Friday, March 9, 2012

One of the perks of living in the midst of a botanical garden is the fruit. We grew pretty accustomed to being able to pick fruit off the trees in our yard in South Africa, and here we are similarly blessed, but with quite a different selection of fruit. In South Africa, we had oranges, lemons, figs, guavas, grapes, mulberries, papayas, mangoes, and peaches. We also an avocado tree that failed to produce fruit and banana plants that never made it to ripeness before the first frost came. We successfully mooched quite a few pomegranates off of our neighbors. Here, though the area we have to work with is much larger, we don't have the gardening whiz Mma SB to plant trees so our selection is more limited. There's plenty of mango trees though as well as avocado (that actually produce quite a lot of fruit), starfruit, guava, papaya, banana, and passion fruit (which actually is a vine not a tree). We like to go on fruit gleaning missions and are generally successful though James often has to climb a tree, and I almost always get bitten by mosquitoes and/or black flies in the process.

So with less fruit freely available, I haven't really had the chance to do much canning here as of yet. In South Africa, I didn't do as much as I had hoped, but we were pretty successful in canning peaches, orange marmalade, and mulberry jam. I made my first attempt with starfruit jam the other day, and it turned out pretty well even though I could not find an authoritative recipe. I kind of just threw the pectin and sugar in there and saw what happened. I think I'll use a tad less sugar next time.

So the fruit gleaning and jam making have been part of our spring break activities. Having a week off and deciding not to travel has been great. We've done almost everything that we had wanted to do and not gotten around to yet. We bought a wicker couch for our porch and a blender, we traveled to the beautiful Kisantu botanical gardens about 2 hours out of town, we wove our way through the monstrous grand marche, we walked down to the ancient anthropology museum at the bottom of the hill we live on and touched Mobutu's chair/throne, and we took care of the details for our trip to Gabon during our second spring break. Overall, it's been a great week and a great chance to get to explore.

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