After a small harvest, we ended up having to pull the kale, bok choy, mesclum and mizuna as they were covered with the worst infestation of aphids we have ever seen..we treated the soil with an organic spray.
(Photo) My latest batch of homemade vanilla is in a bottle almost 11 inches tall and has about 16 vanilla beans in it. I used a full bottle of dark Jamaican rum in it. There is a combination of Madagascar and Hawaiian vanilla beans in this batch.
Homemade vanilla extract is one of the easiest things to make and guarantees that you have pure vanilla and not imitation vanilla that might be 'laced' with coumarin (*) or vanillin (**).
Most recipes for homemade vanilla call for using vodka or bourbon.
Basic recipe for homemade vanilla extract:
8 ounces - 750ml of vodka or any other 85% proof (drinkable) alcohol (bourbon, rum, brandy)
3 to 5 vanilla beans - split lengthwise and chop (optional)
Using very clean glass bottles, insert beans all the way to the bottom and pour the vodka to cover completely, allowing about 3" headroom at the top. Seal tops, shake a time or two and leave in a cool dark place for at least 8 weeks. Some instructions tell you to shake periodically. I don't.
I prefer to use dark Jamaican Myers or Appleton Rum instead of vodka when I make mine (I would use dark Cuban rum if I could ;-) - to me, dark rum gives it more depth and richness than vodka and imparts a hint of 'natural sweetness' and smoothness I find lacking with the harsh taste of vodka.
You can double and triple the amounts above when making larger batches for gifts. I use a full bottle of dark Jamaican rum when I make a batch.
Some instructions ask you to chop the vanilla bean; I don't. I use at least 5 beans per cup and split them open, but leave whole otherwise. I leave the beans in the extract when done and do NOT filter it, though is ok to do so.
I start a new batch when my bottle shows only about 1/2 to 1/4 inch of vanilla left (depending on how much vanilla I feel I will be using in the next couple of months) so I always have a good strong batch on hand.
You can reuse the beans in the next batch (add some fresh ones too) or if you remove them and use fresh each time, you can use them to make vanilla sugar.
Making vanilla sugar:
If you are using vanilla beans that have been previously used for making vanilla extract, make sure the bean(s) are thoroughly dried before you put it/them into the sugar or it/they will develop mold. The way I dry my used vanilla beans is to leave them out on the counter on kitchen or tea towels and let them air dry completely. Turn them over a couple of times to make sure all sides are dry.
For every 2 pounds of sugar you pour into a plastic or glass container that seals tightly, add at least one or more (I add a few to mine, since I like a strong vanilla flavor) by sticking them into the sugar.
Seal and leave for about a month.
To give as gifts, put a cup of sugar into a clear glass jar or container with a sealable lid - I like to use the canning jars with clamp lids and gaskets - Insert a bean, seal and decorate jar with a ribbon or a decorative holiday theme fabric cap. Be sure to label it attractively.
Can be used when baking cookies, dusting on cakes and pastries or even to just add a teaspoonful in your coffee or tea.....or use your imagination!
(Photo) Vanilla orchid (V. planifolia) vine with bloom and buds growing up the trunk of a cacao tree in Papaikou, Hawai'i
Real vanilla extract is made using the pods/beans of the vanilla orchid and not chemically derived.
(*) Coumarin is a toxin found in plants that is used to make Coumadin/warfarin and can be found in the 'cheap vanilla' brought in from other countries http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coumarin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warfarin
(**) "Artificial Vanilla Flavoring: U.S. manufactured artificial vanilla is produced from synthetic "vanillin"; Lignin Vanillin is a mde from a by-product of the paper producing industry. this by-product is chemically treated to mimic the flavor of vanilla. The product helped take care of an e-cological problem with paper producers and created an 'affordable' vanilla flavoring for the public. The other synthetic common in Mexican artificial flavorings is Ethyl Vanillin derived from coal tar.
In the past we've had a nice garden on one side of our house, but pigs have destroyed it three times. We hope they don't venture into this side of the yard this time!
We bought a pig trough last year when we had planned to do an aquaponics system, but due to several reasons, it never happened, so we decided to turn it into a raised planter instead.
A couple of weeks ago we bought cinders, enriched soil and chicken manure and with the help of the young man that helps us in the yard, the trough was filled with cinders in bottom for good drainage - the trough has small holes in the bottom - then several bags of soil and one of the manure mixed in - I planted a few things we had in little pots; ruffled red kale, bunching onions, chives and garlic chives, also a couple of tomato plants (one bush and one vining) and then scattered mizuna, mesclum and spinach seeds.
At the time, we placed black plastic in an area underneath and in front of the trough to kill the grass and weeds underneath. We anchored it with large rocks.
The brown and yellow building seen in the background is the studio/cabin that sits in front of our yard. Our 'front' yard extends just to the back wall of the cabin.
Kale, chives, garlic chives, scallions, mesclun mix, bush tomato growing on one half of the trough. On the side you can't see there is a vine tomato which is being trained to go up a tomato cage, mizuna, some very thin fine chives, more meclun and baby spinach.
Two weeks later, almost everything in the trough is looking pretty good although not everything came up, but we can now see where we have space to plant something else.
We decided that instead of the rocks framing and anchoring the black plastic, we would get some concrete blocks with the larger holes for a neater edge and also so we could use them as 'planters'. To be able to do this, we had to move two small banana trees that were planted where the blocks form a corner. They were planted in another area of the yard.
Today we moved the rocks, placed the blocks and filled them with the enriched planting soil and planted a few things we also had in small pots. We will be moving the small clump of papayas that is now growing in the middle of the plastic covered area and placing them closer to our front lanai, area not viewable to the left of the photo. Where the blocks end on the right of the photo, we will be doing a small rock garden and plant a few spreading herbs.
Nasturtiums planted in the short section of the block L, a curry plant in the near corner and 8 holes planted with Italian parsley. In the ones where you can't see any green, Anthony planted some bok choy and more spinach.
Across the area from where the trough and block area is located, which is just in front of our own front lanai, we're slowly cleaning out most of the ornamentals and we have planted a few baby bananas. Today Anthony cleared a small area, about 3 square feet, and planted some corn we had coming up as seedlings. By the corn he planted some vine beans and in the center a few yellow squash seeds. The beans will go up the corn stalks and the squash will cover the ground area, providing moisture.
This is called "the three sisters" and it is an ancient method used by Native Americans
To do this he cut empty tubes of toilet tissue in half, placed them partway into the ground in the garden bed, filled almost halfway with soil that has been already mixed with a small amount of fert; planted 2-3 seeds in eachm added a sprinkling of soil and watered. This trick makes it harder for birds to dig out the seeds and for slimy slugs to climb into it...the cardboard will eventually decompose and become part of the soil in the garden bed.
The tomato bush in the trough is not even a foot tall and it already has three little tomatoes. I'm not sure what variety as this was given to me sometime ago.
In the next few days we will start planting inside the blocked area and place a few stepping stones inside to make it easier to access everything.
....and that is how our garden grows...we hope!
Ke Ola in Hawaiian means 'The Life'...
Ke Ola Magazine is a magazine for those who love the life we lead on the Big Island of Hawaii sharing stories about the land, culture, people and living a sustainable life.
Ke Ola's first issue appeared in December of 2008 and in these few years the magazine has grown deep roots in our island community hosting a diverse cast of writers sharing stories about the land, the people and the Hawaiian way of life.
Anyone who knows me knows about my love of learning about our plants, produce and fruit, so I was thrilled when asked to be a contributor to this beautiful and prestigious magazine with feature articles about the exotic tropical produce and fruits available in our farmers markets.
The magazine is published every two months and to date seven of my features have been "spotlighted" on the page opposite the Hawai'i Island Farmers Markets listings page.
I am sharing the six features from 2012.
For some reason, the blog post does not show the photos in the actual size in which I post them. To be able to read the pages, please click on each picture to make it larger.
January/February 2012 - Breadfruit and the recipe 'Breadfruit Fritters'
March/April 2012 - Purple Sweet Potatoes and the recipe 'Purple Sweet Potato, Yacón & Watercress Salad'
May/June 2012 - Taro and the recipe 'Taro Cream Soup'
July/August 2012 - Mamey and the recipes 'Mamey Cheesecake & Mamey Smoothie'
September/October 2012 - 'Ulu (Breadfruit) and the recipes 'Breadfruit Goes Bananas Custard and Breadfruit & Warabi Curry Salad'
November/December 2012 - Tropical Fruit Ambrosia and the recipe 'Ambrosia...Food of the Gods' Salad/Dessert
NOTES: Breadfruit and taro can be sometimes found in Asian or West Indian markets on the mainland. You can now find purple sweet potatoes being grown in North Carolina. Yacón is a crunchy root similar to jicama but juicier and sweeter. Mamey is a beloved fruit by all Cubans and can be found in most South Florida markets and also in some Asian and West Indian markets elsewhere.
If you're not familiar with any of the produce mentioned and are interested in finding more about them, I suggest you do a search or just make a comment and ask me. I will try to reply as best I can.
As you can see, there is a full year of features and recipes from last year and I've already started on this year's contributions...to be shared later.
Follow Ke Ola on Facebook
Remember back in the day when any recipe featured in a magazine or cookbook was called “Hawaiian Something or Other” if it had pineapple in it?
We sure have a come a long way, baby…
A bit over 21 years ago a group of 12 innovative chefs from all around the Hawaiian Islands started a food revolution when they went directly to the farmers and asked them to grow certain things for them.
The farmers enthusiastically responded, knowing they would have a guaranteed buyer for their crops and the chefs enthusiastically started developing recipes using these locally grown ingredients…and that, in a (macadamia) nut shell, is how the Hawai’i Regional Cuisine movement got started.
Hawai’i Regional Cuisine celebrates not only the foods the farmers or local fishermen can provide, but also incorporate the cuisines of the varied ethnic groups of people who have made these islands home.
More and more island chefs work hard at developing a close relationship with the farmers and other purveyors of the ingredients they need to develop the dishes that will eventually be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike in what is also being called a “Farm to Table” movement.
One of the leaders in this movement is Executive Chef James Babian of the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Kona Coast. His approach is to embrace what he calls the ‘seasonal, regional and artisanal’ concepts of food and cooking by using as much as possible island sourced; from locally harvested sea salt to several whole carcasses of grass-fed beef each month.
Chef Jim and his staff purchases from 160 different farmers, fishermen and other purveyors of locally grown or sourced ingredients…and for the last three years, to show their appreciation to their suppliers, they have hosted a Mahalo Farmers & Chefs Symposium and Lunch on the second Wednesday of November.
This was the first year that I didn’t have any conflicting events happening on ‘the day’ and was able to attend.
The ballroom tables were beautiful decorated with centerpieces made from assorted vegetables, mushrooms and orchids and one wall held bins of colorful produce provided by the farmers. Below the bins, there was a veritable Smörgåsbord of salad ingredients which I failed to photograph.
The food was displayed on stations around the ballroom where lunch was served and outside the ballroom where chefs had set up an outdoor kitchen and several entrées and side dishes where being prepared.
The food was simply but spectacularly presented with each dish’s ingredient able to capture the highlights. Lots of ‘little dishes’ with just enough to make you want more…but then you had to taste the next little dish…and the next…and the next!
Three different appetizers; roasted multicolored beets and goat cheese, thinly sliced kampachi sprinkled with kiawe smoked sea salt and ‘ahi with perfectly sweet grape tomatoes.
Several platters of cut or sliced fruit; passion fruit, star fruit, pineapple, dragon fruit and longans.
Perfectly cooked slices of grass-fed beef, ravioli, rice and braised bok choy, mahi mahi with citrus, and a delicious ‘stratta’ of sweet potatoes…I'm sure I forgot to name a few more!
Although there were several wonderful looking desserts, I managed to limit myself to one…the delicious Hawaiian chocolate drink served in a shot glass and plated with two mini round malasadas ‘floating’ on a slightly sweet purée of passion fruit.
During the lunch, Chef Jim presented his “Wish List” of produce and other ingredients he would love to have for next year. To read more about the event and to see the “Wish List”, please read my feature article for the Hawai’i HomeGrown Food Network.
Chef Jim, the hotel and his staff do it right!
Showing appreciation to their suppliers keeps everyone happy and satisfied but also makes everyone realize that there might be just a little bit more we all can do to help our island become more sustainable.
For a different twist, this year another dimension was added to the Breadfruit Fest... It was called 'The Breadfruit Fest Goes Bananas' and bananas of all types were brought in to introduce to the attendees. Some were familiar and some were completely new to me.
Photo: a huge rack of Cuban Red bananas
They are smaller in size than the common Cavendish banana and have a creamy white to pink flesh, with a slight raspberry flavor. They can be sliced and dried or eaten raw in salads, but are usually eaten fresh out of hand. The redder the fruit, the more carotene it contains. They also have more vitamin C than the yellow variety. A good source of fiber, potassium and vitamin C. Eat one a day, it contains 8 amino-acids your body cannot produce by itself (*)
Photo: Cuban Red banana rack hanging from a bamboo pole teepee frame
In one area of the Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens, the location where the festival is held, several bamboo pole teepee frames were built and banana racks were hung from them for display during the event and later for sale.
First Place winner in the "Going Bananas" Category was a delicious dessert by Dana Shapiro of Honoka’a
‘Ulu Banana Crepes with ‘Ulu Chunky Monkey Ice Cream
1-1/4 cup 'ulu, boiled and mashed
1/4 cup + 1 Tablespoons white honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
1-1/2 cups cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 apple banana, sliced
1/2 cup dark chocolate pieces, chopped roughly
2 Tablespoons natural peanut butter
2/3 cup mashed 'ulu (or use leftover pulp from making ice cream!)
1-1/2 cups flour
2-1/2 cups milk
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons butter, melted
Butter or oil for frying
Sliced apple bananas for filling
The 2nd Annual Breadfruit Fest held on Saturday, September 29th at the Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens in Captain Cook on the Big Island of Hawai'i showed that breadfruit can be a versatile source of food.
Breadfruit has been feeding Pacific Islanders for milennia and although at one time it was found growing in prolific forests in Hawai'i and can be boiled, steamed, fried, mashed and made into flour, through the years it lost popularity to the introduced potatoes and yams.
The resurgence of this valued crop can be the answer to food scarcity in the future. Although our islands can grow almost anything that grows anywhere else in the world, our dependence on imports runs at between 80 to 95% depending on the sources checked.
Breadfruit is so versatile that it could fill a major gap in our islands' food supplies. At each the three different festival we have held to date (*) hundreds of little breadfruit trees have been sold, giving hope that eventually the trees will be again found throughout the areas where it grows to best advantage.
Who says breadfruit can't go "international" or "gourmet"? Look at one of the winning recipes below.
Second Place Winner in the Entrée Category garnered enough judge points in healthy ingredients to also win the Healthiest Choice Award.
Entry by Gwen Edwards of Kailua-Kona
'Ulu (Breadfruit) Gnocchi with Hamakua Mushroom Ragout
The 2nd Annual Breadfruit contest was held this past Saturday, September 29th at the Amy B. H. Greenwell Ethnobotanical Gardens in Captain Cook on the Big Island of Hawai'i.
The Breadfruit Cooking Contest at Breadfruit Festival Goes Bananas called for original recipes that feature breadfruit as the main ingredient, adding a new twist this year was to challenge entrants to combine breadfruit and banana into one unique dish.
We had some wonderful recipes in several categories; Appetizers, Entrées/Main Dishes, Desserts, Going Bananas and Youth (ages 12-18)
Six judges tasted and scored each entry. Each entry was judged using the following criteria; Best use of Breadfruit, Taste, Appearance/Presentation, Originality and the Use of Healthy Ingredients
The First Place Winner in the Dessert Category, also won the First Place in the Youth Category and took the Best of Show Award.
Entry by the Culinary Arts Class Students of the Kua O Ka La Public Charter School in Pū‘āla‘a, Puna - with the guidance of their Culinary Kumu, Mariposa Blanco.
'Ulu Banana Tarts with Mango and Ohelo Berries
For the Tart:
1 1/2 cups 'ulu flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (Naked Cow Dairy butter is the best)
1/4 cup white Maui sugar ('ulu flour is sweet so you can use less sugar than you would normally. If you have sugar issues, coconut sugar works as well)
1 large egg
The white of one egg beaten
For the Filling:
2 cups steamed 'ulu cut into small pieces
2 cups bananas cut in small chunks (ripe and sweet as this is your sweetener for the filling)
1 cup cream
1 vanilla bean seeds - scraped from bean
a pinch of nutmeg
a pinch of Hawaiian salt finely ground
For the Topping:
1 cup thinly sliced mango marinated in honey
1 cup Ohelo berries reduced in a 1/4 cup sugar and 1/8 water
Juice of liliko'i - Brazilian style witn seeds
Preheat oven to 400 F
Lightly oil your tart pans with coconut oil and place them on a cookie sheets.
Beat egg, sugar and butter. Add to your flour and mix well. Roll into balls, wrapped in wax paper and place in freezer for 15 - 20 minutes.
Divide the dough ball and with your hands, pat it firmly all around the tart molds. Bake at 400 F for 5 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 F and watch closely while continuing to bake for 9 - 12 minutes more. Each batch was different so be sure to keep an eye on it while baking.
Turn oven off then brush the baked pastry shells with the beaten egg white and put back for about 2 more minutes. Take them out and let them cool completely. They will be delicate and tend to fall apart if you try to unmold them before they cool.
Blend the 'ulu, banana and cream in a food processor till very smooth. Add the vanilla seeds and a grate of nutmeg.
Fill your tarts, then add the honey marinated mango slices on one side and the reduced ohelo berries on the other. Sprinkle top with liliko'i juice. Chill in refrigerator and serve right away.
Yield: 10 individual tarts
Notes: This is like a classic fruit tart recipe. It took a lot of playing with the 'ulu flour, just have faith it will turn out...It does.
All ingredients were 100% locally sourced, grown or produced.
'ulu - Hawaiian word for breadfruit
kumu - teacher, instructor
Naked Cow Dairy - local dairy
Vanilla beans and nutmeg are being grown in Hawai'i. * Ohelo berries are usually found growing wild above the 1000 foot elevations.
As part of the recently held 22nd Annual Hawaii International Tropical Fruit Conference on several of the Hawaiian Islands, the Hawaii Tropical Fruit Growers- East Hawai'i Island chapter conducted a tour of the Onomea Orchards, owned by Richard and Jenny Johnson.
Ken Love, the HTFG president, came over to our side of the island and brought Dr. Roberto Coronel of the RC Fruit Conservation Farm in the Philippines and Chef Ernest Miller, who holds the title of Lead Instructor Master Food Preserver with the University of California Cooperative Extention in LA.
A group of about 18 to 20 people met in Hilo on a beautiful sunny morning for the drive to the orchard, where we met Richard Johnson, who then proceeded to take us on a tour.
After the tour we went back to our vehicles and we all broke for lunch...later meeting at the Komohana Agricultural Research Station where Dr. Coronel and Chef Ernie shared their presentations.
Dave Longacre the HTFG - East President summed it up quite nicely and with his permission I share his comments:
"What a great day we had on the Hilo Farm Tour and the post-annual conference presentations in the afternoon. HUGE Mahalo to Richard and Jenny Johnson of Onomea Orchards for hosting a big bunch of us at their gorgeous house and orchards"
"The immense productivity of Onomea Orchards' carambolas, longans, mangosteens, and myriad other fruits is testament to their hard work to maintain a spectacular orchard. Add to that a beautiful house and outbuildings and a mesmerizing pond filled with lotus blossoms - well, it is inspiring to say the least"
Hawaii Tropical Fruits Growers is a statewide association of fruit growers, packers, distributors and hobbyists dedicated to tropical fruit research, education, marketing and promotion and was incorporated in 1989 to promote the tropical fruit grown in the state.
For more information click HTFG