For a few years now, George and I have hosted a "Local Foods Feast" in early February as part of "Cabin Fever University", a calendar of various social events that take place throughout the winter in Celo. George, especially, is passionate about local food, and loves nothing better than to sit down at the table and appreciate a delicious, home-grown meal. This potluck event, purposely timed in the heart of winter, is a great creative experiment to see what kinds of local foods (grown in our valley) are still holding strong in peoples' root-cellars, green-houses, and cold-frames. There are always the hardy standbys (potatoes and winter squash), but there are always some exotic surprises that show up on the table, such as fresh cheeses, custard, preserved fruit treats, maple syrup, and local meat (wild or domestic). One year, a friend brought fresh lemonade made from lemons off her potted plant and her bees' honey. It's always a delicious event!
The first "Local Foods Feast" we hosted fell on Groundhog's Day, which I thought was appropriate; so when I realized that today is Groundhog's Day, I decided to do some documentation on my favorite subject: food. I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what local foods we're enjoying here. Please don't hate me!
First of all, the inspiration for this post: Bananas. When we moved into this house nearly 3 months ago, there was a small banana tree in our backyard with a lovely bunch of small, green bananas developing beautifully from their dramatic curved stem. If you have never seen a banana tree in flower, like I had not, let me show you a close-up photo of a banana flower. Unfolding from under every magenta "petal" of this banana "flower", are a row of chartreuse baby bananas that flower from their ends. Amazingly beautiful, I think.
The bunch of bananas in our yard was more developed than this flower when we moved in, and I would eagerly check on "my babies" often. The top layer of bananas started yellowing earlier this week, and after I saw the Costa Rican equivalent of a robin dining on one of them, I took that as a sign that they were ripe and ready to harvest.
We harvested the bounty and gave thanks to the Banana God, and now this huge bunch of bananas sits in my kitchen.
I have always been a banana fan, but I am used to grocery store bananas, and these bananas were still a bit on the green side for my visual concept of a "ripe banana", so I planned to let them ripen for another day or 2. Later in the day however, I noticed a small dinosaur-like shape sneaking it's way across the kitchen floor, toward the bananas. I grabbed by camera, always on the ready for unusual animal encounters, and snuck into the kitchen to capture the kodak moment. The iguana saw me, however, and ran it's fastest (which is not very fast when it's trying to run on tiled floors - in fact it's more cartoon-like and quite hilarious) away from me and into one of the bedrooms.
Eventually, George was able to capture the hungry iguana and take it outside. George held it, and we admired it for awhile.
I felt bad for hogging all the bananas, so I peeled a couple and put them out on our bird / iguana feeder in the yard. In so doing, I realized that these greenish bananas were perfectly ripe (as the robin and iguana already knew), and when I say "perfectly ripe", that's just what I mean. I have never had so sweet a banana! The taste is almost unrecognizable from a grocery store banana!
Needless to say, I have been eating bananas every day and sharing them with others (human and animal alike). Today I added one to my breakfast of other local foods: mangoes, papaya, and yogurt I made from some local milk. It was so beautiful I had to take a picture! Even the accompanying coffee (made with the same local milk and Costa Rican grown and processed sugar) was grown just over the mountain.
There is a bountiful amount of local food to choose from down here. Besides our banana tree, we had a pineapple growing in our yard, as well as a cinnamon tree. Our neighbors have an orange tree, a huge mango tree with baby mangoes on it, and a coconut palm that regularly drops its ripened fruit.
There are even cocoa trees bearing fruit right down the road! The shiny whitish pod hanging from the tree in the middle of the photo is a developing cocoa pod. Chocolate trees!
Every Saturday, I go to our local farmer's market where they have local fruits and veggies, honey, spices, eggs, chicken, and fish.
We've been making delicious salads made exclusively from locally grown food. Even the fresh pepper, and the coconut oil and mandarina limes used to dress the salad are local.
The tortillas and black beans in this scrumptious quesadilla are "imported", but every other ingredient is local, including the cheese which was made north of here in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Too beautiful to be excluded from the photo-food-documentary, I thought.
So Happy Groundhog's Day to everyone! I hope that (whether or not your neighborhood groundhog saw it's shadow) the rest of the winter brings joy and good food to each of your tables. And by the way, according to the shadow of the iguana that is currently eating bananas off of my "bird feeder", it looks like Costa Rica's definitely going to have 6 more weeks of summer, even though the children go back to school this week after their summer vacation.