The Marmalady Connection

Some of you who know me personally, know that I love to make marmalade.  And herb jellies.  And chutneys, and lemon curd, and, and, and ………..

So some time ago I had this notion to venture into the world of Farmers Markets, and came up with the label name of “Marmalady”.  That is me.  I have a blood orange tree, in the ground, which produces only sporadically because occasionally we get hard freezes in the winter which knock out all hope of fruit production.  It is too big to think about covering.  I also have a lemon tree in a container which I can move around according to the season, and it does produce wonderful lemons (an essential ingredient in marmalades and many other fruit and herb jellies), and two lemon trees which I grew from seed and are planted in the ground.  Who knows if or when they will produce!

One of the less flattering (or even derogatory) names the French have for we Brits is “les marmalades” because of our love of eating the stuff on toast for breakfast.  (I have even heard they call us “les rosbifs”, but that is another subject altogether!)

Marmalade evidently is an acquired taste.  I suppose I acquired it as soon as I could eat solid foods, although marmalade is not really solid.  It seems to be one of those tastes that one either loves or hates, nothing in between.  It can be made with orange, lemon, grapefruit, or any combination of citrus fruit.  Kumquat Marmalade is very nice, but hard to make because of those fiddly little fruits that need to be processed!

Recipes abound on the internet for the use of marmalade, one of my favorites being marmalade cake.  Also roast chicken basted with marmalade.  When I was growing up, my mother made hundreds of pounds of marmalade every December/January from “Seville Oranges”.  These oranges were of the bitter kind, and always a favourite for marmalade.  For a little extra festive touch you can always add rum or whisky to your pot!

Guatemala Diary 2017 – Day One

It is such a joy to return to Guatemala every year (this is the third year for me) and having previously visited in November, then October, it was interesting to experience the different weather and scenery in September.  As usual, the primary objective was to teach gardening activities, healthy eating and exercise to the Maya kids in the schools, but there was plenty of time to see the sights, shop and do many fun things!  Day one, was mostly traveling, but we have to start somewhere!

We were ten in number ( Garden Club members, Master Gardeners, Nutritionists, and lovers of flowers and travel); despite very recent hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc., our flight from Houston to Guatemala City was smooth and even arrived before schedule!

We stay at a coffee farm in the Central Highlands near El Tejar, Chimaltenango (which I believe in the Kaqchikel Maya language means “Place of the Shields”.)  While our suitcases were collected in a pick up truck and whisked away to the farm, we were whisked away to a delightful restaurant in Guatemala City called Los Cebollines.  Delightful place, wonderful food and drinks.

Fortified by the food and drink, we set off on a scenic tour of the city before getting tangled up in traffic on Rt. 1, the Carretera Interamericana, stopping off at a grocery store for supplies

and finally turning off in El Tejar on the bumpy road to Finca Xejuyu, in Kaqchikel “at the foot of the mountain”.   The best thing about “going back” is the welcoming smiles from those who live there – the cook and her helpers, the farm workers, and the children who remember you from previous visits.  We selected and settled into our rooms, and soon it was time for supper. The food is delicious – neither heavy nor over-spicy (although I do like spicy) but the flavorings blend so well that “spicy” is not necessary.  I’ll refer to some recipes later on as the time progresses!

Our schedule had changed a little so after dinner we started preparing for our first school session, which had been moved from Wednesday to tomorrow (Monday) morning.    Some of us had only briefly met prior to travelling, so this was a great opportunity to get to know each other – finally after lots of snipping, taping, laughing and lots of note taking, we went off to our rooms to soak up the sounds of the night – frogs croaking, the occasional barking dog in the distance and the mandatory night rain on the roof, and a good night’s sleep!



Panama Diary May 2017 – Day Nine

Three of our group had a very early start, leaving the hotel soon after 4 am for an 8 am flight.   My group was next, but we didn’t have to leave until around 8 am, so there was time for a quick walk around the pools and view the ocean at low tide.  It was interesting to see all the ships lined up waiting to enter the Canal for their South-North transit

Once at the airport we all went our separate ways, shopping and looking around the very nice facilities of Tocumen International Airport, and left on time for an uneventful flight to Miami.

In summary, this was a wonderful trip.  Panama has much to offer but hasn’t been exploited by tourism.  Most cruise ship passengers go through the Canal, and often can take some side trips to see the Embera Indians, Panama City and maybe time in Gamboa Rainforest, but they miss the essence and beauty of the country.  This land tour offered some of the Canal Experience, and so much more!  It is not hard to see why many expats are now making their home in Panama, in the City, along the coast, and up in the highlands.  Panama City is very modern, with a beautiful skyline of sparkling skyscrapers, but also has a fine Old City (Casco Viejo) with rambling streets and colonial buildings being restored to their original glory, and another old part consisting of the original canal workers’ lodgings.  The Pan-American Highway is well surfaced and a good road to travel on from the Darien to the western border with Costa Rica.  There is no throughway from Panama into Colombia because of the difficulties of chopping through the jungle, and because being environmentally and ecologically minded, the government does not want to disturb the flora and fauna existing in this jungle/rainforest.  Sugar cane is grown extensively, and very fine rum is produced in the Azuero Peninsular.  Coffee is grown in the highlands, Panamanian cigars are (so they tell me) good but not as good as the Cuban, and fresh fruit and seafood defy comparison.  Artisans work hard to make a great variety of crafted items, including the woven baskets, the Molas, polleras and jewelry.  There is a huge tax-free area in Colon, in the north east of the country, and of course the Canal is a major attraction.  Some of the beaches have great surf, as well as world-class fishing.   Panama is a paradise for bird watchers and all nature lovers, and we saw extensive wind and solar farms.

 The Expansion Canal lock system is designed to return a large percentage of the displaced water to the river rather than letting it flow back to the sea, and the newest dredger liquifies rocks and solid materials to return to the river rather than pile up on the banks adding to the land mass. 

 So, would I go back?  Absolutely YES!!!   And I’ll round out these Nine Days in Panama with the video of the Devil Devil Dance performed after dinner on Day Six – the dancer wearing one of the hand made ceremonial masks.  

Panama Diary May 2017 – Day Eight

Before leaving Chitre, we all tried our hands at shaping the traditional little dough pretzels, and then baked them in an outdoor clay oven.

On the way out of town we stopped at an artisanal bakery, Panaderia San Pablo, where we toured their facility and had an opportunity to purchase some of the sweet treats!  Bread from the Azuero Peninsular and La Arena is famous throughout Panama.

 By the time we arrived at the hotel, the very splendid Westin Playa Bonita, it was beginning to rain.  We had a quick lunch and not daunted by the rain, several of us went down to the pools.  The water was refreshing after sitting on the coach all day, and I even went knee high in the rather murky Pacific Ocean.  The tide was high, and there was a lot of debris floating around.  (They clean the beach once the tide goes out.)  There was quite a lot of thunder and lightning by this stage, and when one rather large bolt of lightning appeared to strike close to the corner of the hotel, the pool staff ordered everyone out of the water.  Poolside Piña Coladas were also very tasty!

  Dinner was special – it was our Tour Guide’s birthday, and we had a cake and gift for him.  For the first time in 8 days he was speechless!!!  It was a great Farewell Dinner but sad that our time together had almost come to an end.

   Panama.Playa Bonita.Birthday Cake