Cooking and gardening
One of the few things I don't like about the islands is the paucity of good quality fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, so I'm hoping to grow my own there. When I was in the gift shop at the botanical gardens on STX, I scribbled down the names of some cookbooks, at least one of which contained information on growing things to eat, even things that you wouldn't normally think would grow in the Caribbean, like apples. I wanted to wait on buying the books until I was sure I'd be moving, and I figured I could get them cheaper on Amazon anyway.
Well, of course, I lost the scrap paper on which I wrote down the book info. Do any of you have any favorite books on growing and cooking food in the islands? I'm particularly interested in local foods, but it would also be nice to have some tips on growing boring stateside stuff as well. I've been poking around on Amazon, and there's a fair amount of stuff there, but it would be nice to know what books are actually useful to those who live there. Thanks!
On another note... we got our first island car last week. 😀 It's an old-ish Jeep Wrangler that's just old enough that my boyfriend will have fun tinkering with it. We're counting on it to take us to the fun places where our rental car wouldn't go during our PMV.
I've had a rough time with the soil here. It's rocky, dense, and lacking the nutrients to get my plants going. I'm out East, and I'm sure the soil near Frederiksted is much different but I haven't had too much luck.
I have a small square of land that I chopped up with a shovel before mixing bulk soil from GBH and throwing out large rocks. I've successfully grown tomatoes, zucchini, squash, and cucumbers. I think it's almost less trouble to just keep them potted rather than trying to get a raised bed going.
Lemons and lime trees do very well in full sun as well as any herb in a pot. I also heard that before Omar, papaya didn't have a huge presence on island, but now it's flourishing since Omar reach!
Bombi, most likely small caterpillars are munching your cucumbers. They especially attack the growing tips then multiply and then consume the leaves. You will be able to grow cucs fine out East IF you spray for them. I use an organic product called Dipel which contains a living bacteria (biological control). There are other brand names, but you are looking for a powder with BT listed. It stands for Bacillius Thuringensis (sp?). They most likely carry something with BT at Gallows Bay or Cruzan gardens. If I want to harvest cucumbers I HAVE to spray for the little caterpillars. I would suggest spraying once/week and then increase to 2x weekly if you see the pests at the cuc tips, or if the rains come and wash it off. Aphids and other pests are rare on the cucumbers here. Good luck!
The most challenging part of gardening here, for me, is battling the bugs ... HOLY COW! I moved here from Oregon 8 years ago and was so happy to be able to plant stuff year-round and not have to buy new plants and flowers and start over every 3 months ... the growing season in Oregon is very short. I was in heaven knowing I could buy flowers and not have to bring them in during the winter (I never did that, let them freeze and bought new ones every year, my Mom in Oregon still brings her lemon tree inside during the winter) ... I love this place. Then I decided to plant a garden here ... different story. The soil here is coral/calichi (sp) where I live, and not conducive to much of what I wanted to plant, so I started the garden in planters. All went well in the beginning, and then the bugs and snails moved in. It was amazing to me how quickly the plants were healthy and almost overnite they were munched away to stems and sticks. I discovered snails eating stuff, so I really overdid it with snail bait ..which I regret, one of our cats is now blind in one eye and I'm almost certain it's because I overdid the snail poison ... I've stopped doing that and feel guilty every time I look him in the good eye.
Then, I discovered big, fat, creepy tomato worms on the tomatoes. They were huge and can take out a tomato plant in the blink of an eye. They were big enough that I felt like I'd be killing an animal, so I picked them off (gloves and a shovel) and threw them over the wall. Later I researched and discovered they evolve into what's known as a hummingbird/sphinx moth ... they're amazing to see. It flys and hovers just like a hummingbird, but it's a moth that is mostly nocturnal and visits during the evening ... so amazing to see. We had one that accidentally came into our house at night (we have our doors open, revolving door for the dogs) following the light. I caught it with my butterfly net (previously used to catch a small sick kitten) and released it outside. If you've ever seen what looks like a hummingbird at night, that's what it is.I digress!
During this past year I've grown radishes, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, melons (canteloupe, honeydew and another variety) miniature eggplant, basil and other spices. It's a challenge ... the bugs here are relentless. I use insecticidal soap, and have recently started using Captain Jack's deadbug brew, which is "organic". It's still a constant battle, but for me it's worth it ... I really love having fresh veggies from the garden. The tomatoes had a tough year battling the heat this summer; less-than-cherry-tomatoes (our pups eat those) grow regardless of the weather conditions and come up from seed everywhere (love that), all the other tomatoes dropped their blooms, but they're growing now ... they need cool nights.
So, growing a garden can be done, but the challenges are different here ... at least from Oregon! 😀
If you have questions, I'd be happy answer them.