Dinner from the forest

Oh man, Sunday afternoon, nothing to eat and no food in the kitchen. Then I thought that instead of complaining I should get creative. So I decided to cook dinner with food found in my backyard. Here is what I found:

From left to right you are looking at a medium-sized (and still a bit young) breadfruit (the tree is poppin with em), long leaves of fevergrass, mint, culantro (cilantro’s southern cousin), filipito plantains, the round lime-looking things are guavas, a big mess of mangoes, a couple of coconuts, lime leaves and two big cowfoot leaves.

Time spent gathering food from backyard (and neighbor’s yard, sorry Vidaluz): about 1 hour.

I started cooking not quite sure what I was going to end up with, so I mashed up the mangoes and guava together and made a really tasty, though heavy, juice.

Time spent washing, cutting, mashing and straining the mangoes and guava (- the time I was eating  a few to tide me over): 30 minutes

I then began the long process of making coconut milk, which means skillfully putting to use the one utensil that should be in everyone’s kitchen, a machete. One of these days I will post a how-to for opening coconuts with jungle sword, but until then, just imagine me ripping off the husk then chipping off the shell with the machete while holding it in my hand. Guthry taught me well. After that the coconut meat has to be grated into dust then mixed with water and squeezed dry. The white liquid that remains is the coconut milk.

Time spent opening and chipping and shredding the coconuts: 45 minutes. Time spent frantically looking for bandaids: 5 minutes.

Time to boil up all the goodies! First thing was to open and cut up the plantains. Yum. Threw it in the pot of boiling coconut milk. Next up was the breadfruit. The breadfruit was still a bit young and full of latex, so I used the old knife. I chopped it up into cubes, cutting out the core stem. Threw it in the pot of boiling coconut milk. After that I washed off the mint, fevergrass (lemongrass in American English), culantro and lime leaves. Threw em in the pot of boiling coconut milk.

Time spent throwing everything in the pot of boiling coconut milk: 45 minutes.

What I didn’t end up using was the cowfoot leaves. They make a licorice-flavored tea, but there just wasn’t a place for that this evening. Threw ’em in the pot of compost.

I let the rundown boil for about half an hour and wolfed it down in only about ten minutes. It went well with the mango-guava juice and didn’t cost a dime! Time spent from decision to eat what we grow to eating what we grew: ~3.5 hours. Bowls of soup: ~4. Glasses of juice: ~3. Fingers sewed back on: 2.5 (the thumb isn’t a finger, right?).

Next time I would prefer to do it with someone else to cut the prep time in half, but it was a nice way to kill an afternoon. And I have a new appreciation for the people living in the bush. Subsistence foraging, hunting and fishing takes a lot of time!



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