A New Challenge

IMG_3879I started this GardeningB blog last year, after reading Elle Luna’s book “The Crossroads of Should and Must” and meeting her at our local bookstore. Several people in the audience were talking about THE 100-DAY PROJECT, a creative challenge they had just started, and that got me thinking about reigniting my creative side. I jumped in, a week or so later, starting my own 100-Day Project. I chose to blog a story every day, for 100 days, about edible gardening. It would be a challenge for me because I hadn’t written much since I had worked as a writer/producer of videos, years ago… and I had done that as part of my job, not for “fun.” I began blogging and taking corresponding pictures for this “project”, starting on May 25 and officially ending on September 2, 2015, without missing a day. I even managed to post while travelling and during a vacation on a cruise ship, with sketchy internet connections. I kept blogging after completing the project, but not every day. Now that I have had time to reflect on the 100-day experience, I would say that it was tremendously rewarding to write and share stories every day.

I had many special moments during those 3+ months of blogging. I was at a party and several people walked up to me and asked for gardening advise–people who I wasn’t even acquainted with or friends who I didn’t know were following my blog stories. One night I went to a Farm-to-Table dinner downtown. I saw my hairdresser and his partner there. When I asked how they knew about the dinner, they said they had read about it on my blog. A few people started herb gardens and planted fruit trees, telling me that I had inspired them. A couple of people began harvesting rain in barrels to water their plants. Others told me that they were motivated to taste fruit they had never heard of before and to try new recipes. I also received gifts of fruit from followers and was sent gardening tips and photos.

When I completed the 100 days, I was asked if I was going to continue writing. I thought I would. I tried to post regularly. Then I got busy with other things. The writing became sporadic. My attention shifted to new interests. I took a drawing class, began Italian classes, and I increased my daily exercising… And I’m still working, which takes up the largest chunk of my days. I tried to get back into a writing routine but I just didn’t have the time. And my creative energy was now going toward other endeavors.

When I heard a new 100-Day Project was starting in 2016, I decided to participate again. I ruminated over several days about which new creative thing to do for 100 days. What I wanted to get better at and do more of is to DRAW.  So that is what I decided to do. My new challenge is to create one drawing everyday on a mini canvas (3” X 3”) using only black and white Sharpie markers. The project isn’t about making a perfect product every day; it is about the process, the practice. What will I learn about drawing, while I am doing it every day? What will I learn about myself? Where will the practice take me?

I started my project on April 19th and have been posting my drawings, with explanations, every day on Instagram (@gardeningB) and Twitter (@superbMiami). If you want to follow along with me, please do! I think you can link to Instagram at the bottom left side of my website or here. I will also share my experiences on this blog, every couple of weeks or so. Wish me luck dear friends! And if I can encourage you on your own creative challenge, please let me know. ♥ The pictures on this post are of my first drawings on mini canvases.

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New Papaya Tree

IMG_3330My newest papaya plant is full of fruit. This tree is only 7’ tall so the fruit will be easy to pick once they are ripe. Papaya is also called lechosa and fruta bomba in Spanish. In Australia and some countries of the Caribbean, it is called papaw or pawpaw. The mature fruit can weigh up to 20 pounds!

Making Dehydrated Treats

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Dehydrated Star Fruit

I have wanted a Food Dehydrator for some time and had begun researching which one to buy. So when I read my sister’s email a couple of weeks ago, “What do you want for Christmas?” I replied with a model number. Sure enough, Santa promptly delivered the much-anticipated Food Dehydrator… thanks to my sister & her husband! For my first batch, I sliced-up fresh star fruit, papaya and banana. These fruits were all from my trees. I also sliced some fresh carrots; and lastly I added some frozen string beans. I assembled all the pieces on the trays, stacked them on top of each other, put on the top, set the temperature and turned the gizmo on. I checked the progress every few hours. It was not a quick process. I was surprised that it took approximately 12 hours for everything to be fully dried.

Of all my friends and family who tasted the assorted foods I dried, most people liked the star fruit the best. It just had a great texture and taste. It was a huge hit. The papaya and banana were also excellent. Now for the failures: the carrots felt and tasted like leather; and the string beans had a strange chewy consistency. I’m not sure what I did wrong with the carrots. As for the string beans, I’m going to try fresh beans next time, instead of frozen, to see if this makes a difference.

Happy New Year everyone. Make it a great one!!!!

My First Persimmon

IMG_3129 (2)I only discovered persimmon when I was visiting my brother Carlos, in Sacramento, California, 13 months ago. He had a basket of it on his kitchen counter that his neighbor who was growing it had given him. Carlos had never tasted the fruit either. So we sliced one open and ate it. I was astonished at how good it tasted. So Carlos gave me a few of the precious bounty and I’ve been a huge fan ever since.

When I saw persimmon trees on sale at my local nursery this past May, I took one home, even though persimmons don’t usually fruit well in south Florida. The variety I purchased– Fuyu Persimmon– is bred for our hot climate and is supposed to need less cold days to develop fruit. The little tree had three tiny persimmon growing on its’ limbs, which the saleslady told me would fall off because the tree was still too small to fully develop the fruit. But I held out hope that they would grow large enough to eat.

I placed the new tree along the side of the house until I could figure out where I wanted to plant it in my yard. Then I sort of forgot about it. By the time I began to pay attention to it again, it had dried out. All the leaves had fallen off, but the three tiny persimmons still clung to the tree. I promptly planted the tree and began to faithfully water it. Leaves grew back. Then one immature fruit fell off. Then the second immature fruit fell off. But the last remaining fruit (pictured) tenaciously hung on and did eventually grow large enough to eat. Can’t wait till next year’s crop!

The Papaya Whisperer

IMG_3354 (3)I am so thankful to my gardener for helping me cut down these large papayas from my very tall papaya tree. I just couldn’t maneuver the fruit-picking pole between the high hedges and the electrical wires to get at these beauties. He got them easy…although a fourth papaya was accidentally knocked into the yard of my NeighborWithCameras. We weren’t able to retrieve it because there is a wall protecting their side yard from mine, not to mention the security cameras trained on us. I hope they are grateful for the tasty treat that fell out of the heavens onto their grass!

Porridge and Paris

IMG_2768 (2)The first recipe I made from The 22-Day Revolution was the Day 1 breakfast: Oatmeal with Banana and Blueberries. Porridge — as I fondly call it — is one of my “go to” breakfasts, which gives me energy until lunchtime. I always blend in some chopped-up fruit to sweeten it a bit. The easy recipe in the book contains:

  • 1 cup almond milk
  • ½ cup quick oats
  • 1 banana
  • ½ cup blueberries.

I made it with quick rolled oats (1-minute) and used only half a banana, which was plenty. A thumb-up on this recipe. Porridge power! And power to Paris…

My friends and all people in Paris, you have been on my mind constantly. You are in my heart. I dedicate my food preparation to you, my morning yoga, my picking up the leaves in the backyard, the sound of the wind chimes, all my happy thoughts and strength, my love. Enjoying life is a triumph over terrorism.

A Common Plant

IMG_3136(2)Do you recognize this leaf? It belongs to a common plant, grown in many people’s yards. It’s a Monstera Deliciosa, also known as Ceriman, Split-Leaf Philodendron or Swiss-Cheese Plant. I first wrote about Monstera last July when mine began to fill with fruit. What’s special about Ceriman is that it is one of few plants that flower and fruit in full shade. And most people don’t know that they can actually eat the fruit. Monstera can also be grown in a planter, and as a houseplant, though it is unlikely to produce fruit like this.

If you want to use the fruit, Monstera is best grown at temperatures of 20–30 °C (68–86 °F). It requires shade and likes high humidity.  The fruit begins to ripen when the hexagonal green scales start to lift off naturally. It takes about a week for all the scales to come off, so one piece of fruit is harvested over several days–not all at once. As the scales come off, you scrape off the moist flesh underneath, which is what you eat. With the piece of fruit in the picture it took 9 days for all the scales to fall off. Since I wasn’t going to use it right away, I scraped the flesh off into a container and froze it every few days, until the entire fruit was finished ripening. A warning is warranted here—don’t force the scales off! You need to let it ripen naturally to the point where the scales lift-off on their own. Then you can eat the flesh underneath. If you eat the flesh before it is fully ripe, it could cause severe irritation in your mouth and throat. If you do this once (as I did the first time I attempted to eat the fruit), you won’t do it again!

Monstera is high in potassium and vitamin C. It tastes like a blend of pineapple and banana. Here are some of my recommendations for how to eat the ripe fruit: mix it into a fruit salad, add it to smoothies, put it on granola or on top of oatmeal, sprinkle it on salads.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Blueberry/Banana/Pineapple Smoothie

57 (2)In a large blender add 2 cups blueberries and 2 ripe bananas. Then fill the rest of the blender with equal parts pineapple and water and/or ice. If you don’t have fresh pineapple, you can use pineapple juice instead.

I want to thank everyone who has read my posts during my 100-Day Project of writing about edible gardening—stories about plants & people. This is the 100th day! I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your comments and have learned so much from you while reading your blogs and remarks. It’s also been such a pleasure to meet so many of you in the blogging community. I’m going to take a couple of weeks off from writing now to think about how I am going to continue… Perhaps I’ll post once or twice a week or change focus a bit. Please feel free to let me know what you’ve liked or not liked…

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Banana Flower

59 (2)The first bananas are growing on my Goldfinger Banana plant. This plant is approximately 12’ tall. When the high winds started in Miami due to a possible impending storm, I decided to cut the flower off so that the plant wouldn’t be so top heavy. Banana plants don’t do well in high winds; they tend to topple over. The flower weighed close to 3 pounds!

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.

Coffee vs Smoothie

18 (2)Oh my dear coffee, how I love you and hate you…let me count the ways… I love the ritual of getting up in the morning and first pouring the water into the stainless steel espresso maker, otherwise known as a Moka Pot. I love packing you in, ground-up fine, and putting you on the stove. It’s comforting. I love the smell of you and your taste. So what don’t I like? That the time it takes to perform this ceremony could be used to support a healthier habit, like making a fruit or veggie smoothie. And what I hate is that I’m addicted to you. This morning I tried to split-up with you. I didn’t drink you; I made a fresh juice instead. By the end of the day I had a splitting headache. When you look at the overall picture coffee, you’re not that bad of a habit—I mean you’re not nicotine or heroin. But the caffeine withdrawal is unpleasant. So now that I already survived the first day of a horrendous migraine, I think I’ll stay away from you for another day, and maybe another… we’ll see how it goes.

© 2015 Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com. Excerpts and links may be used and are encouraged, provided that full and clear credit is given to Beatriz Portela and gardeningB.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Any other use and/or duplication of this written material & picture(s) is prohibited without written permission from Beatriz Portela.