Tropical Fruit on the Branch

As much as possible I love to grow my own food, that which I do not manage to grow myself I like to at least source from local producers. This leaves me eating fresh fruit and veggies grown within my local climatic conditions. So when I take a trip I always delight in the different fruits that are available and that I never buy at home.

Last year ended for me with a few weeks in Cambodia and I was very happy to not only eat some delicious tropical fruit but also to see many fruits actually growing. Seeing a plant grow gives me an opportunity to learn more, to deepen my relationship with the food it produces. If I get the chance I like to sit with the plants, to talk to them, to listen to them and maybe fall in love with them, even just a little bit.

The following are a few of the tropical fruit plants that I saw growing for the very first time on this trip…

star fruit (Averrhoa carambola)

Star Fruit (Averrhoa carambola). A waxy fruit that is not particularly tasty, in my opinion, but I had to add it as it looks so cool, especially when sliced giving a bright yellow star on your plate

Star fruits are high in fibre, vitamins B complex & C, minerals including potassium, phosphorus, zinc & iron. When vitamin C appears alongside iron the iron is more easily absorbed and so can help treat or prevent the occurrence of anaemia.

 

Jack fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus)

Jack Fruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus). This is a bit of a crazy looking fruit and huge in size, you certainly wouldn’t want one to fall and land on your head. The yellow flesh inside the rough outer skin is easy to separate into smaller chunks as each piece of flesh covers a stone sized seed. It is very tasty and not as rich or creamy as durian so can be easier to eat in quantity.

Jack fruits are high in fibre, vitamins A, B complex & C, minerals including magnesium, calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, manganese & selenium. The magnesium helps with the absorption of calcium to keep bones strong and healthy.

 

fresh green peppercorns (Piper nigrum)Fresh Green Peppercorns (Piper Nigrum). These pea sized round green fruits when fully mature are left to dry and become the more familiar black peppercorns that sit in pepper mills across the planet. Eaten fresh they are delicious with a much more delicate spicy bite than their older dried brothers. Are they really a fruit? I don’t actually know but I had to add them in here as for one it was great to see some growing on the vine but also because these ones in particular are renowned worldwide for being the best and most tasty peppercorns available, Kampot pepper, they did not disappoint.

Black pepper is well known for it’s medicinal qualities but even these young fruits prove high in vitamin K and iron. In addition they aid digestion and help fight bacterial growth in the intestines.

papaya (Carica papaya)

Papaya (Carica papaya). I enjoy papaya both when it is still green, especially as part of the spicy raw Thai dish som tam, but also when the flesh is soft and ripe and orange. When ripe they are delicious with a little squirt of fresh lime, a perfect start to a day in the tropics.

Papayas are high in fibre, vitamins A, B complex, C & E, minerals including calcium and iron. Eating fresh raw papaya helps replenish the good bacteria in your intestines, helps with digestion, helps maintain the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties.

 

passion fruit (Passiflora edulis)
Passion Fruit (Passiflora edulis).  I go crazy for the tart insides of this fruit. The little slime covered seeds can be eaten with a spoon straight from the skin or as I discovered on this latest trip blended with a bit of ice to make a somewhat crunchy fresh fruit shake.

Passion fruit is high in fibre, vitamins A & E, minerals including potassium, iron, copper, magnesium & phosphorus. Vitamin E is essential for eye health while potassium helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

 

Each one of these fruits will help your body maintain a healthy immune system, keep you fit and strong whilst protecting you against a variety of conditions. Of course each one is unique in its composition and thus its role in your health but as you eat fresh, raw, local fruits (wherever you are) you set your body up with the nutrients it needs to stay strong and avoid the development of many diseases and conditions that are becoming all too familiar to those following a more heavily processed diet.

And now one for fun! Does anyone know what the following “fruit” is? It is not eaten in Cambodia and although it grows there no one I approached seemed to know what it was, even its name – do you? Either way, I’m sure you’ll agree it’s a plant of great beauty 🙂

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Why I Love Rain

Let me qualify the title of this post, or perhaps just add “in moderation”! I don’t love it when it rains for days on end, when the sky is battleship grey and everything is damp, in that sense I am the same as most other people. However, every now and then, I do so love a good blast of the wet stuff. It is not just because I am a lazy gardener and a decent cloud soak means no need for the watering can for at least a few days. It is because something beyond my conscious mind recognises the nourishment that rain is, the fact that it is a source of life, without it we would not thrive, we would not live.

roof tops of Siem Reap, Cambodia

roof tops of Siem Reap, Cambodia

When it has been dry for a long spell and the rain starts to gather over a distant horizon I start to get excited. I love that you can smell approaching rain as well as see it. A few years ago I was in Siem Reap, Cambodia at the tail end of the rainy season and what amazed me there was that you could hear it coming! The downpours were heavy and many of the roofs in town made from tin and so you could hear the thunderous deluge as it moved in closer from the edge of town, that was worth getting excited about!

One of my favourite places to experience rain is the desert. When I lived in New Mexico the earth was often parched, not much more than sand and dust. Occasionally I would notice the sudden presence of big black clouds rolling down the I-25 from Santa Fe, and the smell, it was so very strong, scented with approaching dampness. Of course the dramatic skies were also very beautiful adding even more theatre to an already dramatic environment.

view from my window of plants singing in the rain!

view from my window of plants singing in the rain!

Despite all my travels there is no place like home. It has been a long dry summer. Those that spend most of their days indoors may disagree but I garden, I am outside everyday, and certainly here in Gloucestershire it has been dry. So when the rain does come I celebrate. I can feel the energy of the plants in my locale rising, being around them after a good cloud burst you can practically hear them sing.

When the breeze picks up and the first misting of moisture arrives I love to stand and catch the breeze in my hair, the moisture on my skin. It is enlivening, it makes me feel vibrant and wild. To step it up a notch is to go outside and stand barefoot when the raindrops are plump and falling thick and fast. Most other people at this point run for shelter. I recommend pausing for a moment or two to feel the fat velvety rain kiss your face, caress your skin.

I talk about taking a shower in the rain in chapter 6 of my latest book Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature There I talk of rain appreciation of the highest order, an activity for which you need a degree of seclusion or privacy to undertake without unintended consequences, but worth it nonetheless.

Without water, like plants, we shrivel and die. Next time it rains go outside intentionally, feel that rain on your skin, feel it nourish, feed and awaken you. It is one of Nature’s gifts, it is part of Gaia, part of you, love it! ❤

The Healing Power of Nature

I had a memory today that took me back to a trip I made to Israel when I was 19. I had gone to work for the summer with only £100 and a non-changeable airline ticket that was set for 3 months.

I found work on a holiday camp in the north of the country within a couple of days of arrival through a connection I had made with the woman sat next to me on my outbound flight. However, within just a couple of weeks I was fired. My job had been cleaning chalets for holiday makers and I had been spotted by the boss sat on one of the balconies. I was eating grapes that had been left in the fridge by the guests who had just checked out. Naughty, I know, but still I was young and had had little previous experience of the working world.

feet in seaI was devastated and panicked. What would I do? I had no money, no place to stay, and a long wait before my homeward bound flight. I went over to the beach to shed some tears of worry and frustration.

As I sat in anguish on a shoreline rock something amazing happened. I saw one of the shells apparently glued to the rock begin to move. An obvious thing perhaps, but something I had never witnessed before, never even thought about. My tears stopped as I observed with wonder the natural world unfold before me and continue on its way as it always had done. My worries and concerns began to melt away as I became aware of something greater than myself. Wild nature.

As I absorbed this little miracle occurring at my feet I began to relax. I lay back on the rock and tuned in to the rhythmic crash of the surf on the rocks around me. It was a soothing sound and within it I heard and felt the voices of the ancestors. I knew all was right with the world and would be right with my world. And it was. By nightfall I had been offered and accepted another job in an adjoining bar. My adventure continued.

Throughout my life I have experienced the healing power of nature, of the wild, so many times. We need it in our lives tofloating seaweed bring things into perspective and to fill us with wonder. Find your connection to the wild. Nature heals.

To learn more about the healing power of the wild read my latest book Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature, or join me on a workshop…

Viewing 2015 Solar Eclipse ~ Safely!

My love of the wild and of nature goes beyond medicinal plants and unspoilt landscapes, it goes skywards! Since viewing a total solar eclipse on 24th October 1995 from an abandoned village in Rajasthan, Northern India, I have been hooked. I have chased the shadow far and wide, a chase that has taken me to every continent except North America and Antarctica (so far). So this is a big week for me. I love eclipses :).

 

Although totality this Friday (20/03/15) will be limited to just a few lucky people in the Faroe Islands, Svalbard, and on Arctic cruises, a partial will be visible from the UK and other parts of Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Northern Asia. As my online search to purchase eclipse glasses for sending to my parents came in with a bit of a blank (OK I could have searched harder and longer, but still…), I thought I would post up some easy to follow instructions for safe eclipse viewing.

Happy eclipse viewers wearing the correct and safe eyeware in Australia 2012

Happy eclipse viewers wearing the correct and safe eyeware in Australia 2012

Even when 90% of the sun is covered it is stil extremely bright and will burn your retinas to a crisp, potentially causing permanent damage or even blinding you. You must NOT stare directly at the sun unless you have proper eclipse viewing glasses. Through these glasses you can see absolutely nothing (except the sun), do not try with sunglasses or anything else unless you want a crispy eyeball.

positioning fingers & thumbs for safe eclipse viewing

positioning fingers & thumbs for safe eclipse viewing

What you can do however is use your fingers to make a pin-hole effect. Stand with the sun behind you. Pinch your fingers and thumbs together leaving a tiny gap where they meet. You will need a flat surface the other side of them; for the surface think a piece of shiny white card, or a car door. Et voila! A safe and easy way to view the eclipse. No danger to your eyes, no special equipment needed. Impress your kids, friends and colleagues with this little tip.

safe way to view partial eclipse

safe way to view partial eclipse

Wishing clear skies, protected eyes and happy eclipse vibes to one and all :))

Bangkok: City of Medicine

I mentioned in my previous post that I recently spent 36 hours in Bangkok, capital city of Thailand. The translation of the Thai name for the city (which is a huge long unpronounceable to foreigners word) is “City of Angels”, and yes I believe it is (not forgetting that there are both light and dark angels!).

Bangkok as seen from the Chao Phraya River

Bangkok as seen from the Chao Phraya River

There are many reasons why I love this city. Friendly people, 24 hour attitude, great bars, amazing food, amazing street food, great markets, abundance of fresh fruit, Buddhist monks on every corner, general vibe and 101 other reasons aside it is, in part, because it is a city of medicine. How can it be with all those people, all that trash, all that pollution I imagine you are wondering. Well for a start massage parlours are ubiquitous, and no I am not talking about happy endings here. Of course there is the seedy side to Thailand, to Bangkok, but Thai massage is an ancient art and healing system that originated over 2500 years ago in India. Massage is a part of the culture and is used as a preventative medicine as much if not more so than for remedial purposes. It is so accessible and at around £5 for an hour or £2 for 1/2 an hour you would be crazy to not set aside time every day you are in the city to be stretched and have your circulation and lymphatic system given a wee boost. In my 36 hours I plumped for a 1 hour full body traditional massage, and just before I left for the airport at midnight a 1/2 hour foot massage (as I said it is truly a 24 hour city).

typical shopping street in Banglampu, Bangkok

typical shopping street in Banglampu, Bangkok

What I came back from my short stay with was a bag full of amazing shopping. Not fake designer handbags, or pirate DVDs, not shoes or jeans, HERBS! Yep my favourite thing.

So just to show off some of my best buys and inspire you in case you are heading out that way any time soon…

Kaffir lime leaves

Kaffir lime leaves

These kaffir lime leaves are exceptionally fragrant, you will never get anything like this at home. This small sized Kilner jar was over filled with the bag I purchased for about 70p.

 

 

 

 

Dried lemongrass

Dried lemongrass

This huge bag (180g) of dried lemongrass came in at 38Baht, approximately 80p. Despite how much I love it in my home blended herbal teas this will be enough to last more than a year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

gogi berries

gogi berries

For gogi berries I usually jump on a ferry to take me up the Chao Phraya river to China Town, however I was lucky enough to find a supplier in Banglampu where I usually stay. I propbably paid over the odds but still I got 350g for 100Baht, or around £2. I think you would be looking at double the quantity for that price in China town, unfortunately time was against me this trip. Incidentally the Thai name for gogi is very similar, just say it slowly and with a few hand gesticulations you will get there.

So on top of the Kampot red pepper and dried mango I had purchased in Cambodia and all the different seaweeds and dried mushrooms I brought in the supermarket in Bangkok I came back to the UK a very happy shopper; feeling both kissed and blessed by my micro-mini break in the city of angels and medicine 🙂

 

If you want to know more about Thai massage, or live in the Stroud (Gloucestershire, UK) area and fancy giving it a try click here…

 

Enforced New Years Retreat!

I had a pretty hectic December. I spent the first 17 days in Asia visiting my husband who has been working out there since late October and is not due home until the end of January. We moved a lot through rural Cambodia taking in the sights, the sounds, the smells. I love Cambodia, I love the humour of the people, I enjoyed my trip which ended with 36 hours in Bangkok, one of my favourite cities. That I guess is a story for another blog…

River life Cambodia

River life Cambodia

So I got back to the UK on 17th December and dived straight into work, then Christmas celebrations with friends and family. I was considering spending new year in meditation with some of my favourite plants but gave that idea up in favour of a small gathering at a friends. We ate lovely food, drank wine and played games with the amazing kids that my friends have produced. The next day I slept a lot!

Last Sunset of 2014

Last Sunset of 2014

It was not until the 2nd that I realised something was not right with me. I spent most of that day in bed too. The 3rd was a friends 40th celebration, but I missed that, again spending much of the day in bed. On the 4th convinced I must be better I went out for a short walk only to wobble back to bed after a dizzy spell and being covered in a sheet of sweat.

During those days in bed I read my Christmas books, two by John Perkins. The World is as you Dream it and Shape Shifting techniques for global and personal transformation. Two amazing books that I thoroughly recommend, my personal preference is the former.

My 2 Christmas Books

My 2 Christmas Books

Something happened to me as I felt and absorbed John’s words. They took me deeper than they perhaps would have had I not been semi-delirious. They made me think deeply and dream my life more carefully.

It has been a slow start to the new year, not quite what I had planned or expected, but now I am feeling much better I realise I needed that time to just slow down, to nurture myself. To give myself permission to rest and retreat. It, as always, has turned out perfectly. I am starting the year with a fresh new perspective and a well rested body.

I wish you all the very best for 2015 in all things 🙂

Cambodia’s Wealth of Fruit

I am a firm believer that what we eat directly affects our health, and so when I have the opportunity to eat a wide variety of fresh fruits I go for it. I am a massive fan of tropical fruits so imagine my joy when I recently visited a market in Cambodia and within the first 10 paces came across 4 of my favourites.

fresh green coconuts

fresh green coconuts

Actually my first one is a nut, not a fruit, still it’s staying on my list, it’s the coconut. Coconuts are abundant in Cambodia, you can find piles of them on most street corners. There are usually a few in the cool box and someone at hand to slice the top of and give you a straw to drink the liquid inside. Coconut water is so refreshing, I love it best when the coconuts are really young and sweet. Make sure you hang by the person with the knife so that when you have finished drinking they can slice it in half and you can scoop out the flesh. The younger the coconut the more slimy the flesh, it slides down your throat, mmm, yum! Of course they have incredible health benefits too, the water alone is full of electrolytes and so can help with rehydration in the steamy tropics.

red chili peppers

red chili peppers

Chilies were the next to catch my eye. Chilies are a fruit, not one that most people would bite into without caution, but one of my favourites nonetheless. They have great medicinal qualities which include helping to: expel intestinal parasites (when eaten raw), boost circulation, improve asthmatic conditions. In addition their high beta-carotene content may help guard against the development of cancer. I chop them raw into Asian style salads, and cook with them most days. The Cambodians seem a lot more shy about using them in their cuisine than their fiery Thai neighbours, but there were certainly plenty for sale at the market. [If you want to know more about chili’s medicinal properties look here.]

rambutans

rambutans

My next fruit is the amazing rambutan, a fruit that I have yet to see in the supermarkets of Europe, I guess it just doesn’t store or transport that well. Once you have peeled off the curious skin there is sweet white flesh inside with a large smooth seed in the middle. The flesh is not unlike, the better known, lychee. Perhaps I get so excited when I get to eat one because it is such a rare treat, only in the tropics and only when in season, unlike most fruits that can be obtained worldwide, year round. Unsurprisingly they too have health benefits and have been used as a traditional medicine in both Malaysia and Indonesia for hundreds of years to treat diabetes, hypertension and many other conditions.

durian fruit

durian fruit

The fourth and final fruit of my ten paces is another curious looking fellow, the durian. Durian gets a bad rap because it has a rather pungent odour. You will find signs on the window of buses and cabs, even hotel rooms, banning durian fruit from the vehicle/ premises. Actually it is another fruit that has yet to migrate to the supermarkets of Europe, I wonder why?!  It is however well worth the pong. The creamy yellow flesh is so rich and delicious, it feels as indulgent as the finest chocolate dessert. You don’t need much to fill you, but whenever I get a chance I eat a section. The flesh is a great source of vitamin C, B vitamins, and minerals including manganese, copper, iron and magnesium. So once again beneficial to health.

Who needs junk food when nature provides so many amazing and varied flavours, colours, tastes and textures? I can’t wait for my next trip to a tropical market!

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