THE TRUTH ABOUT JAMAICA’S SWEET POTATO

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SWEET POTATO DEFINED

 

Sweet potato is one of our family’s favorite roots and with good reason. A sweet potato is essentially the fleshy tubers of some varieties of the ipomoea genus that we like to employ in the kitchen for their natural sweetness and their aid in good health. Most people may not recognize that sweet potato belongs to the most popular genus of the morning glory family (Convolvulaceae). This makes it a very useful and ornamental vine that’s guaranteed to reward you with delicious and healthy edible roots at the end of each planting season.

 

JAMAICA & SWEET POTATO

The scientific name for the Jamaican sweet potato variety remains inconclusive. However, its’ properties are lauded and desired among ipomoea plants. These tubers were such a big part in my life growing up and I wouldn’t trade them in for anything. While we owned and operated a commercial sweet potato farm, my deep appreciation for this plant did not emerge primarily from that experience.

 

Our home was one of many rooted in one of the steepest hills off the coast of Trelawny. It had a breathtaking view of the valley and the ocean beyond but it also had some sloping paths. We planted the Jamaican sweet potato in our home and watched them make excellent groundcover, holding precious earth together and winning the fight against soil erosion. They’d put out gorgeous pink morning glory blooms with hearts of violet and shower us with some massive tubers for our table. We’d harvest, replant the slips and rinse and repeat over and over again.

 

JAMAICAN SWEET POTATO PROPERTIES

Isn’t it amazing how one root could come in so many variations? How many have you experienced: purple, red, orange, pink, gold, and white-flesh tubers? The Jamaican sweet potato is an interesting variety. Thick, light-green vines produce heart-shaped, dark-green leaves with trumpet-like blooms of pink and violet popping up within the folds. The vines produce tubers that are generally much larger than some of the more popular and widely cultivated types on the global market. The thin, maroon skin gives way to white flesh that takes on a cream hue when cooked.

 

SWEET POTATO USES

 

Speaking of cooking, perhaps one of the best properties of this Jamaican variety is its’ ability to hold its’ form when cooked. It has a nice, firm, even texture when boiled or baked and makes amazing fries that our children just love! It’s also the main ingredient in the traditional Jamaican sweet potato pudding recipe that tourists can’t get enough of. It makes excellent cookies, cakes, ice-cream, milkshake, punch, porridge, bread, and so much more!

 

Let’s not forget that the plant also has its’ host of uses. The Jamaican sweet potato makes an elegant ornamental and it’s perfect for small space or short seasons. You can plant it in a hanging basket on your porch. You can even train your plants over a lattice, arch, gazebo, or swing in your garden or landscape. If you’re looking for elegant groundcover, you can plant it over that rocky bed, along your driveway or any awkward space in your home, school or office.

 

PLANTING SWEET POTATO

 

Be mindful that the sweet potato is a creeper vine so if it is potted, I’d suggest putting it in a large hanging basket. They require very little attention once the right conditions are provided. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that they love warmth. Sweet potatoes thrive in warmer regions. Just provide rich, breathable soil and irrigation. Be sure there’s allowance for water runoff. The roots do not like to be waterlogged as this may cause root rot.

 

Plant your sweet potato slips at least a foot apart and watch them dance into maturity. Here’s the best part! You can harvest your sweet potato in as little as three months! This makes it perfect for those of us who live in temperate regions with only a few months of warmer weather. You can add this sweet potato plant to your garden this season and enjoy all the benefits. Our honey bees find the flowers very attractive so if you’ve an apiary, its’ presence will only serve to aid your production. If your plants are producing a profusion of flowers it’s usually a good indicator that they’re mature. I like to harvest by hand and not with tools as that can damage the sweet potato tubers. You can protect your hands with gloves as you unearth your treasures.

 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF SWEET POTATO

 

Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A. They are also a very good source of vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid and vitamin B6, potassium, dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and phosphorus. What does this mean for you really? You can boost your energy levels, skin health, and brain power just by eating sweet potatoes. The ipomoea tuber can also help in treating obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, colon and prostate cancer, infertility, constipation, inflammation and eye conditions.

 

SWEET POTATO & DIABETES

 

If you’re a diabetic, this bit is for you. Sweet potatoes have a medium glycemic index. As a result, I would not encourage diabetics to consume large amounts in a single meal. According to Medical New Today, recent research suggests sweet potatoes may reduce episodes of low blood sugar and insulin resistance in people with diabetes. The fiber in sweet potatoes makes a big difference too. Studies have shown that type 1 diabetics who consume high-fiber diets have lower blood glucose levels and type 2 diabetics may have improved blood sugar, lipids and insulin levels. One medium sweet potato provides about 6 grams of fiber (skin on).

 

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends 21-25 grams of fiber per day for women and 30-38 grams per day for men, which most people do not reach. Consult your nutritionist or healthcare provider about incorporating sweet potatoes into your diet while protecting your health. Boiling seems to be associated with lower glycemic index values than baking, frying or roasting.

HEALING RAMGOAT NATIONAL PLANT

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POWERFUL TURNERA ULMIFOLIA

While this gorgeous, versatile and powerful Turnera herb is relatively lowly and unknown, it should certainly be lauded. In this article, you will learn that the ramgoat national plant is not only an ornamental herb to be desired, but has useful medicinal properties. The turnera is used as an aphrodisiac for both male and female sexual stimulation, increased energy, asthma, depression, impotence, menstrual problems, and so much more.

 

TURNERA & I: OUR HISTORY

Ramgoat national grew wild all around me when I was growing up. I’ve also heard locals call it ramgoat dash-along and ramgoat regular. One thing that remains constant is the whole “ramgoat” thing. That’s quite an unusual name for a plant. Don’t you think so? Well, it is said it was given the name because it seems to be a goats’ favorite snack. WILD RAMGOAT NATIONALThey love the stuff! Leave your goat kid in a field of wild turnera and he’ll be content.

The small turnera bush would sprout up almost anywhere: along the side of the roads, in the garden path, between the rocks in the hills and mountains. Men would pull them up and take them home in bundles as they strolled along our street but I gave them no heed. One thing you’ll learn about authentic Jamaicans is that we primarily aim to treat every ailment by natural methods. This understanding of the parts of Eden at our disposal is passed down and preserved from generation to generation. Throughout our journey, ramgoat national has been there for us.

TRADITIONAL USES

Occassinally, the turnera was among the recommended brews used to relieve anxiety, nervousness, and mild depression, especially if these symptoms had a sexual component. Ramgoat national has been applied as a tonic, in the fight against a cold or flu virus, to improve digestion and to relieve chronic constipation as a mild laxative. Hmmm, maybe that’s why the goat herds just kept on growing in number.

 

PLANTING RAMGOAT NATIONAL

 

When it comes to this turnera plant, here’s the thing I’m most excited about. The ramgoat national doesn’t need much care and attention to thrive. It would be perfect for those of us who love having plants around but struggle with keeping them alive and well. If you believe your POTTED RAMGOAT NATIONAL PLANThands are cursed to damn every plant you touch to nothingness, you should give this plant a try. Plant it in any medium that will not leave it waterlogged. Provide a home with exposure to lots of sunlight and ramgoat national will be good to you. Our plants are currently happy as a lark in my favorite mix of manure (preferably cow dung), humus, sand and sawdust. However,  ramgoat national does not demand such finery. That’s just the mix I personally keep close at hand. Like I said before, ramgoat national will thrive in difficult soil types.

CARE

Your turnera will not demand a lot of root space so a small pot or shallow ground will do. Remember, it grows without prompt between rocks in Jamaica so it isn’t likely to complain about a 6-inch pot. The small plant stands proud and erect with pointy, dark green leaves that emit an inspiring aroma when touched, brewed or after a dance in the rain.

It usually takes about eight weeks to start pushing out flower buds. I have seen signs in six weeks on occasion. You’ll love the golden blooms and it’s a fair bloomer, always generously dotted with clusters of gold. If you live in colder regions and you’ve planted them in your garden bed, remember to save some of the seeds for planting next season. You want to plant those seeds after the danger of frost. You can start them indoors in punnets if you’d like to give yourself a head start on the growing season. Transplant those when you have three inches of growth.

 

RAMGOAT NATIONAL: APHRODESIAC

Now, I haven’t yet experimented with turnera as a sexuality tonic but it is highly recommended by many trusted herbalists. It stimulates the intestinal tract and brings oxygen to the genital area. It also increases energy levels which does a lot to restore libido and desire. Women claim that the ramgoat national tea can restore the ability to achieve orgasms. When your plant is full and flourishing, I encourage you to try it. Always seek the counsel of your healthcare provider first. I’d love to have your feedback.

 

SUMMARY OF USES & BENEFITS

…so let’s recap. The turnera – ramgoat national contains essential oils, flavonoids and more that can improve sexual stimulation, increases energy, treats asthma, nervous dyspepsia, constipation, debility, lethargy, depression, impotence and menstrual problems. I want you to be healthy in all endeavors so I’d like for you to take caution. It is thought that large quantities of ramgoat national taken internally may cause insomnia and headaches and in some cases liver damage. However, no rigorous scientific studies have examined the effects of long-term use of this herb. Always consult your healthcare provider before use or application of any herbal or natural treatment or consumption.

I hope you enjoy this new addition to your garden. As always, I invite you to feel free to share your thoughts and your own experiences with us. It’s always good to hear from you. Happy gardening!

POWERFUL JAMAICAN GINGER – ZINGIBER

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You haven’t really had a good cup of ginger tea until you’ve had one made with Jamaican ginger. I grew up on the stuff and I’ve got to tell you, it’s far more potent than any others I’ve had. Why is that? I’m not quite sure where to place the credit but I’m elated to share more about it with you.

HISTORY

The part of the plant we use and incorrectly label “ginger root” (if we’re being really technical) is the rhizome of some variety of the zingiber plant. For the purposes of this article, I will be using the term “ginger root” since it is what most of us are familiar with and I have no intention of complicating your comprehension of this wonderful plant when we leave here today.

There is a book by one of my favorite writers of works I believe every West Indian child should have. It’s called The Cloud with the Silver Lining by C. Everard Palmer. His books paint the most vivid recollections of the colorful and flavorful Jamaican culture, usually through the eyes of a local child as the rhythms of the people erupt from the pages. The Jamaican ginger plays a critical role in this particular book. It relates how traditionally, the Jamaican ginger wasn’t a plant cultivated in or near places inhabited. Young boys would look forward to harvesting their ginger in the mountains and forests before Christmastime. This would be used for treats like cakes, candy, ice-cream, juices and so much more. In more recent years, this zingiber is grown closer to home and cultivated on a much larger scale as the demand is very high among the locals, despite the fact that local markets offer other imported varieties. There is a reason for that.

GROWTH CYCLE

It’s a terrific plant that serves culinary, cosmetic and ornamental purposes. The ginger plant erupts from the soil in single stems that grow to an average of three feet. The slender, green leaves release the pleasant ginger aroma when crushed or sprayed with rain. The leave and stems can also be steeped in hot water to make teas and refreshing drinks. When the roots are mature, the gorgeous inflorescence rises from the ground – not from the stems – and can possess an array of colors including cream, peach, yellow, orange, pink, red, or pomegranate. If you live in colder areas where frost is expected, your ginger stems will die back at the end of the season and you can harvest your roots but store a few in an old newspaper for planting next season.

PLANTING & CARE

Plant your ginger in a partially shaded area with filtered or indirect sunlight and away from strong winds. You can plant it in your garden, landscape or in a pot. I’ve harvested ginger from my pots in a New York apartment several times over and you can too. It’s a really easy plant to grow. It is very important that the ginger is planted in breathable earth. If your soil is heavy and rich that has its’ benefits but it isn’t good enough. Mix in some sand, peanut shells, and sawdust for better breathability. Do not overwater and try to allow the soil to dry out a little between watering.

USES & BENEFITS

Ginger has been used for centuries for its’ culinary and its’ medicinal purposes. It adds flavor unmatched to juices, teas, stews, sauces, soups, ice-cream, pastries, sweets and more. It can be powdered or dried and stored for longer periods as well. Ginger oil is extracted not only for culinary use but also for topical application in massages and treatment of burns, bites other sources of skin irritation. Yet, there is still so much more to appreciate about this ginger thing.

The Jamaican ginger is a good source of an array of antioxidants and nutrients like B-Complex Vitamins, Vitamin C, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium, Iron, and Zinc. These help to relieve digestive problems including nausea, loss of appetite, compromised respiratory function, bacterial infections, fungal infections, ulcers, motion sickness and pain and has been used in the treatment of morning sickness and cancer. The Jamaican ginger can also help decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and overall mortality. It encourages healthy, supple skin, mouth and hair and boosts your energy levels!

This ginger promotes sweating as it is a diuretic so if you live in an icebox this is a great way to warm the body from the inside out. Moreover, it is an excellent way to treat cold and flu symptoms. In our article – Winter is Coming – we highlight some of the ways ginger can be used to arm yourself and your loved ones against the onslaught of bugs and illnesses that are likely to attack during colder seasons.

Let’s not forget that the Jamaican ginger is also pleasantly fragrant and can be used in aroma therapy. Ginger oil is one of my favorite recommendations for massages and skin treatments. My beloved grandmother has been living with arthritis for years. A good massage of problem areas with some ginger oil provides soothing relief of pain and discomfort and is appealing to the senses in the same breath. Best of all, there is no research to suggest that there are health risks to using this ginger in any way so your inclusion of the Jamaican ginger in your lifestyle can be worry-free… so go on, get to know the Jamaican zingiber and have fun with it!

ZEDOARY: WHITE TURMERIC

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CURCUMA ZEDOARIA

 

Zedoary – better known as wWHITE TURMERIChite turmeric – is not exactly like the golden foundation of the curry we know and love, though it is a turmeric variety which means it belongs to the family curcuma. In fact, the rhizomes are almost identical to zingiber officinale. Zedoary is said to carry a flavor that’s similar to the ginger as well, but with a slightly bitter aftertaste. It can be used to create spices, perfumes, massage oils and cosmetics. Let’s put this beauty under the microscope.

ZEDOARY: HOW I MET WHITE TURMERIC

I can’t recall an encounter with zedoary while growing up in Jamaica, though it is quite possible with all the time I spent in the wild. It was not that long ago that an Indian colleague introduced me to an Indian market in our area, thinking I’d find authentic spices and oils that would pique my interest. I was browsing through the refrigerated items and found what appeared to be ginger. As I was sorting through a few select pieces, an employee walked over and asked if I was looking for ginger. When I confirmed his suspicions, he was happy to provide clarity. I’d been looking at white turmeric. He was kind enough to show me to the ginger basket but the white turmeric lingered in my thoughts. You know what I did, right? Research. I wanted to learn all I can about this strange zedoary thing and today, I’m happy I did. I started growing my own and I’ve got to share how rewarding the experience is with you guys.

PLANTING

WHITE TURMERIC

Zedoary makes an excellent ornamental plant, even in smaller spaces. That’s something I know most of us in colder regions can appreciate as you can keep your white turmeric pot in a small space like your kitchen windowsill or next to the shoe rack in your tiny New York apartment. While most of the more familiar and commercially cultivated turmeric varieties produce golden blooms that peep from between bracts of pink and white, there are others that range in colors from orange to pink, to indigo, to violet, to a deep plum. You can see zedoary’s gorgeous buds of sunshine popping out from beneath the folded bracts of violet, pink, green and white. The white turmeric’s pleasantly fragrant and shiny, broad leaves hang gracefully. The ability to grow, thrive and produce in small spaces – coupled with the lovely flowers – make for not only a rewarding ornamental, but a great conversation piece that’s also useful.

CARE

White turmeric plants behave similarly toZEDOARY their relatives, zingiber (Jamaican ginger). Broad leaves that appear as larger bear leeks (allium ursinum) emerge from a central stem in fountain-like folds that hang gracefully outward. The plants, however, are much shorter than the zingiber and do not grow to be much taller than two feet. They prefer partial shade with filtered sunlight in an area protected from strong winds. To keep the rhizomes healthy, plant your turmeric in rich, breathable soil. If your soil is heavy, mix in a generous portion of sand, sawdust and wood chips to create some breathability. You may water generously if your plants are in the ground and the water is able to run off but do not leave your soil waterlogged, especially if your plants are potted. This can lead to root rot and we do not want that. It is also good to allow the soil to dry a little between watering.

If you live in colder regions and your plants are outdoors, the foliage will die back at the cusp of winter. You can harvest your zedoary and use them however you like. Just remember to save a few rhizomes for planting next spring. You can wrap them in an old newspaper and keep them in the bottom of the refrigerator until you’re ready for planting. They will remain fresh for months. When you’re ready to put them back in the ground, soak your white turmeric in a bowl of water for 24 hours. In another three months you can have fresh zedoary rhizomes for your household once more.

HOW DO WE GET FROM HARVEST TO SPICE?

…So how does a white turmeric rhizome transform into powdered spice? It’s actually a very simple and easy process if you’d like to try it at home. It’s also a great project you can get your whole family involved in. Children love seeing how something they helped create can be useful. After harvesting your rhizomes, rinse them thoroughly in a bowl of cool water. Under water, rub them between your fingers to shake all the soil loose. Discard your water and repeat the rinse with clean water as many times as necessary until your water is clear when you pour it off. You can dry your zedoary rhizomes in a clean kitchen towel. I like to use a white towel because white turmeric tends to stain and whites are easy to bleach and I don’t have to worry about ruining a color or pattern.

You can then cut your rhizomes into thin slices and dehydrate. Some of us may use a dehydrator tray, your oven or the sun. Once dry, you can crush the pieces and grind them by hand, with a blender, or food processor until powdered. I like to keep my turmeric and ginger powder pure. I simply mix in other spices as I’m cooking or making drinks but if you’d like to really make your powdered spice interesting, you can add other dried spices like ground thyme leaves, basil and dried peppers. You can store your freshly made spice in a mason jar in your kitchen cabinet. It’ll take years to expire and does not need to remain refrigerated. It’s also a terrific gift idea I you’re not the one hosting thanksgiving dinner this year.
OTHER USES

Zedoary produces a chemical we call curcumin that is used in medicine and coloring for health, cosmetic and artistic purposes. Curcuma plants are also becoming a more widely accepted way of treating skin conditions like acne, rashes or dry skin. I stumbled upon this article that included recipes for a turmeric face mask for both dry and oily skin types that I hope you guys find enlightening and useful. I’ve tweaked it to add a little activated charcoal and aloe for my skin treatment and it works! White turmeric is also an excellent alternative to the golden turmeric the recipe calls for because it doesn’t stain my nails. Zedoary oil can also be used in perfumes, aromatherapy,  massages and skin treatments and as I said, to aid in reestablishing healthy, supple skin.

ZEDOARY: BENEFITS

White turmeric has been used in treating arthritis, heartburn, joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, bypass surgery, hemorrhage, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, infections, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallbladder disorders, diabetes, water retention, worms, high cholesterol, skin inflammation from radiation treatment, and fatigue. It has also been applied for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, inflammation, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, itchy skin, topical pain, ringworm, sprains and swellings, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, acne, inflammatory skin conditions and skin sores, soreness inside of the mouth, infected wounds, gum disease and some cancers. Share your thoughts on health with your health care provider. I was fortunate to have one who was and still is a strong believer in Mother Nature’s ability to heal without the side-effects that medication can bring in the trunk. I hope your efforts prove just as fruitful. Happy gardening!

WHITE TURMERIC: ZEDOARY FLOWER

JAMAICAN TURMERIC – LIFES’ GOLDEN SPICE

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Who knew curry came from the powdered root of a gorgeous ornamental plant? Did you? Well, there’s much more to discover about the turmeric plant, its’ uses, benefits, habits and history. Wait until you learn how amazing the golden spice of life really is!

 

 

 

TURMERIC | CURRY & I

The Jamaican turmeric is known by locals as tambric. In fact, that’s the name I grew up hearing so even now when I ask my grandmother to procure fresh rhizomes from her garden I have to ask for tambric or she’ll be lost. I wasn’t introduced to the term turmeric until after I’d moved away as an adult but rest assured, I was fully aware of its potent curry flavor; its’ gorgeous white flowers with tips tinged in pink perfection and golden buds of sunshine popping out from beneath the folded petals; the pleasantly fragrant and graceful, shiny, broad leaves. Yet, there was so much more I was ignorant of.

One of the saddest realizations I’ve had about the land of my birth is that it’s a country swimming in treasures; It’s a hefty slice of the Garden of Eden – a potential pinch of Utopia… but why is this saddening? It is so because we do not know it. Jamaica is brimming with a host of rare, exotic, tropical, breathtakingly beautiful, ornamental, nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich, superfood, heirloom treasures that are jam-packed with benefits and until recent years, locals have been – for the better part – oblivious to how blessed they are to be born and raised on Paradise Rock. While curry is a staple of the Jamaican kitchen cabinet, most West Indians don’t actually realize that turmeric can be used for so much more than flavoring and food coloring. Nor do they know just how helpful consumption can be to the overall wellness of the body.

 

PLANTING

Turmeric makes an excellent ornamental plant, even in smaller spaces. That’s something I know most of us in colder regions can appreciate as you can keep your turmeric pot in a small space like your kitchen windowsill or next to the shoe rack in your tiny New York apartment. While most of the more familiar and commercially cultivated turmeric varieties produce blooms of pink and white petals, there are others that range in colors from orange to pink, to indigo, to violet, to a deep plum. The ability to grow, thrive and produce in small spaces – coupled with the lovely blossoms – make for not only a rewarding ornamental, but a great conversation piece that’s also useful.

 

CARE

Jamaican turmeric plants behave similarly to their relatives, zingiber (Jamaican ginger). Broad leaves that appear as larger bear leeks (allium ursinum) emerge from a central stem in fountain-like folds that hang gracefully outward. The plants, however, are much shorter than the zingiber do not grow to be much taller than two feet. They prefer partial shade with filtered sunlight in an area protected from strong winds. To keep the rhizomes healthy, plant your turmeric in rich, breathable soil. If your soil is heavy, mix in a generous portion of sand, sawdust and wood chips to create some breathability. You may water generously if your plants are in the ground and the water is able to run off but do not leave your soil waterlogged, especially if your plants are potted. It is also good to allow the soil to dry a little between watering.

If you live in colder regions and your plants are outdoors, the foliage will die back at the cusp of winter. You can harvest your turmeric and use them however you like. Just remember to save a few rhizomes for planting next spring. You can wrap them in an old newspaper and keep them in the bottom of the refrigerator until you’re ready for planting. They will remain fresh for months. When you’re ready to put them back in the ground, soak them in a bowl of water for 24 hours. In another three months you can have fresh turmeric for your household once more.

 

HOW DO WE GET TO CURRY?

…So how does a turmeric rhizome transform into curry powder? It’s actually a very simple and easy process if you’d like to try it at home. It’s also a great project you can get your whole family involved in. Children love seeing how something they helped create can be useful. After harvesting your rhizomes, rinse them thoroughly in a bowl of cool water. Under water, rub them between your fingers to shake all the soil loose. Discard your water and repeat the rinse with clean water as many times as necessary until your water is clear Turmericwhen you pour it off. You can dry your turmeric rhizomes in a clean kitchen towel. I like to use a white towel because turmeric tends to stain and whites are easy to bleach and I don’t have to worry about ruining a color or pattern.

You can then cut your rhizomes into thin slices and dehydrate. Some of us may use a dehydrator tray, your oven or the sun. Once dry, you can crush the pieces and grid them by hand, with a blender, or food processor until powdered. I like to keep my turmeric powder pure and mix in other spices as I’m cooking but if you’d like to really make your curry powder interesting, you can add other dried spices like ground thyme leaves, basil and dried peppers. You can store your freshly made spice in a mason jar in your kitchen cabinet. Curry takes years to expire and does not need to remain refrigerated. It’s also a terrific gift idea I you’re not the one hosting thanksgiving dinner this year. Turmeric has also been used for eons to flavor cheeses, butter and mustard.

 

OTHER USES

 

If you’ve ever held a natural turmeric rhizome then I’m sure you’ve noticed the bright orange pigment. That is because of the presence of a golden chemical we call curcumin that is used in medicine and coloring for health, cosmetic and artistic purposes. Turmeric is also becoming a more widely accepted way of treating skin conditions like acne, rashes or dry skin. I stumbled upon THIS article that included recipes for a turmeric face mask for both dry and oily skin types that I hope you guys find enlightening and useful. Turmeric oil is also sometimes used in perfumes, massages and skin treatments and I said to aid in reestablishing healthy, supple skin.

BENEFITS

Turmeric has been used in treating arthritis, heartburn, joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, bypass surgery, hemorrhage, diarrhea, intestinal gas, stomach bloating, loss of appetite, jaundice, liver problems, infections, stomach ulcers, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gallbladder disorders, diabetes, water retention, worms, high cholesterol, skin inflammation from radiation treatment, and fatigue. It has also been applied for headaches, bronchitis, colds, lung infections, inflammation, fibromyalgia, leprosy, fever, itchy skin, topical pain, ringworm, sprains and swellings, bruising, leech bites, eye infections, acne, inflammatory skin conditions and skin sores, soreness inside of the mouth, infected wounds, gum disease and some cancers. Share your thoughts on health with your health care provider. I was fortunate to have a one who was and still is a strong believer in Mother Nature’s ability to heal without the side-effects that medication can bring in the trunk. I hope your efforts prove just as fruitful. Happy gardening!

 

turmeric

 

 

 

 

AMAZING CEREUS – SECRETS OF THE OTHER MOONFLOWER PERUVIAN APPLE CACTUS

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The Peruvian apple cactus fruit bears very similar properties to another superfood – its relative, the dragon fruit. They are both known by the names pitaya and moonflower though the Peruvian apple is also called Olala in Peru. Have you ever had a dragon fruit? Good, isn’t it? … and that’s an understatement. It’s amazing! If you haven’t had one you are certainly missing out. If you have and are as in love with it as my family is, then you ought to meet the Peruvian apple.

WHAT IS A SUPERFOOD
Essentially, a superfood is one that’s extremely nutrient-rich; one that aids in the preservation of or restoration of good health when consumed. They’re basically nature’s medicine except they usually don’t carry an unpleasant taste which is unlike most of the medicines my mother (a nurse) introduced me to as a child. If a food that was entirely good to your body was appealing to the eyes, wonderfully fragrant and deliciously refreshing and satisfying all in one, wouldn’t you want to have it? Well, there are quite a few foods that carry these properties and the Peruvian apple is one of them.

What most of us may not be aware of is that most of the Peruvian apple is the fruit of a cacti known scientifically as cereus. Most ornamental cactus plants on which we heap praises and adoration for their uniquely alluring blooms and strong fragrance after a sprinkling of rain or dew, bear fruit that are both pleasing to the tongue and nourishing to your body. Olala is no exception.

Cereus cactus are some of the easiest plants to grow. It is a columnar cactus producing tall, four to eight-lobed columns that average nine inches at their widest point in a mature plant grown in the wild. Potted, household columns may average six inches across. They’re relatively easy to work with because they produce much fewer spines than most of their relatives like opuntia and trichocereus varieties. Additionally, the spines are gathered to joints along the columns that are usually between one and three inches apart, giving you plenty of opportunity to avoid contact with them. Nonetheless I try to always use my gloves when pruning, treating, or harvesting our fruit.

Now, understand that while it is a cactus and can survive long periods of extreme neglect and without water, it is not ideal to suffer your cereus plants to prolonged periods without some love. Mine are happiest in rich soil with proper drainage. Mix in some sand and sawdust for proper balance and breathability. You can water liberally but try to allow the soil to dry between watering. A little stress is good for your cactus. Before long, you’ll start to notice gorgeous, magnificent, white blooms of pearlesque petals dipped in gold, forming all over your cactus. If you’re excited about enjoying that bit, I’m sorry to say you may not unless you are a nocturnal creature. The cereus fruit is one of a group of fruiting cactus plants more commonly called moonflower. It carries that name for a reason – the blooms open up at dusk and stay open through the night. This poses a challenge for pollination as nocturnal winged creatures tend to gravitate toward light sources and we cannot have fruit without pollination so what do we do? I suggest moving your Peruvian apple pot under a lamp post or any bright source of light. You can also course some string lights around your plant to attract pollinators. Be sure to lay them carefully so as not to disturb your flowers and fruit. You can also pollinate them by hand.

Now I won’t give you an exact time within which to start looking for blooms because climatic conditions and treatment bear great influence on how soon your cereus begins to flower. I can personally attest to two-foot plants fruiting in six to eighteen months. As you may know, we were living in New York when Exotic Secrets was born. I’ve shared the story several times over but if you haven’t heard it yet and would like to, you can find it here. It was while living in New York that I grew our first Peruvian apple and they took about nine months to flower Some of our clients have sent photos and testimonials of flowers and fruit within two months of receipt though that tends to happen in more tropical regions.

Your flowers will be followed by green fruit that are spine-free and completely smooth. The skin will slowly change from green to pink, yellow, violet or red when ripening – depending on the variety as some ripe fruit can carry any of the colors listed above. Now comes the most rewarding part of the Peruvian apple experience – harvesttime!

The possessions on which we place the greatest value in this life usually come at greater cost or expense – that dream car, your perfect home, the job of a lifetime you climbed ladder after ladder to get to… I say all that to encourage you. Like I’d mentioned before, cactus plants have their own line of defense, especially some of our family’s favorites like opuntia and trichocereus. Their defense is wrought with spines and glochids that can prove painful and annoying to deal with if they get hooked into your skin but what they protect is worth the trouble and I believe they are treasures we should all the luxury of enjoying so come harvesttime, do not be daunted. I’m not saying you should be prepared for pain. I’m imploring you to be prepared so you won’t have to encounter pain because it is a very real risk. Ensure you have, thick, rubber gloves just for use with your cactus plants before tackling the establishment or maintenance of a cactus pot or garden. Do not use the gloves for any other activities. Always store them away from common areas, especially if you have children or pets that aren’t immersed in water.

Fortunately, the cereus only has a few spines along the edges of the columns of the plant. There are none on the fruit themselves so you can remove and store your gloves immediately after harvesting. Now comes the fun part! The fruit is crunchy but juicy like a freshly picked watermelon but with more density and a generous distribution of seeds reminiscent of the kiwi seeds’ faultless crunch! The easiest way to enjoy it is to cut your fruit into quarters vertically and peel back the skin. They separate from the fruit almost effortlessly. Sometimes, the ripe fruit might even split open on the plant, especially if they are well watered.

Don’t underestimate your Peruvian apple cactus fruit. Olala is very versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with juices, punch, sherbet, sauces, pastries, salads teas, and so much more… AND you can do it with a clear conscience. Peruvian apple cactus fruit is entirely wholesome. It means your body no harm in any way. They are some of the richest sources of Vitamin C, that help to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, prevent cancer and heart disease, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, boost energy, defend against bacteria and fungi, and help in the overall functioning of the body’s systems. They contain no cholesterol and almost no unhealthy, cholesterol-producing fats. They can reduce your chances of conditions like constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and diseases like colorectal cancer. Carotene is another component of olala fruits, and carotene has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities, as well as reducing the size of tumors (OrganicFacts). They help maintain healthy teeth, hair, bones, skin and so much more and can also help you nullify stress. If you’re pregnant, worry not. My doctor allowed me to eat as much of the fruit as I liked (and Lord knows there wasn’t much I liked besides pitaya) while I was pregnant with my daughter. Studies have found no harmful substances in Peruvian apples, not even for women who are pregnant or nursing. There is no loss or trade. You don’t have to give up something to enjoy this moonflower fruit. It’s delicious and refreshing and perfectly low-calorie and the few calories it has are all good for you… so dive in and I hope you enjoy the journey to discovery as much as I have!

MYRTILLOCACTUS – WONDERS OF THE BLUEBERRY CACTUS

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There is very little information published about this cactus when you consider what’s accessible on other columnar types. Blueberry cactus? What does that mean exactly? The myrtillocactus is a columnar type of full, thick, bright-green columns that carry very few, short spines. It is not among the most craved or even familiar of the fruit-bearing cacti as most owners aren’t actually aware of the fact that the little dark beads that follow the pretty blooms are actually edible, good for your body and a treat to the palate. However, it is a showstopper and a great conversation piece to have in your arsenal.

I had just started my cactus collection years ago when I first learnt of a cactus plant that produces fruit reminiscent of blueberries along the column. It fascinated me and I had to have it. We were still in New York at the time so my garden was indoors 80% of the time. My plant was just a baby no more than four inches tall. Yet, I planted it in a ginormous pot and gave it a mix of compost, humus, sawdust, sand and cow manure. Crazy, huh? All this work for a four-inch plant… Well, it turns out I did the right thing. Like your fish in a tank, your plants will grow as to be as big as the container you provide for them allows. If the plant roots are restricted, it triggers the reproductive process in the plant which is something to consider if you’re interested in having a profusion of blooms along your columns in a smaller space. Your blueberry cactus can thrive on neglect like most cacti but try not to leave your plant loveless for too long. Allow the soil to dry out between watering.

Depending on your climatic conditions your myrtillocactus plants may bloom within a year if you started with a cutting from a mature plant. The blooms appear as little pear-like blossoms averaging three inches across along the edges of the plant going all around and down the columns. You’ll get to enjoy them for days on end before they are followed by the little berry-like fruit that change from green to blue-green to a deep, midnight plum color when ripe. Now comes harvesttime!
I like to think that the possessions on which we place the greatest value in this life usually come at greater cost or expense – that dream car, your perfect home, the job of a lifetime you climbed ladder after ladder to get to… I say all that to encourage you. Like I’d mentioned before, cactus plants have their own line of defense, especially some of our family’s favorites like opuntia and trichocereus. Their defense is wrought with spines and glochids that can prove painful and annoying to deal with if they get hooked into your skin but what they protect is worth the trouble and I believe they are treasures we should all the luxury of enjoying so come harvesttime, do not be daunted. I’m not saying you should be prepared for pain. I’m imploring you to be prepared so you won’t have to encounter pain because it is a very real risk. Ensure you have, thick, rubber gloves just for use with your cactus plants before tackling the establishment or maintenance of a cactus pot or garden. Do not use the gloves for any other activities. Always store them away from common areas, especially if you have children or pets that aren’t immersed in water.

Fortunately, the myrtillocactus only has a few spines along the stems of the plant. There are none on the fruit themselves so you can remove and store your gloves immediately after harvesting. Now comes the fun part! The fruit is crunchy but juicy like a normal blueberry with darker skin! The easiest way to enjoy it is to carefully pluck your berry-like fruit from their place along the edge of the column. They separate from the plant almost effortlessly.

Don’t underestimate your myrtillocactus. It is very versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with juices, punch, sherbet, sauces, pastries, salads teas, and so much more… AND you can do it with a clear conscience. Myrtillocactus blueberry-fruit is entirely wholesome. It means your body no harm in any way. They are some of the richest sources of a host of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like Vitamins C, E, A and B complex vitamins, potassium, copper, zinc, manganese and so much more that help to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, prevent cancer and heart disease, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, boost energy, defend against bacteria and fungi, and help in the overall functioning of the body’s systems. They contain no cholesterol and almost no unhealthy, cholesterol-producing fats. They can reduce your chances of conditions like constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and other diseases. Carotene is another component of your myrtillocactus fruits, and carotene has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities, as well as reducing the size of tumors. They help maintain healthy teeth, hair, bones, skin and so much more and can also help you nullify stress. If you’re pregnant, worry not. Talk with your caregiver and health care providers about the foods you’d like to enjoy during your pregnancy. My doctor allowed me to eat as much cactus fruit as I liked (and Lord knows there wasn’t much I liked besides the fruit) while I was pregnant with my daughter. Studies have found no harmful substances in the blueberry cactus fruit so there is no loss or trade. You don’t have to give up something to enjoy it. It’s delicious and refreshing and perfectly low-calorie and the few calories it has are all good for you… so dive in and I hope you enjoy the journey to discovery as much as we have!

ENCHANTING EPIPHYLLUM MOONFLOWER – THE MINI-PITAHAYA DRAGONFRUIT CACTUS

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In the past decade, you may have noticed that the North American interest in dragon fruit has increased significantly and it is now being included in a short list of the world’s rarest superfoods… but what if you don’t have a whole lot of space for even a dragon fruit pot? What if you live in Maine? Is there still hope for you? I’ve got exciting news! I’m here to tell you that there is hope. You can have a thriving cactus plant in a small space in cooler regions. We did for several years before moving south just last year and I’m going to share some facts about a little moonflower superfood that can give you all the benefits of the dragon fruit in miniature form. Meet the epiphyllum family.

WHAT IS A SUPERFOOD
Essentially, a superfood is one that’s extremely nutrient-rich; one that aids in the preservation of or restoration of good health when consumed. They’re basically nature’s medicine except they usually don’t carry an unpleasant taste which is unlike most of the medicines my mother (a nurse) introduced me to as a child. If a food that was entirely good to your body was appealing to the eyes, wonderfully fragrant and deliciously refreshing and satisfying all in one, wouldn’t you want to have it? Well, there are quite a few foods that carry these properties and the epiphyllum cactus is one of them.

What most of us may not be aware of is that epiphyllum cacti fruit is edible and delicious. In fact, it is reminiscent of a dragon fruit in not only appearance but flavor. The gorgeous flowers are even identical. The only major differences in both plants is that the epiphyllum cactus bears more pliable and leaf-life stems that drape gracefully over hanging flowerpots and fill at the seams with a profusion of magnificent blooms! The epiphyllum is also completely free of spines and glochids unlike the pitahaya/ dragon fruit which carries a few spines along the stems. Most ornamental cactus plants on which we heap praises and adoration for their uniquely alluring blooms and strong fragrance after a sprinkling of rain or dew, bear fruit that are both pleasing to the tongue and nourishing to your body. The epiphyllum is no exception.

Epiphyllum cactus are some of the most pliable plants to grow. They produce long, flat stems that resemble leaves that are usually two to five inches across. Because of its nature and growth habits, the plant is perfect for a flower pot hanging over a kitchen window or sitting on the bathroom windowsill. It is considered much easier to work with than any other arm of the cactus family because it behaves like a normal, hanging vine and unlike other cacti, it is completely free of spines! There is no pain involved in loving this plant: Only pleasure and reward.

Now, understand that while it is a cactus and can survive long periods of extreme neglect and without water, it is not ideal to suffer your epiphyllum moonflower plants to prolonged periods without some love. Mine are happiest in rich soil with proper drainage. Mix in some sand and sawdust for proper balance and breathability. You can water liberally but try to allow the soil to dry between watering. A little stress is good for your cactus. Before long, you’ll start to notice gorgeous, magnificent, white blooms of pearlesque petals forming all over your cactus. If you’re excited about enjoying that bit, I’m sorry to say you may not unless you are a nocturnal creature or your plant is being grown in a shaded area. The epiphyllum is one of a group of fruiting cactus plants more commonly called moonflower. It carries that name for a reason – the blooms open up at dusk and stay open through the night. This poses a challenge for pollination as nocturnal winged creatures tend to gravitate toward light sources and we cannot have fruit without pollination so what do we do? I suggest moving your moonflower pot under a lamp post or any bright source of light. You can also course some string lights around your plant to attract pollinators. Be sure to lay them carefully so as not to disturb your flowers and fruit. You can also pollinate them by hand.

Now I won’t give you an exact time within which to start looking for blooms because climatic conditions and treatment bear great influence on how soon your mini-dragon fruit cactus begins to flower. I can personally attest to eight-inch cuttings fruiting in six to eighteen months. As you may know, we were living in New York when Exotic Secrets was born. I’ve shared the story several times over but if you haven’t heard it yet and would like to, you can find it here. It was while living in New York that I sought out and obtained my first cuttings. My grandmother has a glorious plant in her front garden in her home in Jamaica to this day. I started growing mine and they took about eighteen months to flower though by that time the plants had already outgrown the pots I had made their home. They grew so fast, even throughout the winter! Some of our clients have sent photos and testimonials of flowers and fruit within six months of receipt though that tends to happen in more tropical regions. What I can tell you is this: if you love your plants your epiphyllum will flower in its own time and it will be beautiful. Your flowers will be followed by green fruit that are spine-free. The skin will slowly change from green to pink or red when ripening – depending on the variety as some ripe fruit can carry either of the colors listed above. Now comes the most rewarding part of the mini-dragon fruit experience – harvesttime!

Fortunately, the mini-dragon fruit moonflower cactus plant is spineless so harvesting is easy and painless. The fruit is crunchy but juicy like a freshly picked watermelon but with more density and a generous distribution of seeds reminiscent of the kiwi seeds’ faultless crunch! The easiest way to enjoy it is to cut your mini-dragon fruit into halves vertically and peel back the skin. They separate from the fruit almost effortlessly.

They’re much smaller fruit that your dragon fruit or your Peruvian apple cactus yet they make great snakes, good conversation pieces and children love them! Don’t underestimate your epiphyllum. It is very versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with juices, punch, sherbet, sauces, pastries, salads teas, and so much more… AND you can do it with a clear conscience. Mini-dragon fruit is entirely wholesome. It means your body no harm in any way. Epiphyllum fruit are some of the richest sources of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, A, B complex vitamins and more that help to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, prevent cancer and heart disease, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, boost energy, defend against bacteria and fungi, and help in the overall functioning of the body’s systems. They contain no cholesterol and almost no unhealthy, cholesterol-producing fats. They can reduce your chances of conditions like constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and diseases like colorectal cancer. Carotene is another component of the mini-dragon fruits, and carotene has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities, as well as reducing the size of tumors (OrganicFacts). They help maintain healthy teeth, hair, bones, skin and so much more and can also help you nullify stress. If you’re pregnant, worry not. My doctor allowed me to eat as much cactus fruit as I liked (and Lord knows there wasn’t much I liked besides dragon fruit) while I was pregnant with my daughter. Studies have found no harmful substances in the epiphyllum fruit, not even for women who are pregnant or nursing. There is no loss or trade. You don’t have to give up something to enjoy this mini-dragon fruit jewel. It’s delicious and refreshing and perfectly low-calorie and the few calories it has are all god for you… so dive in and I hope you and your family enjoy the journey to discovery as much as I have.

OPUNTIA & HER DELICIOUSLY WONDERFUL HEALING PROPERTIES – MEET THE PRICKLY PEAR

MY EXOTIC SECRETS SPINELESS OPUNTIA PRICKLY PEAR FLOWER
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Long before the dragon fruit craze, MY EXOTIC SECRETS SPINELESS OPUNTIA PRICKLY PEAR FRUITMexico brought us the prickly pear. I can understand why it may not seem the most attractive basket on display at the farmer’s market. It had a weird-colored skin that’s either a really dark green or burgundy – neither of which engender refreshing thoughts. It also lacks that lustrous sheen fresh fruit generally boasts but do not discredit or underestimate its merit.

The prickly pear is one superfood that’s powerful and refreshing! Moreover, its flavor is reminiscent of what a fruit would taste like if a watermelon got a starapple/caimet (Chrysophyllum caimito) pregnant. It’s divine but getting to the good stuff is like an adventure through the jungle. First, you’ve got to know how to conquer the spines and glochids, then break open the soft skin to maneuver your way around the hundreds of hard seeds before you get to Prickly Pear Peak. We’ll explore all of those avenues and more in this article. We’ll also discover all the ways it’ll be worth it when you learn of the health benefits these guys have to offer. Let’s dive in!

 

WHAT IS A SUPERFOOD
Essentially, a superfood is one that’s extremely nutrient-rich; one that aids in the preservation of or restoration of good health when consumed. They’re basically nature’s medicine except they usually don’t carry an unpleasant taste which is unlike most of the medicines my mother (a nurse) introduced me to as a child. If a food that was entirely good to your body was appealing to the eyes, wonderfully fragrant and deliciously refreshing and satisfying all in one, wouldn’t you want to have it? Well, there are quite a few foods that carry these properties and the prickly pear is one of them.

Prickly pear or opuntia cactus are some of the easiest plants to grow. They are fast-growing cactus of pads on pads that root very easily and thrive on neglect whether outdoors in your landscape, I the wild or potted in a window. Admittedly, they’re not as easy to work with as the Peruvian apple or hylocereus groups because they produce much more spines than most of those relatives but they’re all quite rewarding. Additionally, the spines are generously scattered all about the columns so this plant does not intend to make harvesting easy but we’ve found ways around that which we’ll expound on a little later on.

Now, I’ve encouraged you in previous articles on fruit-bearing cacti not to allow your plants to go without some love and attention for very long periods of you intend to get a strong yield – though we know cacti can survive eons without care. Opuntia is different. It matters not if you plant it on fertile ground or stone or if you give it plenty water or just a little. Prickly pear will shower you with gorgeous, mesmerizing blooms and almost all of them will be followed by the delicious fruit. I’ve seen them thrive on rocks, sand, loam and humus. I like to mix in some sand and sawdust for proper balance and breathability. You can water liberally but try to allow the soil to dry between watering. A little stress is good for your cactus. Before long, you’ll start to notice magnificent flowers forming all over your cactus. Depending on the variety these could be red, orange, peach, yellow, gold, cream, pink, or white.

Here is where the prickly pear also has an advantage over their more pliable relatives like Peruvian apples and dragon fruit which carry little to no spines or glochids by comparison. The cacti mentioned above flower at night so you may not get to enjoy the beautiful blooms but the prickly p

ear is different. Flowers open up at all hours of the day and there is usually a profusion of them at a time. This completely nullifies your pollination budget as there is no added pressure to provide lighting while blooms are open to attract natures nocturnal pollinators. Your daytime winged creatures will serve the purpose just fine.

MY EXOTIC SECRETS SPINELESS OPUNTIA PRICKLY PEAR PLANTThere is also a spineless variety of opuntia that bears fruit with no spines and very few glochids which makes handling very easy. In my opinion, it’s even more fun to grow and easy enough for you to enjoy caring for if you have children in your household. If you do have a

spineless opuntia in your home, particularly indoors, you may want to employ some simple changes to the environment to induce pollination like a fan for example.

You can start looking for blooms within six to eighteen months depending on your climatic conditions. Treatment also bears great influence on how soon your prickly pear cactus begins to flower. I can personally attest to plants fruiting in six to eighteen months. Some of our clients have sent photos and testimonials of flowers and fruit within three months of receipt and that tends to happen in more tropical regions. Our first was in New York and it took almost twelve months to flower although it was a very young plant. Your results may vary.

Your flowers will be followed by green fruit that can be as spiny as the pads. The skin will slowly change from green to dark-green or burgundy when ripening – depending on the variety as some ripe fruit can carry any of the colors noted above. Now comes the most rewarding part of the prickly pear experience – harvesttime!

The possessions on which we place the greatest value in this life usually come at greater cost or expense – that dream car, your perfect home, the job of a lifetime you climbed ladder after ladder to get to… I say all that to encourage you. Like I’d mentioned before, cactus plants have their own line of defense, especially some of our family’s favorites like opuntia and trichocereus. Their defense is wrought with spines and glochids that can prove painful and annoying to deal with if they get hooked into your skin but what they protect is worth the trouble and I believe they are treasures we should all the luxury of enjoying so come harvesttime, do not be daunted. I’m not saying you should be prepared for pain. I’m imploring you to be prepared so you won’t have to encounter pain because it is a very real risk. Ensure you have, thick, rubber gloves just for use with your cactus plants before tackling the establishment or maintenance of a cactus pot or garden. Do not use the gloves for any other activities. Always store them away from common areas, especially if you have children or pets that aren’t immersed in water.

MY EXOTIC SECRETS SPINELESS OPUNTIA PRICKLY PEAR FRUIT CUTAfter picking your fruit – while still wearing your gloves – use a knife or garden shears to remove all spines and glochids then set your fruit aside. I like to lay out a few sheets of old newspapers or magazines before I get started so those pesky bits will fall onto them and cleanup will be easy afterward. When you’ve folded and discarded your collection of thorns and glochids, you can carefully remove your gloves and store them. Now, all that’s left is to enjoy your fruit.

Here comes the fun part! The fruit is very juicy but extremely seedy like a freshly picked watermelon but with more density and a generous distribution of much harder seeds! The easiest way to enjoy it is to cut your fruit into quarters vertically and peel back the skin. They separate from the fruit almost effortlessly. You can blend your pulp with water (I like to add ginger and lime or passion fruit pulp). You can strain off the pulp and what you do with your prickly pear juice from here is up to you. Experiment and enjoy!

Don’t underestimate your opuntia fruit. It is very versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with juices, punch, sherbet, sauces, pastries, salads, teas, and so much more… AND you can do it with a clear conscience. The cactus fruit is entirely wholesome. It means your body no harm in any way. They are some of the richest sources of several antioxidants, vitamins and minerals like Vitamin C, that help to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, decrease the risk of diabetes, prevent cancer and heart disease, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, boost energy, stimulate bone growth, strengthen blood vessels, defend against bacteria and fungi, eliminate inflammation throughout the body and help in the overall functioning of the body’s systems. They contain no cholesterol! Prickly pear can reduce your chances of conditions like constipation and can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and diseases like colorectal cancer. Carotene is another component of opuntia fruits, and carotene has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities, as well as reducing the size of tumors (OrganicFacts). They help maintain healthy teeth, hair, bones, skin and so much more and can also help you nullify stress. If you’re pregnant, worry not. My doctor allowed me to eat as much of fruit from cactus as I liked (and Lord knows there wasn’t much I liked besides cactus fruit) while I was pregnant with my daughter. Studies have found no harmful substances in the fruits, not even for women who are pregnant or nursing. There is no loss or trade. You don’t have to give up something to enjoy this opuntia cactus fruit. It’s delicious and refreshing and perfectly low-calorie and the few calories it has are all good for you… so dive in and I hope you enjoy the journey to discovery as much as I have.MY EXOTIC SECRETS SPINELESS OPUNTIA PRICKLY PEAR FLOWER

GET TO KNOW YOUR MOONFLOWER CACTUS – TRICHOCEREUS

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If you’ve read our articles on the Peruvian Apple cactus and the Opuntia/Prickly pear cactus then much of this is going to sound familiar as you’ll find most edible types of fruit-bearing cacti share many properties. I believe trichocereus is certainly one of the more noteworthy groups that deserve some in-depth exploration.

What most of us may not be aware of is that most of the trichocereus cactus bears edible and delicious fruit. Most ornamental cactus plants on which we heap praises and adoration for their uniquely alluring blooms and strong fragrance after a sprinkling of rain or dew, bear fruit that are both pleasing to the tongue and nourishing to your body. Trichocereus is no exception.

Trichocereus cactus are some of the easiest plants to grow. It is a columnar cactus producing tall, multi-lobed columns that average nine inches at their widest point in a mature plant grown in the wild. Potted, household columns may average six inches across. Admittedly, they’re not as easy to work with as the Peruvian apple or hylocereus groups because they produce much more spines than most of those relatives but they’re all quite rewarding. Additionally, the spines are generously scattered all about the columns so this plant does not intend to make harvesting easy but we’ve found ways around that which we’ll expound on a little later on.

Now, understand that while it is a cactus and can survive long periods of extreme neglect and without water, it is not ideal to suffer your trichocereus plants to prolonged periods without some love. Mine are happiest in rich soil with proper drainage. Mix in some sand and sawdust for proper balance and breathability. You can water liberally but try to allow the soil to dry between watering. A little stress is good for your cactus. Before long, you’ll start to notice gorgeous, magnificent, white blooms of pearlesque petals dipped in gold, forming all over your cactus. If you’re excited about enjoying that bit, I’m sorry to say you may not unless you are a nocturnal creature. The trichocereus fruit is one of a group of fruiting cactus plants more commonly called moonflower. It carries that name for a reason – the blooms open up at dusk and stay open through the night. This poses a challenge for pollination as nocturnal winged creatures tend to gravitate toward light sources and we cannot have fruit without pollination so what do we do? I suggest moving your trichocereus pot under a lamp post or any bright source of light. You can also course some string lights around your plant to attract pollinators. Be sure to lay them carefully so as not to disturb your flowers and fruit. You can also pollinate them by hand. If you intend to try that, always wear your thick, rubber gloves.

You can start looking for blooms within six to eighteen months depending on your climatic conditions. Treatment also bears great influence on how soon your thrichocereus begins to flower. I can personally attest to two-foot plants fruiting in six to eighteen months. Some of our clients have sent photos and testimonials of flowers and fruit within six months of receipt and that tends to happen in more tropical regions. Our first was in New York and it took almost two years to flower although it was a very young plant. Your results may vary.

Your flowers will be followed by green fruit that are spine-free and completely smooth. The skin will slowly change from green to dark-green, yellow, violet or red when ripening – depending on the variety as some ripe fruit can carry any of the colors listed above. Now comes the most rewarding part of the trichocereus experience – harvesttime!

The possessions on which we place the greatest value in this life usually come at greater cost or expense – that dream car, your perfect home, the job of a lifetime you climbed ladder after ladder to get to… I say all that to encourage you. Like I’d mentioned before, cactus plants have their own line of defense, especially some of our family’s favorites like opuntia and trichocereus. Their defense is wrought with spines and glochids that can prove painful and annoying to deal with if they get hooked into your skin but what they protect is worth the trouble and I believe they are treasures we should all the luxury of enjoying so come harvesttime, do not be daunted. I’m not saying you should be prepared for pain. I’m imploring you to be prepared so you won’t have to encounter pain because it is a very real risk. Ensure you have, thick, rubber gloves just for use with your cactus plants before tackling the establishment or maintenance of a cactus pot or garden. Do not use the gloves for any other activities. Always store them away from common areas, especially if you have children or pets that aren’t immersed in water.

After picking your fruit – while still wearing your gloves – use a knife or garden shears to remove all spines and glochids then set your fruit aside. I like to lay out a few sheets of old newspapers or magazines before I get started so those pesky bits will fall onto them and cleanup will be easy afterward. When you’ve folded and discarded your collection of thorns and glochids, you can carefully remove your gloves and store them. Now, all that’s left is to enjoy your fruit.

Here comes the fun part! The fruit is crunchy but juicy like a freshly picked watermelon but with more density and a generous distribution of seeds reminiscent of the kiwi seeds’ faultless crunch! The easiest way to enjoy it is to cut your fruit into quarters vertically and peel back the skin. They separate from the fruit almost effortlessly. Sometimes, the ripe fruit might even split open on the plant, especially if they are well watered.

Don’t underestimate your trichocereus fruit. It is very versatile so don’t be afraid to experiment with juices, punch, sherbet, sauces, pastries, salads teas, and so much more… AND you can do it with a clear conscience. The cactus fruit is entirely wholesome. It means your body no harm in any way. They are some of the richest sources of Vitamin C, that help to lower cholesterol, boost the immune system, prevent cancer and heart disease, aid in weight loss, improve digestion, boost energy, defend against bacteria and fungi, and help in the overall functioning of the body’s systems. They contain no cholesterol and almost no unhealthy, cholesterol-producing fats. They can reduce your chances of conditions like constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and diseases like colorectal cancer. Carotene is another component of trichocereus fruits, and carotene has been linked to a number of anti-carcinogenic qualities, as well as reducing the size of tumors (OrganicFacts). They help maintain healthy teeth, hair, bones, skin and so much more and can also help you nullify stress. If you’re pregnant, worry not. My doctor allowed me to eat as much of the fruit as I liked (and Lord knows there wasn’t much I liked besides cactus fruit) while I was pregnant with my daughter. Studies have found no harmful substances in the fruits, not even for women who are pregnant or nursing. There is no loss or trade. You don’t have to give up something to enjoy this moonflower fruit. It’s delicious and refreshing and perfectly low-calorie and the few calories it has are all good for you… so dive in and I hope you enjoy the journey to discovery as much as as I did.