Saturday, 6 December 2008

Back from the Americas

well it's been a while but I'm back in cornwall, ready for Spring. Mexico and the USA were amazing, i've seen what a semi-tropical paradise Mexico is for the gardener, and America in Winter with only a few hardy kale plants managing to survive. I'll be posting some pics of my travels before starting my garden's proper blog again.
So as an quick intro here are 2 of the main plants in traditional mexican agriculture.
Introducing the Mage(MA-Gay)

This is Don Luiz, he's a Mage farmer, 87 years old still working away..Mage is principally known for being the main ingredient in tequila. Tequila begins as the sap of this plant. When they are about 15 years old the hart is dug out of the centre and the insides scratched twice a day. when you scratch in the morning you get what's called "agua miel" - honey water, pooling in the hollow in the centre. this is the unfermented sap and is delicious, kind of like diluted maple get about 3 litres a day...but have to keep it up or the plant stops producing this.
this can then be fermented to become "Pulque" a kind of beer which is becoming popular in mexico again
after distillation it becomes Tequila.
And the Worm? Well, there are 2 worms found in and around the Mage- a white and a red one, both very tasty fried up and eaten i'm assured...

The other plant grown nearby and in conjunction with Mage is the Nopal Cactus. Legend has it Mexico city was founded where the people saw an eagle land on a Nopal cactus. Our Teachers call it a myth because it is known by the indigenous people to be a metaphor-the eagle the sun landing on a symbol of immortality- so where the sun was directly overhead is where they founded the city-how could an eagle land on a thorny cactus anyway?

So the Nopal is cultivated for it's leaves-big spiny pads which are cut when young and sliced up-they taste like young green beans,very nice. They also produce different fruit according to what kind-some make big green fruit which are tart, and some make kind of sweet red ones. It's got some vicious spikes on it and i found to my cost(while trying to pocket one) that the fruit also have masses of tiny spines!
It also has many medicinal uses.

As i said it's a gardeners dream-most tropical countries can't grow things like apples because they need some cold to fruit but the cold nights in mexico and broad geographical region ensure both standard fruit like we are used to and things like "Mamey"- a beautiful, luxurious fruit. which i'm totally in love with but will never grow in cornwall..
More soon

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