An Appreciation of Life
Paradise is never easy. This is true especially on a farm, where we are always dealing with the cycles and stages of life. Many of the plants we raise are not from here, so we have to hold their hands the entire way to the harvest bag. When you consider that most Virgin Islanders have a stateside taste preference for crops that were bred and developed for temperate environments, we really have our work cut out for us on these islands. Fortunately, the CSA allows us to introduce you to crops that may be unfamiliar but are no less tasty and actually usually more nutritive.
Not only are many of the crops out of place, but so are most of the "wild" animals. Did you know that the largest native terrestrial mammal in the USVI is a bat? A few steps up from that are the mongoose dem, brought in hundreds of years ago to control those little critters in between (you know, the one chewing on your electrical system as you read this). They also like to chew on our chickens, and seem to prefer our eggs as a premier delicacy. And then there is Odocoileus virginianus, the deer.
We more often see the signs of the deer than the deer itself: Like those beans you were supposed to get -now beanless, leafless stems. The cassava that now are little nubs in the ground. The cinnamon trees we tried but were munched like candy. They eat everything they can. It can be the most frustrating thing as a farmer to see a crop wiped out overnight. We even sometimes invent new curse words sent out like arrows.
So, what was I going to do the other day, when, while mowing on our new CSA tractor implement I came across a young fawn trapped in vines alongside the road. Of course the beans came across my mind, but compassion won out. After all, they are our brothers and sisters. Let her go, and she'll eat the crops one day, I thought. But I had to give her a chance to prove me wrong. So with the help of Julia we removed about 120 ticks and gave her water before putting her on the side of the road as the deer could not even stand up on her own. We felt proud. We did a good thing. It even got plastered on Facebook before I got home. "Awww!"
It was hours later, when I went back to check on the deer to see if she had went on her way, that I saw a wild dog run out from the bush. I know that was not a good sign. I found her warm, limp, headless body in the same spot as I left her. I made sure that every part left was used in honor and appreciation. It was a hard loss that left me questioning my heart, but all in a typically standard unpredictable day of farming.
We bring forth and take away life every day. But we are fortunate to have life at all, on this absolute miracle of a planet. The feeling reminds me of my teachers' Apache teacher, Stalking Wolf, who said about losing a deer, "When you feel the same way for a single blade of grass that is ripped from the earth, only then will you begin to understand the spirit-that-moves-through-all-things."
Life comes and goes like the tides. We give thanks for it and all of creation. Paradise may not be easy. But is worth being.
-Nate Olive, Director
A tropical aromatic pleasure & source of vitamins
WTF (What's That Food)?
This week's strange food item: Lemongrass
A native of Malaysia and India, lemongrass, or Cymbopogon, is firmly rooted in the traditional and fusion cuisine found in the Virgin Islands and the Caribbean. We often don't think of grass as a food, but one sniff of lemongrass reminds us of the wide range of medicinal and culinary uses. Remember, bananas and bamboo are grasses too, so join us in appreciation of this monocot treasure!
No morning in the USVI would be complete without bush tea. Lemongrass is a favorite ingredient for it's energetic quality. Blend it and strain along with a hefty bunch of guinea grass, and you have the famous chlorophyll drink extremely popular in Rastafarian diets that is anti-carcinagenic, anti-oxidant, and it helps build red blood cells with a flush of available vitamin K, C, folic acid, protein, iron, and calcium.
How to use it:
Lemongrass, in nearly every application, is pounded and/or roughed up to break the cell walls of the plant, thus releasing the juices easily discernible by the strong, crisp clean aroma (that mosquitos abhor!). One favorite use of ours is a Thai lemongrass soup. You can use the stalks or the leafy tops. It goes great with the peppers in this week's bag! hint, hint
Matt taking the conscious decision...
Meet the Farmer...
Matt Johnson, farm full-time worker
Up from Hampton, Virginia, Matt had little exposure to farming. Instead, he grew up fishing with family and friends along the Chesapeake Bay which shaped a love for the water (especially salt water).
This passion for the ocean and desire to explore marine life is what brought him down to the Caribbean over 2 years ago. After sailing over 3,000 miles throughout the Lesser Antilles he came to visit the farm and made the decision to stay on St. Croix staring into our fire ball last August. Looking back now he says: "Sometimes it’s hard to believe how I got here.”
Matt became a farm friend and family member before he even thought about getting his hands dirty. He was drawn to us by a young, beautiful girl that opened his eyes to a whole new world of planting, weeding, preparing beds and the lifestyle that comes with being part of Ridge to Reef farm. His admiration for the soil developed quickly and after the first of the year, he came to the farm with the intention to help in the fields for a week. “That week mysteriously turned into 3 months” and who knows if he will ever leave this valley after all.
“I enjoy almost everything about living up in the rain forest. It is a work-hard-play-hard situation. We put in solid hours sun up to sun down and then come together for great company in the community center every night. One really has to make the conscious decision sometimes to simply sit, observe, breathe, and reflect on the great life we live up here. There is always something amazing going on, and it has certainly been a pleasure to get to know the incredible people that the farm attracts through either educational programs, volunteers, farm stays and the local friends of Ridge to Reef. After finishing a degree in criminal justice, time overseas with the Army and working as a sailor I am now proud to say that I am farming every day and I’m very pleased with life right now.“
"Care for the earth, care for the people & share fairly"
"Nate to the rescue" image by Matt
The Week's Harvest
Chard, Collards or Kale
Thai hot peppers
Kadai: a type of thick, circular, and deep cooking pot (similar in shape to a wok) used in Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Nepalese cuisine.
Sojne Phool Baati Chorchori (Moringa oleifera flowers cooked in mustard paste)
recommended by Rita Lutchmeesingh
Introduction: Sojne Phool is used in making dishes different in part of India, it tastes somewhat similar to wild mushrooms. This Bengali recipe is made with mustard paste and cooked in a covered pot
Sojne Phool Recipe:
Preparation time 20 minutes
Cooking time 10 minutes
Difficulty level: Easy
Sajne Phool plucked (2 cups)
One large Potato( or try green banana): Diced into small cubes
One medium Tomato, chopped
Mustard Oil: 2 tbps
3 to 4 Whole Green Chilli, slit halfway
Mustard Paste- 2tbsp
Turmeric Powder- 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder-1/2 tsp
Sugar ½ tsp
Salt to taste
100 ml Water
1. Pluck the Sojne Phool or the Moringa flowers from its stalk carefully. Make sure to remove all stalks otherwise it will add a pungent and bitter taste.
2. Wash the flowers thoroughly and keep aside.
3. In a Kadai (pot), put all ingredients except water and fold well. Note that this should be done even before heating the Kadai on the burner.
4. Now bring the Kadai (pot) with the mixture on a gas top, allow it to heat it up, stir well.
5. Cover the Kadai with a lid and slow down the heat, cook for 10 minutes. Check in between and add little water if necessary to prevent burning at the bottom. (Ideally it should be cooked without adding water.)
6. Check seasoning when the flowers look tender and cooked well.
7. Serve with Rice and Daal (lentils, peas or beans).
THANK YOU HOSTS!
Polly's at the Pier Frederiksted, St. Croix
Barefoot Buddha Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas
Thurs 11:30am-1:30 pm
Miriam's Restaurant Christiansted, St. Croix
Sun 4 -5:30pm
M2M (member to member)
We invite you to take part in the creation of our weekly newsletters.
Share your recipes and pictures, your experiences with the R2R Farm or your thoughts on sustainable farming matters.
We then will do our best to fit it in and share it in one of our upcoming newsletters.
We look forward to your responses!
Got some things laying around we can re-use in the CSA
Ridge to Reef Farm serves the US Virgin Islands with certified organic produce grown with sustainable permaculture practices (and a lot of love).