WORLD’S RAREST TRUE YAM SUPERFOOD

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM COOKED
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PURPLE YAM – HOW WE BECAME FRIENDS

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM COOKEDDioscorea alata sp. Dark Night St. Vincent purple yams – When I was a little girl, we lived up in our own slice of Eutopia. Nestled in the cool mountains of the Cockpit country in pristine Trelawny, Jamaica was our slice of paradise and on it, we planted.

 

My parents had created a lovely backyard production of corn (Maize), callaloo (Amaranthus), cucumbers (Cucumis), Otaheite apples (Syzygium Malaccense), sugarcane (Saccharum officinarum), dasheen (Colocasia), badu (Colocasia), tomatoes(Solanum), sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Jamaican Almonds (Terminalia catappa) and so much more. Among this lot was one root of Dark Night St. Vincent Purple yam (Dioscorea alata sp.).

 

DIOSCOREA ALATA – SURPRISE AT THE MARKET

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM SERVEDWe’d had the rare sighting of the dark night St. Vincent purple yam at the market. It was piled in a display and mom had purchased a piece from the woman who owned the stall. After cooking some, I guess she was inspired to replicate it because she had dad procure a post to support the rampant vine that would dance up from the earth with seemingly unmatched passion and she planted the head of the yam we had bought.

 

The vine was glorious and beautiful with it’s purple and green, heart-shaped leaves shining in the sun as it wound its’ purple tendrils up and down and about the post it had been provided. It hung gracefully, a thick mass of purple and bright green hearts all about that the post was no longer visible by the time the plant had matured.

 

DARK NIGHT HARVEST

 MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM HARVESTING

I remember us attempting to dig up the massive root it had produced without breaking it or separating any of the pieces. We failed. It was simply too much. I don’t know if it was because it had been grown in what was known as the yam parish of Jamaica (where most of the yam production takes place) but it was massive! That was the day I became entranced by the dark night St. Vincent purple yam – Dioscorea Alata.

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM HARVEST

It wasn’t my first experience with the purple yam. I’d eaten it many times before. It was, my first time growing it and I guess just being a part of the process and watching it flourish so well under our care made it exceptional for me. What I hadn’t known then was that the rest of the world was yet to catch on, but boy, did they!

 

DIOSCOREA ALATA PURPLE YAM: THE SUPERFOOD

It doesn’t surprise me now that it is among the long list of things I was blessed to grow up with that the world now refers to as Superfoods. With the number of superfoods that have been part of my diet all my life, I’m just waiting for a big “S” to be burned into my chest any day now; forget the cape… Seriously speaking though, Dioscorea alata is truly a treasure and I’m going to give you all the reasons why you want this amazing Dark Night St. Vincent yam and simply don’t know it yet.

 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF PURPLE YAM: DIOSCOREA ALATA

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM PLATEDI bet you didn’t know that the Dioscorea alata Dark Night St. Vincent yam was rich in riboflavin, vitamin B6, thiamine, vitamin A, niacin, magnesium, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, and Vitamin K. It also offers up zinc, protein and iron. One serving could provide up to 50% of your daily recommended consumption of fiber!

PROTECT YOUR BODY WITH PURPLE YAM

Consuming the dark night St. Vincent purple yam can help you counteract infections such as flu and colds and speeds up the healing process, immune function. It also helps you build stronger bones. In fact, members of the Asian community have been known to traditionally apply Dioscorea alata in a poultice to wounds to sooth and speed up the healing process. It has also been used as a holistic way of treating depression If that’s not a superfood, I don’t know what is!

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM HARVEST PLANT

That’s not all! Dioscorea alata Dark night St. Vincent purple yams are very rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants, on a whole, play an integral role in protecting us from the inside, building strong bodies and extending the years of long, healthy, enjoyable lives.

 

 

OF ANTIOXIDANTS & DIOSCOREA

 

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM LEAVESAntioxidants called anthocyanins -which dark night St. Vincent purple yams provide in abundance – are specifically linked to a range of health benefits. Purple yams can help you maintain a healthy urinary and respiratory system and the high manganese content increases your energy level and can positively impact not just your mood but your productivity.

According to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), previous research has linked anthocyanins to a wide variety of health claims, including increased longevity, cardiovascular health, cancer prevention and dementia. A study in the European Journal of Nutrition found it improved brain power in children between the ages of seven to ten years old. Additionally, the pace of converting the carbohydrates present in Dioscorea Alata into sugar is very sluggish which helps to curb the increase of blood sugar level in the human body and makes it a perfect food for diabetics to add to their diet.

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF THE DIOSCOREA ALATA PURPLE YAM PLANT

This thing grows more rapidly than anything you’ve ever seen! I knew I was going to share this with you guys but I still made a few videos so could follow the journey of our Dark Night St. Vincent purple yam plants this season because I knew some of you simply would not believe me unless you saw it for yourselves. Dioscorea alata is no joke. Our vines will put out anywhere from one to five feet of new growth weekly!

 

PLANTING PURPLE YAM

 MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM SEEDLING

Needless to say, the dark night St. Vincent purple yam is a tropical. It thrives naturally in warm, dry areas with moderate rainfall and proper drainage. As a matter of fact, our farmers would always plant the yams in a mound instead of a hole. We’ve had clients grow them outdoors in subtropical regions. We’ve also had others grow them in huge pots, greenhouses or start them indoors each year and transplant after the last threat of frost. All of those are options you can exercise depending on where you live.

The good thing is, since we’ve seen it ourselves, done it ourselves and had clients share their testimonials with us, you know it’s possible. I mean, unless you’re in Greenland somewhere kissing the North Pole, it’s possible to grow this plant successfully wherever you are. Ensure you’re able to provide proper aerial support. It is not a runner but a climber.

DIOSCOREA ALATA: BEHAVIOR

Dioscoea alata doesn’t sprawl unless untrained which is why it’s ideal to provide a harbor that’s mostly vertical. One year, we grew ours in the greenhouse and it literally grew like a garland along the rails and supporting beams down the center of the greenhouse roof. It was gorgeous though and we enjoyed the experiment. For the clients in subtropical regions, I’m told the MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAMvine dies back in the fall and the roots produce new vines in the spring. Those in colder regions save bulbils from their mature vines for planting the following spring and start them indoors to get a head-start on the growing season. As always, you know if you ever have any questions or desire assistance with anything at all we are at your disposal.

 

PURPLE YAM HARVESTTIME

So when we’ve dug up this thing what do we do with it? Well, firstly, it needs to be cooked before consumption. Eating raw Dioscorea of any kind is bound to give you an itch. It is highly unlikely you will enjoy that so please, don’t do it. You can peel the skin away or wash the dirt away thoroughly before slicing or chopping and boiling, steaming, baking, roasting, grilling, or stewing.

MY EXOTIC SECRETS DIOSCOREA ALATA DARK NIGHT ST VINCENT PURPLE YAM ROOT

DIOSCOREA ALATA USES

 

After the yam has been cooked the possibilities are endless. You can spice it and make a stir fry. You can make ice-cream. You can serve slices of purple yam with your favorite meat or seafood dishes. You can make pies, cookies, cakes, punches, smoothies, sauces… the possibilities are truly endless! Feel free to experiment with other traditional dishes you may have and share them with us! You won’t regret adding this versatile and beneficial conversation piece to your table. Happy gardening!

MEET THE JAMAICAN DANDELION: WORLD REKNOWN CASSIA/SENNA COFFEE

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MY INTRODUCTION TO CASSIA: SENNA COFFEE

When I was a little girl – about four years old, I used to get the Jamaican dandelion plant confused with Jerusalem peas all the time. You see, the leaves and bean pods appeared to have very similar features, though they are not related. Fortunately for me, my grandmother was there to teach me the differences between and these and many other plants around our home. She also taught me their benefits and uses and her garden is still home to many cassia senna coffee plants to this day. In fact, the images in this article were taken in her garden and I’m delighted to share them and the knowledge I’ve gained concerning these golden treasures with you.

 

JAMAICAN DANDELION: ONE OF THE RAREST AND MOST DESIRED SUPERFOODS

Long before my dynasty, cassia and her more than six hundred species have been used as natural medicine – her roots, leaves, flowers, and seeds employed to remedy ailments around the world. The Jamaican dandelion is one to be marveled at though. It’s been lauded as one treasure to have all useful parts. The leaves, stems, seeds and flowers are used traditionally in the kitchen, in therapy, and for a host of medicinal purposes.

 

CASSIA SENNA USES & BENEFITS

The senna coffee seeds are ground and brewed into a beverage that’s reminiscent of coffee with a sweeter flavor and no harmful side-effects. This brew gives hard-working Jamaicans a boost in energy as they start their day and has been used to quell asthma as well. The gorgeous showers of golden flowers are soothing to the senses in more ways than one. An infusion from the blooms has been used to treat bronchitis. The roots are considered a diuretic. In fact, all parts of the lovely plant have been used to treat fevers, menstrual problems, tuberculosis, anemia, liver complaints, urinary tract disorders, edema and as a tonic for general weakness and illness. The leaves can also be used topically to reduce inflammation, soothe burning and to expel skin disorders, wounds, skin fungus, parasitic skin diseases, abscesses, and as a topical analgesic herb.

 

PLANTING CASSIA/SENNA

Jamaican dandelion plants average six to eight feet. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that they love warmer climatic conditions. Be sure to choose a home that allows your plants lots of sunlight. They can’t possibly have too much of that. Plant your cassia senna coffee in rich, loamy soil. If you’ve read any of my articles then you know my favorite recommendation. Mix sand, sawdust, humus and manure evenly and plant your senna coffee seeds half an inch deep. You’ll have sprouts within two weeks – often within as little as five days.

 

CARE

One of the best qualities about this plant that makes it so desirable is that it doesn’t require very much attention to thrive once the ideal conditions exist. There is no pruning, cutting, staking, training, guiding or repotting involved. Simply provide water and watch it grow into an elegant work of art, sprouting sprays of gold from the stems. The flowers promise a generous giving of skinny, long, green pods that gradually turn brown as seeds mature. All of this happens in under six months! Now you can harvest seeds and enjoy.

JAMAICAN MORINGA: WORLD’S GREATEST SUPERFOOD

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INTRODUCTION TO JAMAICAN MORINGA

The Jamaican moringa, merengeh, merengue, drumstick tree, ben oil tree, or benzoil tree is a special plant. The rest of the world seems to carry the perception that moringa is medicine but that’s not entirely true. Yes, moringa is overflowing with a host of medicinal properties but it’s simply good, delectable food!

 

Graceful trees of tender branches laden with clusters of relatively small, green leaves sway in the Jamaican breeze. They’re peppered with gorgeous pearlesque fountains for blooms. These blooms are followed by long seed pods, reminiscent of drumsticks (hence the name drumstick tree, and the cycle continues. I, for one, can think of several tropical trees that can be admired and should be obtained solely for their ornamental value, so what makes the moringa plant so special that the whole world wants a taste of it?

 

MORINGA & JAMAICAN CULTURE

Jamaicans refer to the moringa plant as merengeh. I’ve also heard other West Indians use the name merengeh. Believe it or not, it isn’t something that was widely cultivated when I was a child. The thing just grew wild. This may seem strange to some of you but understand that Jamaica isn’t deemed the “land of wood and water” for no reason. Wild, uncultivated and flourishing fruit trees and other edibles rise up in abundance throughout the island and bear witness to several generations of people. In fact, the land is so rich, you could go out into the forest on any given day you felt idle with nothing but your machete and a crocus bag (fine bag) in hand. You’re guaranteed to return home with an abundance of exotic foods cared for by only God and mother nature. The merengeh was among often among them.

 

MORINGA: MY JOURNEY TO DISCOVERY

My uncle would go up into the mountain to his farm and pass by our house on his way home with a bag full of moringa seeds just for me! If they were tender they were like sweet peanuts without the aftertaste. If they were mature, the flavor was much the same but they were better enjoyed by chewing and discarding the fiber afterward.

The first time I tried moringa leaves I was walking by a tree I’d passed hundreds of times. It grew by the side of the road about a quarter of a mile from where our family went to fellowship. I’m not sure why my interest was piqued on this particular day. I picked a few leaves and gingerly bit down on them. I was expecting something bitter but was delighted to discover something reminiscent of tender, baby spinach and arugula leaves with a hint of almond. The leaves were delicious and so began my present addiction to fresh moringa leaves.

 

MERENGEH: THE REAL MIRACLE PLANT

I believe moringa was created close to the heart of The Garden of Eden as that would explain why this one plant embodies such perfection. By the end of this article you’ll share my perspective. It’s not only good for you but delicious! What part of the plant is good for consumption? All of it! Yes, you read that right – all of it is edible: roots, shoots, leaves, and flowers.

 

The flowers and leaves make excellent substitutes in salads that call for ingredients like leafy greens or cucumbers. Moringa leaves carry an unmatched flavor. It’s like having greens with a nutty twist in one package. The pearlesque flowers taste a lot like sweet cucumbers. Careful – m you may become addicted but even if you do, that’s not a problem. Moringa is not only wholesome but nutrient dense in ways that astound scientists and researchers worldwide.

 

HEALTH BENEFITS OF MORINGA

Merengeh is very rich in healthy antioxidants and bioactive plant compounds. Antioxidants are compounds that act against free radicals in our bodies. High levels of free radicals cause oxidative stress, which may contribute to chronic diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. So far, scientists have only investigated a fraction of the many reputed health benefits but I’ve always had my grandparents to teach me what they are now discovering.

 

Moringa leaves are a great source of protein, vitamin B6, riboflavin, vitamin C, iron, vitamin A, magnesium. With moringa, you’ll see improved energy levels and vision, lower blood sugar, lower cholesterol, lower risk of heart disease and cancer. Moringa leaves, pods and seeds have also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and can even protect against arsenic toxicity. Moringa leaves are also highly nutritious, and should be particularly beneficial for people who are lacking in essential nutrients.

 

MERENGEH: USES

Moringa’s flavors are complimentary to a wide range of dishes. Don’t hesitate to incorporate different parts of the plant in your meals, especially the leaves. Add moringa to soups, sauces, salads, juices, dips, stir-fry, wraps, chips and so much more. You can utilize flowers, leaves and stem shoots for garnishing as well. Merengeh is also used in poultices and consumed in capsulated form for its’ many medicinal properties. Moringa leaf extract may also be used as a food preservative. It increases the shelf life of meat by reducing oxidation

 

Considering the plant is a tropical, you’ll be glad to have moringa in your landscape if you’re close to the equator. A mature merengeh plant is gloriously appealing to the eye which makes it a marvelous ornamental. If you’re training your moringa plant as a bonsai, you’ll be happy to learn that this works in your favor. When the roots of the merengeh plant are restricted, the plant produces an even greater profusion of flower showers.

 

GROWING MERENGEH

Moringa loves warmth. 75° F is paradise for these tropical beauties. Ensure you select mature seeds, preferably from pods that have dried on the plant. Plant your moringa seeds in rich, loamy soil with good drainage. I like to mix some ash, sawdust and cow manure into my soil. Water liberally and plant your seeds an inch deep and at least fifteen feet apart. If you’re planting your moringa in a pot, ensure your pot is at least two feet deep and two feet across with proper drainage.

 

Germination usually occurs within 10 days and the plants grow very quickly. You’ll be able to harvest fresh moringa seeds for your dishes within two years. How cool is that? – Your own renewable source of the world’s richest plant at your fingertips!

 

MORINGA NOW!

If you’re working in a smaller space, you can consider having a moringa bonsai. Training these plants are really easy. You can see some of our instructional YouTube videos on training plants. If you’re one of those people who generally have difficulty getting seeds to germinate, we’ve thought of a solution to that too. You can find mature moringa plants here. You’ll be able to begin harvesting leaves in a matter of days. We’ve received reviews with incredible testimonials of improved health within days of meeting moringa. I’m sure your experience will be similar. Feel free to share your story with Jamaica’s merengeh with us! We enjoy your testimonials and ideas.

RECIPE: CASSAVA CAKE

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CASSAVA & THE JAMAICAN TRADITIONS

Cassava has been rooted in Jamaican history since before the British. It was a major part of the Arawak diet. If you’ve been fortunate enough to traverse the banks of Middle Quarters – a bustling fishing district in cool and industrious St. Elizabeth, Jamaica – you probably would have had the pleasure of authentic Jamaican fried fish, peppered shrimp and bammy. If you haven’t and you’ve a penchant for the spic things in life you should stop by.

 

 

THE ORIGINAL CASSAVA CAKE

Now shrimp you’ve heard of and fish certainly but what is bammy? Bammy has been music to my palate since I was a toddler and I’m not alone in this; far from it. It’s a traditional Jamaican favorite and I pray the matriarch of our family won’t be displeased by my revealing these secrets to you. It’s sort of like a flatbread made entirely from cassava roots that have been cleaned and pounded by hand. Every Jamaican household has their own spin on the preparation of bammy. We generally like to pair it with traditional and usually spicy salting like ackee and saltfish, mackerel rundown, jerk pork or jerk chicken, and peppered shrimp.

 

I visited the oldest bammy factory in the hills of Montego Bay when I was a teenager and enjoyed the grand tour. You’d think the factories did it differently but creating this masterpiece is not a process to be rushed. Why? That can only be properly answered when you take your first bite into a piece after it’s been soaked in coconut milk and fried. That might take a while for you to access. Raw cassava roots are easier to get a hold of though so I’m sharing a much easier cassava recipe you can experiment with this Summer.

 

CASSAVA CAKE RECIPE

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

For Your Cake

 

3 lbs of grated cassava

3 cups of coconut milk

1 cup of raw agave nectar

1 cup of coconut cream

½ cup of coconut flour

2 ounces of coconut oil

4 eggs (you can save three of the yolks for the topping)

1 tbsp of molasses

½ tsp of nutmeg (finely grated)

Pinch of salt

 

For Your Topping

 

½ cup of coconut milk

½ cup of agave nectar

3 egg yolks

 

HOW TO PREPARE

You’ll want to preheat your oven at 350° Fahrenheit. Prepare 2 shallow 8-inch baking pans by greasing them and set them aside. Combine all your cake ingredients. You can either use an electric mixer or mix in a bowl until consistency is even throughout. Pour your mixture into your prepared pans and bake for 50 minutes.

While your cakes are baking, pour your topping ingredients into a blender and blend well. When your cakes are firm in the center (after about 50 minutes in the oven), remove them from the oven and pour your topping over them. Turn the oven off. Put your cakes back in the oven and leave them there for about 8 minutes until the sweet topping has set. Now you can remove and enjoy!

 

SERVING IDEAS

After your cake is cool, you can cut it into squares, triangles or whatever shape you like. You can serve as is or with cheese, avocado, ice-cream, or fruit. Some fruit and herbs like cherries, grapes, mint leaves or shredded coconut make wonderfully complimentary garnish for your cassava cake.

Avoid pairing your cassava cake with tangy flavors like pineapple, lemon and kiwi. They don’t seem to be very enjoyable together. You can also drizzle with caramel, molasses or condensed milk to your liking. Feel free to experiment with the ingredients and don’t hesitate to share! Enjoy! Have fun and a great Summer!

CASSAVA: ORIGINS OF TAPIOCA

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WHAT IS CASSAVA

That’s right! Tapioca is a product of the cassava plant. What on earth is cassava, you ask? Cassava plants are tall tropical bushes of spiny stems and broad green leaves of three or more lobes. Yes, they make interesting garden plants but that’s not what makes them most desired. The most fascinating and beneficial parts of the cassava plant are its’ roots. Beneath the soil surface, cassava plants produce a collection of thick, nutrient-dense, starchy roots up to a meter in length that make for healthy, tasty dishes.

 

CASSAVA & JAMAICAN HISTORY

Most of you are probably aware that I’m Jamaican by birth. I was an adult when I moved away. Hence, I’ve always tried to keep the traditional recipes and foods passed down to my through generations of preservation very close. Cassava is one such food. Cassava has been rooted in Jamaican history since before the British. It was a major part of the diet of the Arawaks who once called the former Xamaica home. In fact, it was their main crop. They’d bake it into bread then it was usually paired with fish as they relied heavily on fishing as a people.

 

Over the years, Jamaica has preserved a version of this Arawak cassava bread we now call bammy. Bammy is essentially cassava that’s been pounded and dehydrated then shaped into thin, flat cakes like a flatbread. These bammy cakes are later soaked in a mixture of your choosing (usually involving coconut milk) before they’re baked, fried, or roasted. It seems there are other ways to marry cassava and coconut. A delicious cassava pudding is also made with the two as main ingredients and is sometimes referred to as cassava cake. You can find this easy and rewarding recipe here.

 

CASSAVA & I

I was an adult when I discovered that tapioca – a custard flavor I always enjoyed – was a product of something growing in our family home this whole time. I mean, cassava and I are woven together. I grew up on bammy. Most Jamaicans at home will tell you nothing different. Cassava cake, however, was a much rarer delicacy, much like sweet potato pone – a pudding made from the Jamaican sweet potato. Cassava cake was only likely to be encountered on special occasions like birthdays, parties, weddings and Chritmastime. The thing that’s become a favorite for our household of late is cassava porridge – yet another way to marry cassava and coconut milk. You’ll find there are many ways to incorporate cassava into your diet. You can find some great ideas in our list of recipes.

 

GROWING CASSAVA PLANTS

Now, you know here at My Exotic Secrets, we tend to focus on making tropical and exotic plants that were formerly deemed out of reach available to you in your own space wherever you are in the world. We’re placing paradise at your fingertips. This sometimes means designing, executing and sharing creative ideas wherein tropical plants can double as useful and ornamental in a small space, especially in colder regions. Passiflora, sapote and dragonfruit are some of my favorite examples of this. Cassava, however, is not.

 

Unlike sweet potato (Ipomoea) and yam (Dioscorea) plants – great root plants for potting, cassava cannot be tamed and should not be grown in a small space if you’re expecting a good yield. This means any pot under 20 gallons is out the window. In fact, it’s ideal to not limit the roots capacity to grow at all. Therefore, it’d be best to plant your cassava directly in the ground and watch it thrive.

 

PLANTING

You’ll want to give them lots of space, leaving four feet between each plant. They love loose, loamy soil with proper drainage. Waterlogging is a bad idea with cassava. Never leave standing water on your cassava roots or you’ll be sorely disappointed. Ensure your cassava plants will get lots of warmth too. They’re not very forgiving when it comes to cold. Cassava is truly a tropical and it isn’t willing to compromise. Sorry guys – this one has limits and it isn’t going to negotiate with me. Nonetheless, if you’re blessed with the ideal conditions in your area, it is definitely worth the investment. Interestingly, I was once part of an online forum in which someone shared their experience of growing coconut plants indoors – a feat I would have formerly thought unyielding. It turns out I was wrong. Maybe there is hope for those of us cassava lovers who live in frosty or extreme climatic conditions. Regardless, I never want to set you up for disappointment. If you brave those waters and are successful I’d love to hear your story and I’m sure other kindred hearts would too.

 

CASSAVA HEALTH BENEFITS

Cassava is a good source of vitamins, minerals and dietary support like fiber, calcium, magnesium, saponins, phosphorus, manganese, iron, potassium and zinc. These minerals are necessary for proper development, growth and function of your body’s tissues. This helps protect the formation and preservation of bones and teeth, connective tissue and sex hormones. Cassava also promotes digestion, healthy weight loss and lasting satiety. It can even lower your blood sugar and the risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

 

With 38 grams of carbohydrates per 100-gram serving, cassava is a good energy source for individuals who engage in strenuous physical activities. Cassava is also gluten-free so it’s a good substitute for oats, barley and wheat. If you’ve been diagnosed with celiac, tapioca or cassava flour is your new best friend. I shared a cassava cake square with a friend with celiac a few weeks back and she loved it!

 

USES

Because it’s so starchy, cassava is very versatile. You can use your yucca root as is or you can use cassava or tapioca flour. This makes it great for baking cakes, cookies, bread, and other pastries. You can make fries, have it steamed and mashed or just steamed. You can also try cassava porridge, punch, milkshake, ice-cream, custard or stew. Add it to your soups for a smooth, creamy flavor and texture. Remember, you can substitute other starchy requirements in your recipes with cassava. Experiment and discover but always remember to have fun! Enjoy!

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!

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!

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.