The Cayman Reporter shares tips and ideas to help you save the planet with suggestions on how you can go greener every day. Growing your own produce, no matter how small your backyard or garden, can be a really rewarding way to become a
little more self-sustaining and thereby put less pressure on the environment by cutting down on the huge amount of food the Cayman Islands imports.
A bounty of homegrown fruit
Last time we looked at growing your own fruit and vegetables straight from seed, a relatively cheap, quick and easy way to provide fresh food for you and your family. This time we are focusing on putting in a longer term investment into your gardening, with hopefully bountiful rewards.
After a couple of poor mango seasons we are this year blessed with a bountiful crop. You only have to walk into the supermarkets at the moment to see piles of these golden, sweet lovelies just waiting to be eaten. But how amazing would it be to grow your own? Growing your own trees from seed will obviously not grant you immediate reward, but the benefits should be truly spectacular in the years to come.
Christoph Dutour, who helps out at The Farmacy farm in North Side, said that when it comes to growing your own trees, you don’t even need to purchase seeds to grow your own.
“A lot of fruits and vegetables can be regrown from scraps,” he advised, “in particular, those with a large central seed, such as mangoes and avocados.”
Getting avocado plants started is easy. Dutour and his wife Morgan set a cleaned avocado stone upright (slightly pointier end on top) and then pierce the seeds with wooden toothpicks, carefully placing the seeds over a glass filled with water so the bottom of the seed is submerged (keep the top dry). The glass is then placed on a sunny windowsill to allow the seed to germinate. In a matter of weeks the seeds will sprout and once the plant gets to about six inches tall you will be able to plant them into pots, Dutour advises.
Mangoes are just as easy, the couple said.
To start with, you simply clean a mango stone from a mango that you’ve just eaten (preferably from one you have grown yourself), then let it dry for a day or two.
“When you are ready to germinate the seed, place it in a small bowl wrapped in moist kitchen towel, and be sure to keep the towel damp,” Morgan said. “Place the bowl in a warm place and wait for the seed to sprout.”
Sprouting takes place fairly quickly, within a week or two.
Alternatively, you can carefully cut open the big seed and there will either be a large central white seed or a few seeds within. Place these also in a small bowl wrapped in damp paper towel. They should sprout quite quickly, within about 10 days or so. Plant the sprouting seed into a pot and wait for it to grow into a
sapling. Once the sapling reaches a good height, plant into the ground, bearing in mind that mangoes like lots of sunlight. Water regularly to ensure consistent growth.
You will have to wait a few years before your tree begins fruiting, but what a joy it will be, when you have your very own plentiful supply of gorgeous fruit.
Here is a really easy recipe to use up a glut of mangoes.
Makes about three jars full (it’s best to make in small batches so the mixture doesn’t boil over)
1 ½ pounds skinned and chopped up mango flesh
1 lb 5 ounces white granulated sugar
Thoroughly wash and dry three used glass jars and their lids (old jam jars are great, just ensure you recycle; don’t buy new jars). Place the jars (not the lids) in a 350 F oven for about 10 minutes then remove and allow to cool. This will sterilise the jars.
Place the chopped mango, the sugar, the grated rind, juice and pips of the lemon in a large sturdy pan. Place the pan over a low heat on the stove and stir gently to allow the sugar to dissolve. Once the sugar is no longer granular, turn up the heat to medium high and watch the mixture start to bubble. A froth will appear on top – don’t worry about skimming it off as it will disappear later. Do not leave the jam at any point as you must ensure it doesn’t boil over. Just keep to a low, rolling boil, for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the mix gets darker and thicker. Stir regularly to ensure the mix doesn’t stick, but be careful as it will start to spit out.
Place a plate in the freezer and then after about 15 minutes boiling, take the pan off the heat and place a teaspoon of the jam on the cold plate, place the plate back in the freezer for a minute and then take it out. Gently press the jam on the plate – if it crinkles up it’s done. If the mix doesn’t crinkle up, place the pan on a gentle rolling boil again for another five minutes and try again. Repeat a third time, if necessary. Allow the mix to cool and carefully fish out the lemon pips (some will inevitably remain). Carefully ladle the jam into the jars and then seal and label the jars. I keep my jam in the fridge and it lasts well through the summer (if I can stop eating it all in one go!)