Keeping the ‘Green’ in Jamaica

Mini Food Forest

When I was living in the UK, I had the pleasure of working my allotment for three years which included open land, raised beds and a small greenhouse. I won’t say it wasn’t without its trials and tribulations, but the experience was unforgettable. To be working the land, watching as Mother Nature did her thing producing food, with a little care and attention from me was so fulfilling. I ate and shared organically produced vegetables and fruit, and still had plenty to spare.

In the UK we are going full circle and there is a shift towards how we lived years ago when we practised the mantra of ‘Grow What we Eat and Eat What we Grow’. It’s now high fashion to recycle, pursue crafts, Make Do and Mend, keep chickens for eggs and tend vegetable patches, or allotments.  These are all in high demand even in London, where the produce is something to share and warmly boast over with friends. Ironically, I feel that this way of living is the way forward, although it is in fact the way back. Once declining methods, that have been practised for generations and only kept alive in small ‘cottage’ industries, are having their embers stoked to become flourishing with activity again. I believe that it would be beneficial to Jamaican’s, if this way of living was more understood and accepted in Jamaica too.

Grow What You Eat Jamaica

Spending time in Jamaica over the last 7 years I have noticed that very few people have their own vegetable patch, although a fruit tree or two is often present in the yard. This has always occurred to me as something that is strange, as there is so much space, fertile land and more importantly hungry bellies to fill. Even the smallest amount of space can produce a valuable source of organically grown food right on your doorstep, and if done in the right way, there is minimal financial outlay involved. The crops can be planted in containers or raised beds, so that they can harvested as needed and this food source will supplement the diet and the cooking pot.

I appreciate that there is a wealth of information in the UK that directly relates to the merits of recycling, being sustainable, using alternative farming practises and the health benefits associated with ‘going organic’, but that isn’t necessarily widely available in Jamaica. Which is probably why many of these industries are in a developmental stage at the moment and some people burn or throw away plastic and other trash and heavily use chemicals in the production of their crops. In a country where rubbish collection isn’t available island-wide and the marketing of fertilisers and chemicals for the production of food crops is a financial empire, it will take a lot of public awareness campaigns to change this long-held way of thinking in Jamaican lifestyles and farming.

With all these factors in mind I have long been telling friends in the country who farmed about the benefits of farming in a sustainable and organic way, without the use of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. Instead using water harvesting techniques, composting and crop rotation as a way to produce bumper crops, inhibit bugs and disease and even create energy. I feel it is the only feasible way forward in the future with the state of the Environment and we all should be pushing the idea to others if we have knowledge to share.

Often when I am researching I find that one discovery leads to another and I have found that there are many other concepts and techniques within these genres that are interesting and I feel they could play a part in the recovery of Jamaica. Sustainability, Recycling, Climate Change, Organic Farming and Environmental awareness is the theme and I will be going on a journey of discovery and invite you to come with me…

Jamaica’s Green Industries

First stop Jamaica! I am really pleased to find  a burgeoning ‘Green’ industry growing in Jamaica covering many genres. With this in mind in future posts I will be introducing some of the companies and people involved in these industries, alongside some of the creative ideas and concepts I have come across that could be used in Jamaica. Everything is with the aim of keeping Jamaica beautiful, whilst using its natural resources wisely, recycling, living and building sustainably and producing organic non-genetically modified (GM) food.

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Walk Good, Jules

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Eat What You Grow – Jamaica Part 2

Small Tropical Garden

After sharing my Container Garden this week where I have planted things I love to eat, this post will introduce you to the rest of the edible plants and trees that I am growing on my veranda. As I mentioned before I long to have a piece of land that I can plant up with raised beds and fruit trees using Permaculture techniques. This will keep me well stocked up in organically grown produce. With this plan of having a Food Forest I planted up some fruit tree seeds, as well as some young suckers that I have been gifted from here and there. I figured that as they take years to reach maturity I could grow them in pots until I am ready to plant them out when I move.

Why not give it a try yourself? A container garden is easy to manage and is fun to look after as well as a readily available source of healthy food. Grow What You Eat, Eat What You Grow… It’s simple really!

My Avocado Pear Tree

I am especially proud of this Pear, or Avocado Pear sapling, as I have grown it from seed. After enjoying an especially tasty Pear I decided to try my luck and dropped the seed into the bottom of an old 2.5 litre bucket with some common dirt inside. A couple of rescued Almond suckers had recently been put in the bucket too and were trying to put on roots. After almost forgetting about the Pear seed, I noticed a thick dark brown shoot pushing through the dirt, with two tiny leaves. It got to be about 6″ high and the leaves were getting much larger in size and the shoot was as thick as my smallest finger.  Under the shade of the Almond suckers this little shoot grew really tall, really fast. It formed about 6 large leaves and the top had reached right under the tallest Almond sucker, and was so tall the leaves were permanently held downwards.

I decided to re-pot it and hoping for the best I carefully turned the bucket with the three saplings upside down, whilst supporting the stems. I prised the tough dirt apart with a little water and slowly released the roots of each sapling. A plastic 10″ pot was the Pear’s new home and after a day the beautiful large leaves were raised skywards and it continued to thrive putting on new leaves. I decided to pinch out the new leaves that were forming in the middle after it had settled down in the pot in the hope it would make it more bushy and control the height. I check the Pear every day and make sure there are no bugs lurking around that can eat it, as I don’t intend to use chemicals in the growth. I noticed some of the leaves were turning brown, but after researching online I discovered that this was most likely caused to the soil being too wet, so I have laid off the watering! I Love it!

Pear (Avocado) Planted Oct 2013
Pear (Avocado) Planted Oct 2013

My Stringy Mango

There are many types of Mango in Jamaica and everyone has their favourite variety. If I am honest my favourite Mango that I have tasted is the East Indian Mango, which is a large Mango with succulent sweet flesh and a tempting aroma. However, I have not been lucky enough to grow or acquire one yet, but I have three little Stringy Mango suckers. Stringy Mangoes are sometimes overlooked as their stringy flesh has a tendency to get stuck between the teeth when eating it. But, the flesh is still delicious and sweet and although they produce a small stringy fruit, you will still be prising the last of it from the seed and flossing afterwards.

These suckers took a few weeks to settle down as the roots were really small when I got them and they started off in common dirt in a recycled bucket. After about 2 months,  one of them still looks a bit poorly but the other two are now  putting on new leaves, I plan to plant them out in 10″ pots with some compost when I spurge again at the farm store.

Stringy Mango Suckers
Stringy Mango Suckers

My Baby Guinep Trees

To be honest I didn’t realise these were Guinep when I got them, as they were growing in sand on the beach. I just thought the leaves looked pretty and they would make a nice addition to my container garden. It has now been verified by a few Jamaican’s living nearby that they are indeed Guinep and I feel a little guilty for planting them up in soda bottles where they cannot properly spread their roots. They are doing much better now that I mixed in a little compost with the common dirt and they are putting on new leaves too. These are also on my wish list for bigger pots, although I have a feeling that the Tomato and Cucumber seedlings might get there first! Guinep is a delicious fruit, and forms like a Lychee, although the fruit is a beautiful orangey colour and tastes and looks much better. Yum!

Guinep Seedlings
Guinep Seedlings

Mint

I am not sure of the variety, but when seeped the leaves make an excellent Mint tea to clear the chest, cleanse the palate and settle the stomach. This little Mint cutting was made up of a small wisened root-stock with two woody wispy strands that were about 2  foot long. To make it more bushy I set about cutting back the strands to just above the lowest budding leaves, so that they formed two upright sticks for the new shoots to wrap around. This has made the whole plant form new stems and leaves that are fresh and not so woody. I am looking forward to it spreading so that I can harvest it, although again I think a bitter pot with better soil is on order.

Mint Bush
Mint Bush

Thyme

If there was ever a herb that was used in Jamaica, it would have to be Thyme. Used daily in nearly every recipe I can think of this herb is synonymous with Jamaican cuisine and is a must have in my kitchen too. As I didn’t want to wait for it to grow from seed, I just bought a large bundle of thyme in the market and made sure that it had a good root-stock attached to it. Bringing it home I planted it up straight away into a 10″ pot with some dead leaves in the bottom and potting compost on top, before liberally watering it. I will keep an eye on it for the next few days to check the soil is not too wet or dry to make sure the roots take sufficiently for it to prosper. Do not try and plant Thyme that has been in the fridge as this will impede the growth.

Thyme Grow from Cuttings
Thyme Grow from Cuttings

Tomato

I found this little Tomato seedling growing randomly in one of the flower pots. We have been known to put seeds in the tops of  the flower pots to see what hatches as I guess this was one of them! As it was growing right at the side of the pot in tough common dirt I decided to carefully prise it out and re-pot in a recycled soda bottle with some potting compost. It looks much better now, but it is early days and I had to rescue it the other night in a downpour as I didn’t want it to get flooded out or damaged by the heavy rainfall.

Re-Potted Tomato Seedling
Re-Potted Tomato Seedling

Basil

This recycled tin had holes punched around the bottom and was filled with potting soil before having Basil seeds scattered all over it. Two weeks later the little seedlings are growing and steadily filling the surface of the tin. There has been a few near mishaps with this Basil and I am pleased to see with some love and attention it is pulling through. Ants tried to take over the tin and I had to flood them (and nearly the Basil) out and a few times I have to run outside and move it under cover when there has been heavy rainfall in the evening. Basil is used in a lot of Italian cooking and I love eating it with cheese and crackers, pear (avocado) Tomato and a splash of Olive Oil, in salads, with pizza and cheese on toast, with pasta dishes. I am hoping to make some pesto sauce when I have a good stock and can find a local alternative to Pine Nuts. Delicious.

Basil grown from seeds
Basil grown from seeds

 

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Like our FaceBook Page to get the latest news, photo’s, music, events, competitions and offers from Sweet Jamaica https://www.facebook.com/sweetjamaica.co.uk

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Looking forward to hearing from you.

Walk Good, Jules

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Get In Touch!

What fruit trees are you growing, or what else are you planting in Containers? Can you give me any other ideas of what to plant, or other ways of using the produce?  Get in touch and share you experiences, we would love to hear from you!