As we enter into November, I am taking every opportunity to make the most of the remaining weeks of what seems to have been a bumper 2011 avocado season. I, like many others, will be sorry to see these wonderful, nutrition-rich beauties vanish for our daily menu. And as if this was not woeful enough, the timing coincides with the end of our own mango trees fruiting; Julie, Palwee, Long, Pont (and a purple variety that none of us know the name of), have given up the last of their bounty for this year and are now busy erupting with new shoots of acid and lime green and deep coppery reds (these vary by variety). The speed of growth is quite phenomenal - seemingly to grow several inches every day - and all over the island mango trees are bursting into flower and for some, next year's crop is already making an appearance as tiny, grape-sized specimens. Sadly, I'm not a huge fan of freezing, drying or bottling this particular fruit, preferring to enjoy it simply and naked (the fruit, not me, though they're so juicy and sticky, that at times it seems that eating them naked would possibly be THE most sensible thing to do).
2011 has also brought a superb crop of cucumbers and the biggest challenge has been to use them all before they spoil. It's worth noting that the best specimens seem to grow on patches of land, recently cleared and burnt and left to settle for a week or two. Eaten freshly picked, with a knife in hand and a tiny pile of ground sea-salt for dipping, is by far the best way to enjoy these, in my view; though thankfully, the results of my first efforts of bottling, pickling and even fermenting have proved to be most successful and produced some truly wonderful new taste sensations. Making the most of my father's seemingly endless supply of enormous home-grown limes, I've experimented with a range of marinades of sea salt, lime juice, rice vinegar, garlic, spring onions (scallions), fresh coriander (cilantro) and dried red chillies and used this to bottle some of these fabulously crisp cucumbers cut into thick spears. These (sealed in glass jars) last for several weeks in the fridge and make a superb accompaniment to a variety of hot and cold dishes and perfect with a hunk of good mature cheddar cheese and fresh crusty bread. Finely sliced and blended with shredded, crunchy white cabbage and imported New Zealand Braeburn apples, they also make a rather delicious alternative twist on Korean Kimchee. Hot, sweet and sour and packing a punch from a combination of fresh scotch bonnet peppers, dried red chillies and fresh garlic. Equally, the addition of some chargrilled aubergines (egg plant) drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, adds yet another dimension - the possibilities seem endless.
With further thoughts of bottling and pickling in mind, I am watching with interest as a new wild, self-seeded lime tree has burst into life. I'm not sure how it came to be there, but it is now well established just beside the main driveway to the house. Hopefully, it will go on to produce masses of small, juicy fruit, known here simply as "local lime", which are the perfect size for making traditional Indian style lime pickle. In the meantime, I will beg my Indian friends for their mother's, aunt's or grandmother's secret recipes! If anyone has a particularly good recipe that they would like to share, I would be very happy to hear from them. And so, the experimenting will continue as I try to find new ways of using and saving all that the garden provides. Of course, sharing and bartering is prolific here and exchanging produce with family and friends is a great way to make the most of one's harvest; there is of course the added bonus that in the process one may even manage to save seeds from varieties that one has not previously grown.
* MAN-GO.... MAN-GONE! one of those silly family sayings that we use, never really knowing how, or when, it found it's way into our vocabulary. I'm sure that every family has them....sometimes many years after the original occasion has long since been forgotten.