By Ginnee Hancock (aka: Duck Mom)
Living off-grid comes with lots of manual labor for the woman of the house. No dishwasher, just our hands scrubbing away. Not many 1st world conveniences in my house, so I look for things that bring me joy.
It is wonderful to see them maturing and becoming more independent. They are beautiful and I am thankful for the joy they bring to my life each day. It is the little things in life that I have learned to appreciate on the farm.
“This time” it was my fault, again. It’s been quite a few years since my last bad encounter and maybe I got over confident. Friday night I made mango smoothies, I was super careful in the preparation and I have gotten away with this many times before. Well, I flubbed up somehow and got some on my face and in my eye without knowing it. Saturday morning I woke up to a swollen eye and mild rash on my face, by Sunday morning my face was on fire and itchy with my eye pretty swollen, and by Monday morning it was affecting my vision and the muscles in my face. My worst reaction thus far, I was desperate for relief. I googled home remedies and every website said go to the doctor or hospital, so I rushed to find medical attention in town. After a quick look over by a nurse, I was given a painful shot in the rear and a series of pills to take over the next three days. The shot made me all goofy feeling, noodles for legs, and just plain out of it. Thankfully, I began to feel relief within just half an hour. The pills did a number on me, feeling tired and yet ready to run a race all at the same time. They also made me extremely thirsty and greatly diminished my sense of taste. Hopefully I will be back to normal in a few more days.
So, you are asking yourself “I eat mangos all of the time, how on earth can someone be allergic to mangos?” Mangos are in the same family as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac and are the most impactful of the group because of the sheer volume of the chemical that makes them poisonous. Urushiol is contained in the sap and rind of the mango, so we are not allergic to the flesh, but actually the sap found on the tree and in the skin of the fruit. Contact with the sap causes a form of contact dermatitis and each reaction is more severe than the previous.
By Ginnee Hancock
Katuk is a plant that few people had or knew about where we live. The leaves are 49% protein and contain twice as much calcium as milk does. It tastes like a cross between almonds and fresh garden peas. The first leaf I tasted had me exclaiming...WOW! It was love at first bite. We had to have rows of Katuk for our farm. Our friends, who introduced us to Katuk, gave us some cuttings and my husband rooted them in the nursery. We waited patiently for the plants to grow and resisted the urge to sample the leaves; we did not pluck one delicious green leaf from our precious new crop. We knew where we wanted our new edible hedge and carefully planted the young plants. A few days later, much to our horror, the leaf cutter ants had stripped every single leaf from every plant. A bit of a bummer, I really was in love with this leaf and its awesome fresh flavor. Thankfully, the leaf cutters finally tired of the Katuk and moved on to strip the young citrus trees of their leaves. The naked little plants survived and new leaves emerged. Worried that I would run out of Katuk to eat, I planted more and more that blossomed into a small forest of Katuk. I planted our edible hedge along our road thinking that it would be food for people walking by. Most folks don't forage as they walk about and although they may be hungry, they pass on by these tasty leaves.
I am known to be obsessive at times, so they say. For a while my obsession was Spinach and it was part of every meal, sometimes a big part. It took hours to clean massive amounts. I even thought about cleaning it in the washing machine on a low, slow, cold water cycle. Seriously, I came close to proto-typing this technique. Katuk is easy to clean and grows clean, unlike spinach. Fortunately the Katuk went wild and I can strip the leaves and edible flowers off in seconds, a quick rinse and we are ready for fine dining. I changed my obsession to Katuk and now give most of the spinach to the ducks. They don't have my gourmet pallet, don't yet have the appreciation for Katuk that the leaf cutters and I have. Too bad for them, we have an unlimited supply.
As I have stripped the leaves off, I have replanted almost every stem. I gave stems and instructions to everyone who crossed my path. We also had the stems planted at the local school. I know some folks were saying, OMG she is eating the hedge. I was. I am. So many stems, so easy to grow, so much nutrition, so delicious... I love Katuk!