The Miracle Berry

So I managed to get most of my “to do’s” done before Christmas.  The tree didn’t get up until the 23rd, but hey it was before Christmas so it counts!  We picked a bunch of coffee, scooped lilikoi, picked mulberries, and even made jam.  I have family in town which is always nice.  What I most love about company, whatever time of year, is that it forces us to get out of the farm routine (or other household chores), and get out and explore the island or just go to the beach for the day.  We also love sharing our little farm, and showing everyone what we grow and produce.  This brings me to my next blog topic … the miracle berry.

Most of the things we grow on our farm are for  our consumption or for selling.  We do have some flowers which I love to pick and display.  And then we have the miracle berry.  What is exactly is this little fruit??

IMG_0635.JPG

It’s a red berry that grows on a small shrub. When the flesh part of the fruit is sucked on (we don’t really eat it, we just break the berry up in our mouth and kind of suck on it for a few minutes and then spit it out), a molecule in the berry binds to your tongue’s taste buds which causes sour foods to taste sweet.  You can suck on a lemon and it tastes super sweet.  The molecule is called glycoprotein and it contains miraculin, a carbohydrate chain within the molecule, hence the name “miracle” berry.  It’s pretty amazing,  and it never ceases to thrill those who try it.  The effect lasts about 30 minutes or so.  Anything sweet is intensified.  I once had spaghetti for dinner soon after I tried a miracle berry, and it ruined it.  The sauce was so sweet, I couldn’t eat it.

I often wonder about this plant, and why nature created something like that.  I think it was tried as a sugar substitute, but for some reason it didn’t quite work.  Maybe back in the day when people sailed the world and scurvy was an issue, it made lemons and limes more palatable. The shelf life of a miracle berry is only a few days after it’s picked, so I don’t know that they would’ve brought it on a ship.  What I do know is that it is a neat little addition to our farm that we enjoy sharing it with guests, and they in turn enjoy trying it.

 

Advertisements

Why you should be growing longevity spinach in your garden

We grow five different kinds of spinach on our property – a Brazilian spinach, also called Sisoo (it grows almost like a ground cover and has really curly leaves),  two different varieties of Okinawan spinach – one that has purple leaves, and one that has light green leaves that is often referred to as longevity spinach, Malabar spinach (it’s almost succulent like in its appearance) and Tongan Spinach (its leaves are large, the size of your head!).

  Longevity spinach purple Okinawan spinach Sisoo spinachTongan spinachMalibar spinach

Spinach has a lot of benefits no matter which one you decide to grow.  They all have different tastes and textures, so before you decide to plant a whole bunch of one kind, it’s best to try samples and see which one you prefer.  It’s also important to do a little research to see what types of spinach can grow in your area and climate.  We’re fortunate because most of the tropical spinaches can be grown year round with little problem.

Of all the spinach we grow, I personally like the longevity spinach the best.  Its scientific name is gynura procumbens.  It is  also called “cholesterol spinach.” As the name implies, it’s really good for you.  It’s been called a “super food” – a term we’re hearing a lot lately.  But this actually may be just that.  A native to southeast Asia, it is claimed to help treat a number of different ailments – high cholesterol (bet you could’ve figured that one out yourself), high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatism, insect bites or other wounds, menstrual issues, seizures, and cancer.  It’s even been known to remove age spots!!

You can eat this raw or cooked.  It can be put in smoothies, soups, salads, and even steeped for tea.  Be creative.  I put it in my veggie lasagna and with eggs in a frittata.  We use it in stir fry a lot and my husband likes it in his siamin.  I will say I do prefer it cooked as opposed to raw, but that’s just a personal preference.  

You may be one of those people who feel like they have a black thumb when it comes to gardening, but this is one of the hardiest plants we grow.  It also seems to be fairly pest resistant which is always a problem in our Hawaii climate.  Some people even grow it indoors in kitchen window boxes.  It’s known to do better in semi shade, however, ours is in pretty much full sun and it’s growing really well. 

So if you’re looking to expand your dietary repertoire a bit, eat healthy, and add something to your own home garden, this is the plant to do just that.

Rain, rain go away … just long enough for us to pick coffee

Do you ever feel like you have too much to do, and no time to do it.  I know that happens to everyone all the time, but I’m in the midst of it, and am feeling overwhelmed.  Mostly, I’m feeling this way because of things out of my control.

 Rainy day … again

We’ve had weeks of rain.  Rain is critical to a farm, and given a choice between too much rain or too little, we’d choose too much.  That being said, we need a little reprieve.  We have a ton of coffee to pick, and can’t get outside long enough to pick it.  We’ve decided today, rain or not, we’re gearing up and picking what needs to be picked.  Yesterday, we got to about 14 trees.  We have 60 or so, so we still have a lot to do.  From the 14 trees yesterday, I’d say we picked about 20 gallons.  The trees are loaded, and we’re literally harvesting all the beans on some branches.  Our dry racks are full of coffee as well.

It’s not just the coffee, we have lot other things on the farm that need attention. Asparagus needs picking; I’m hoping it hasn’t gone to fern yet.  We have a lot of lilikoi on the ground that need picking up.  Guavas are falling off the tree (I just see guava jelly rotting on the ground).  Allspice needs to be picked and dried … the list could go on and on and on …

We need to build another sheep/donkey house on the property to keep the animals nice and dry during these rains.  We do have areas for them, but they’re all being used or inaccessible at this time.

The grotto, which I spend three weekends cleaning out, needs to be weeded. I need to add more orchids and flowers, and some cute outdoor decorations I have.

My son is moving out, so we’re going to be converting his room back to our workout room/storage area and converting the current workout room back to our guest bedroom.  It needs to be thoroughly cleaned and painted.

I haven’t finished Christmas shopping; I have NO decorations up at all.  I need to mail the majority of the gifts to the mainland, so I must have them wrapped and packaged soon.

I’m going on a business trip for 5 days.  I’m back on Friday night – just in time for the weekend! AND, I’d like to get this all done before family starts arriving in a little over 2 weeks.

I know I know, some are thinking, it’s not going to happen.  But it will happen.  It has to happen.  So why I am sitting here blogging, I clearly I have a ton of things to do, and am running out of time.  Because this is my life, this is what happens when you commit to living (or trying to live) a sustainable life on a small farm.  There are always things that need to be done, and things out of your control always make it harder to get those things done.   Because both my husband and I have full-time jobs, all these things have to get done after work and on the weekends.

So yes, the next few weeks will be very busy.  This is okay because I’m taking time off during the holidays to enjoy the fruits of our labor this year and spend time with my family.   I love having our little homestead, and while it’s hard at times, I wouldn’t change a thing (okay maybe a few tiny things).

Finally, during these heavy rains, we had an ‘io, a Hawaiian Hawk, take cover in our Royal Poinciana tree.  He stayed there the better part of the day.  I was a little apprehensive to get close to him, but my husband assured me he had no intention of attacking me, so I was able to get this nice shot.  He was beautiful.   There is a family that lives nearby, and we often see them flying above the house.  This is the first time, we’ve had one visit.