29 March, 2022

Bilimbi Jam

The bilimbi fruits are coming ripe fast and furious off our one little tree.  They are an unusual fruit - very tart and acidic like a pickle straight off the tree - with a delightfully crisp texture when raw.  I have been adding them to fish and chicken dishes where they provide some bright flavor similar to a squeeze of line or lemon.  Still, the bilimbis keep coming faster than we can eat them.  I looked up lots of recipes on line, mostly from recipe blogs of Goan and Keralan Indians.  The easiest recipe that would use the backlog of fruits is jam, so jam I made.  

The harvest.
Cut open, you can see the resemblance to carambola, aka starfruit. although the five lobes aren't ridged like starfruit.
Crispy, juice-filled flesh.
All together the harvest yielded a little more than 6 cups of sliced fruit.
The 2 quart measuring cup is three-quarters full.  The fruit smells of sliced green apples.
The recipes I saw all called for pre-boiling the fruit and discarding the water before boiling with sugar and water and a cinnamon stick for about 25 minutes.
The little cinnamon stick added tons of flavor.
I decided to use the immersion blender to make it smoother, but I did not strain it.
Four small jars of bilimbi jam.

The jam is really tasty!  It would go very well with a cheese plate or even served with lamb or duck.  More of a condiment than a sandwich jam, although I would happily spread it on toast.  In a few days, when we have some strong sunshine,  I will try making dried, salted wedges that are used in lots of Indian cuisines.

In other news, Dennis is able to do more and more and is feeling very well - so yay!  We had unusual late season cold front come through and the sea is frothing with energy from the strong winds that continue to blow.  The rainfall from the cold front gave us a respite from watering the vegetable garden - so also yay!

23 March, 2022

Red and Round

The Saharan Dust that others have blogged about (here, here, and here) has reached this hemisphere, making the sunrises very hazy and sunsets intense.  At least we don't have the muddy rain that fell in Spain, France, and England.

Sunrise on this cloudless but hazy morning.
It is hot (86F, 30C) and humid (74%) and the tomatoes are loving it!  Dennis tracked down seeds from plants bred to be heat and drought tolerant, about 15 varieties in all.  We got them set out in the garden a while back.  They are growing well, with no signs so far of nematodes, white flies, or leaf curl virus that were problems last year.
The tomato plants are staked and as soon as the fruits start showing any signs of color, I put mesh bags on them to protect them from the birds.

So far, the bags are doing their job.

First harvest - 2 Champions on the left and 2 Bella Rosa on the right.

We've already tried the first Bella Rosa and it was quite tasty.  More on tonight's menu.  Other varieties are larger.  My favorite - Black Krim - is one of the larger ones and will be some weeks yet before we see any fruits on it.

In other news, Dennis is doing well, but needs at least another week of minimal activity.  As you might imagine, his definition of minimal is not as stringent as mine, but he is being as good as he can be.  To avoid confusion - Dennis is not in the Red and Round category.  ;-)

16 March, 2022

Encouraging Road Trip

Dennis had an encouraging visit with his angiologist today in Dangriga.  He is healing nicely with just one more week off his feet before he can gradually ease back in to greater participation in daily life.  Blood work was improved, so there is an excellent possibility for preventative treatments in 3 to 4 months.  Still some issues that need followup; anemia  being the primary one.  With lighter hearts, we were able to enjoy the road trip home.  

We had hired a driver to take us from Independence (traveling from our home to Independence by boat) to Dangriga.  Upon leaving the doctor's office we noticed the gorgeous day.  I snapped the photos below from the van window as we made our way home.  

Citrus farm on the left.

More orange trees with Maya Mountains in the background.


Roadside vegetation.

Wish I knew what that plant with the fluffy pink flowers is.

Stann Creek.

Mayan village with beautiful plantings.

Hey look!  Another citrus farm with the Maya Mountains in the background.

Very tacky tourist trap, but with beautiful plantings.

More plantings in another Mayan village.

I think these are crepe myrtle trees blooming.

We left at 7am and got back home a little before 1pm.  Good to be home again, even after only a half day away.  

13 March, 2022

A Fraught Week

We are back at home after a harrowing week that involved emergency first aid and admission of Dennis to the Belize Healthcare Partners (BHCP) private hospital for 3 nights.  I will spare you the details, but here are the highlights. We had to get Dennis to a vascular surgeon/angiologist.  I should say THE vascular surgeon/angiologist because there is only one in all of Belize.  Many of the doctors in Belize are Cuban trained and are excellent; the angiologist is no exception.  Dennis and I flew up to Belize City as soon the angiologist was available - did I mention that this happened over a long holiday weekend?  Fortunately my emergency first aid held tight for the 2 days before she was back in the country.

Waiting our turn to take off.
Dennis saw the angiologist and she, having seen only 1 case of this particular condition back when she was a resident in Cuba, got him stabilized in her office and scheduled for admission at the same facility.  Which was a good thing, because she would not allow him to sit up at all for the next 24 hours and then only sit in bed with feet up for the next 2 days.  Once he was admitted, I had to fly back home to take care of the dogs and get someone to care for them for the next days before flying back up to Belize City first thing in the morning.
Quick flight back home for me the same day.
Barnie and Clove are guard dogs, and while they are sweet and loving with us, they tend to attack strangers or people they have taken a dislike to.  Fortunately one of our workers gets on well with the dogs and he was able to walk and feed them when I flew back up to Belize City.

Dennis got great care at BHCP.  The only complaint either of us has is the minimal level of communication, but I suppose that is the case in most hospitals.  At any rate, he was discharged with followup appointments with 3 different specialists because of confounding conditions that need to be addressed.  We came home by road, since I was unsure if Dennis could manage the steps to board the plane.  It was an enjoyable trip with a very personable and caring driver.  
Behind the sugar cane truck on the George Price Highway.

The first followup appointment is with the angiologist, who will assess Dennis's progress and determine if he needs further treatment, either from her or in the US where additional procedures may be available.  We only have to go to Dangriga, a 2 hour trip,  for that appointment, since she has clinic days at the public hospital there.  Much easier than going to Belize City, which would likely involve an overnight stay.

For now, we are home enjoying the company of Barnie and Clove and observing the flora and fauna of our paradise.
Adult yellow crowned hight heron.

Shell ginger.

05 March, 2022

The Coral Tree Cafe

The coral tree (Erythrina fusca) is in full bloom right now, and it is a busy place!  All the birds, from the small hummingbirds to the large Montezuma oropendolas seem to love it.  Even the insectivorous woodpeckers are drawn to it to feast on the flies, bees, and wasps that adore the flowers.  Here is the view of it from our back veranda.

This particular tree has orange flowers.
About 5 years ago, when the tree was only about 15 feet tall, and surrounded by taller, weedier trees, one of our workers pointed it out to me.  I had no idea it was there because it had never bloomed.  
It has a full canopy with lots of room to grow even more.  That's it behind the small banana plants.  You can see the tomatoes in our raised beds, plus some coconut palms.
So we cleared its competitors away to give it some space.  Two years later, it had a few blossoms, the next year it had more, and now, well - just look at it!  
Multi-trunked tree.
Fortunately, it can tolerate a high water table of brackish water, which is what we have here - most of our vegetables are in raised beds to keep their roots  happier.
A few spent blossoms on the ground.
I don't have a good photo of the inflorescence on the tree - they are way too high - but I do have a close-up of a single fallen blossom.
A very complex structure.  I think some insects get trapped in it.  
Hummingbirds swarm the tree in the early morning hours and then later on other birds come.  No photos of the woodpeckers or brown jays, but I did get some shots of Montezuma Oropendolas.
That's a Montezuma Oropendola in the center of the image with the blue patch on its face.

And here it is showing off its yellow tail.
Larger than an American crow, smaller than a raven, these oropendolas are the largest member of the New World Blackbird family.

For a few more weeks yet, the birds will feast at the Coral Tree Cafe.