in villages and I believe some Dorper in Cayo. Those are sheep and come with a distinct indicator: the tail hangs down. Goats have a perky tail pointing up, unless sick or in distress. Most sheep have wooly fleece although some tropical breeds have hair not wool; goats have hairy…

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Beyond The Backyard – A Grain of Truth

in Issue 23 by

We have become used to the labels fat free, sodium free, cholesterol free, nut free; now gluten freeseems to be the latest trend. On the one hand we realize that the food industry is a business; so selling the idea that you need or suffer from something is inevitable. On the other hand we must consider the fact that incorrect labeling or secret ingredients for some people can become a matter of life and death. At a recent cocktail party two people said they were allergic to shrimp, one to oysters, two to nuts, one is lactose intolerant, one to the polymers of surgical gloves and four out of the ten were on gluten free diets. One may have celiac…

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Beyond the backyard – Tally Me Bananas

in Issue 22 by

Driving into my property the other day I was horrified to see how neglected my banana plants looked: overcrowded, with leaves dead and perhaps even diseased. Earlier on I had passed a newly erected sign just before Riversdale advertising Bunches of Fun Banana Tours 624 4297. Now there is a good idea. So I made an advance booking for a dozen ladies who were somewhat skeptical when I asked if they would like to accompany me. Our guide, Evin, was lively, charming and eager to tell us about the farm and the importance of the banana industry here in southern Belize. We were off to a great start with an informative video outlining banana history. Sagitun Farm is one of…

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