Currently showing posts tagged island life

  • 3 Days and Counting

    I'm really antsy to get off the island. Americans take for granted the ability to jump into a car and move freely across four million squares miles of political boundaries... my home state alone is the size of France! So, living on a small island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean can be suffocating.

    Conversely, living in a tropical jungle means there's always something exciting going on. Last week we had two indicators of ecosystem bouncebacks: a land hermit crab sighting and a sudden bee swarm.

    Land Hermit Crab (Coenobita clypeatus)

    Like all hermit crabs, these guys find old shells to live in. They are both the biggest species in Bermuda and the only hermits that live on land, causing real estate to be a perpetual seller's market. Bermudians added insult to injury by overfishing their shell of choice: the West Indian Topshell. The decimation of one species led to total poverty for the other. As far as we can tell, the land hermit crab survived the last few decades by carrying around fossils and human garbage.

    The Topshell was reintroduced to the island in 1982 with severe protection laws. Both species have been on the rise ever since, though the land crabs are still a pretty rare find. The one pictured above (now a temporary lab pet) is snuggled into his very own West Indian Topshell! A solid sign of ecosystem recovery.

    Bermuda Bees

    Between mites, pesticides, hurricanes, and the general global phenomenon, bee populations in Bermuda have declined drastically over the past decade. A group finally formed in 2013 (The Buzz) to help restore a natural environment condusive to bee reproduction. Last weekend a huge swarm flew into my neighbor's garden, and a local beekeeper was able to remove and re-home them into a proper hive box.

    And here's a picture of my lil' nugget. I'm not looking forward to being apart for the next 3 weeks.

  • Tropical Kitschen: Preserving Herbs

    One of the hardest things about tropical climates is getting your veggies to last. The heat and humidity causes them to wilt, sog, mold, and otherwise just crap out. Not to mention, many of them already have a short shelf life due to long shipping routes.

    So what am I supposed to do with all of this extra basil? I just decimated my garden in preparation for the summer crop and there's no way I can eat all of it. (I thought about drying it out, but I doubt 96% humidity allows leaves to die with such dignity.)

    Solution: freeze it! Olive oil doesn't break down, the herbs don't go to waste, and you have some ready-made cooking starters to pop in the pan. I've dedicated one ice cube tray to these little nuggets to avoid residual oil making its way into drinks.

    1. Wash the herbs.

    2. Chop the herbs.

    3. Mix them into olive oil.

    4. Pour into an ice cube tray.

    5. Set overnight.

    Voila! Delicious and tactile.

  • Tropical Kitschen: Surinam Cherries

    Surinam Cherries are starting to fruit everywhere right now. Literally everywhere. The plant is native to Surinam, but its hardiness and adaptability have allowed the shrub to proliferate across the tropics. In Brazil it's called a "Brazilian Cherry," in Florida it's called a "Florida Cherry," and in Bermuda it's called - you guessed it - a "Bermuda Cherry."

    The taste and color changes drastically during maturation. As the saying goes: the darker the cherry, the sweeter the fruit. You essentially want it to be so ripe that a light touch causes it to fall into your hand... anything less and the meat will taste resinous. (I happen to find the tropical-acid taste unusual and attractive, so I've started eating the cherries straight off the bush.) Another way to reduce the aroma is to cut a slit, pop out the seed, and let it chill in the fridge for 2-3 hours.

    More recipe ideas:

    • Cut fresh into a salad
    • Macerate with sugar as a dessert topping
    • Surinam Cherry Ginger Jam
    • Distill into a liquor
    • Ferment into a wine
    • Surinam Cherry Chutney
    • Blend, strain, and add club soda and citrus juices for a punch
    • Pulp and fold into baked goods