Meet Maria, Our Across the Street Neighbor

I started this article weeks ago, but finally a few days ago took my camera to get some pictures of Maria and Lourdes.

About a week after we moved in to the house in Alantida Joe and I were sitting out on the front porch catching a few late afternoon rays. Maria our neighbor across the street was taking a walk down our street. She smiled and I walked out to the road to meet her.  She does not speak one word of English but has been wonderful in telling me about herself, her family and this neighborhood.  She has lived in the house across the street for 35 years and in this area for 45 years.  Her husband was a contractor and built many of the homes right on our block including theirs. Sadly he passed just a few years back and Maria is sharing her home with Reina (Queen) her little doggie.

A few days later I was outside with my new rake and I was attempting to clean up the pine needles from the yard.  She walked over and we started to chat. Then she asked if I like palta – that is what they call avocados here. I told her yes but they had none at the market this week and the ones in the supermarket we so small, very overripe and expensive that I did not buy them.  She said she had a tree and invited me over to her yard.  Well she has a beautiful avocado tree with some huge fruits and it looks to be the Haas variety which is my most favorite of all the varieties.  Then she showed me this little orange tree, again filled with huge fruits and so many on the ground just rotting.  She picked and gave me about 20 oranges – they are Navel, yummy. Also a few lemons they look to be the Persian variety and two beautiful avocados. She showed me other fruit trees that I did not recognize the name or the tree as well as a huge gardenia bush in her front yard and a small patch of rosemary.  She also had a big bush of Lemon Balm and several tomato plants just falling over with big green tomatoes.

As we stood in her front yard she told me that the tree in my front yard was a laurel or bay and so we came over together and picked a few branches she took some to her house and I took a big branch into my kitchen for my next batch of soup or stew.

Here is a picture of Lourdes and Maria who have been very kind to us.  Maria is as sweet and gentle a person as I have ever met.  If I stop by to visit she always has a cup of tea, a cookie or cake to share and loves to talk about her life and family.  I wish I understood more Spanish the conversations would be so much nicer if I could completely follow along.  What a blessing to have such beautiful neighbors.

While food shopping at Disco on Monday I met Jose who said he was 84 years old.  He was holding an electric blanket and looked pretty dapper in his little cap.  He told me he was a maestro…a maestro of what I never found out. We stood in the one isle for about 20 minutes chatting. He told me about his family many of which live in the US and speak English. Next I went to buy a throw for the bed and there was a women in a wheelchair and her companion a spry gentleman.  I recognized her as the women who lives a few houses away around the corner from our home.  We also chatted for a few minutes.

So far, everyone we have met has been warm and kind. Full of questions and willing to share information on the town, the neighborhood and themselves. From the taxi driver wanting to know how to say our address in English to the young man Frederico at the appliance store, and of course the guys at RedTec from yesterday’s post…everyone has been so very kind and takes the time to ask about us.

Un mensaje especial para María: Has sido un vecino maravilloso para nosotros desde que nos mudamos a Atlántida. Su cálida sonrisa, su amable corazón y su amistad son muy apreciados. Ojalá mi español fuera mejor. Ojalá pudiera hablarte más y entender más de lo que tú y Lourdes me dicen. Eres una mujer encantadora, Dios te bendiga por tu amabilidad.

 

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Plum and Fig Tart or is that Fig and Plum Tart?

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I found beautiful fresh figs and large purple Italian plums this past week. Figs are a favorite since living in Playas, Ecuador.  Our guardian would pick figs and bring a bag to our home when they were perfectly ripe, soft and sweet. I would cut them in half, wrap half a slice of bacon around it and bake it in the oven just until the bacon was crispy.  That was a real treat. I can tolerate a Fig Newton, if there is nothing else in the house but unless you have had fresh ripe figs you have not lived.

I loved them so much and our friend Yusuf said I needed to plant a tree in the yard in San Clemente, Ecuador. Where was I going to fit another tree in the San Clemente yard?  Well I found a tree and found a place for it and enjoyed a small harvest a few times from that tree.  That is only one of the things I miss about San Clemente, but don’t get me started on that.

I made a shortbread crust, with flour, butter, sugar, dash of salt and vanilla and an egg.  No rolling necessary as it was going to be a tart, free form and rustic.  I cut up 6-7 figs and plums and arranged them on the pastry which I had placed on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking liner, this will stick as the sweet juices ooze from the tart. Turned the edges up and baked it for about 15 minutes.  The crust was wonderful and the fruit just so sweet and soft.

We will do that again…

Vendors Part 4: Fresh Cheese, Butter and Veggies

On Tuesdays and Thursdays in the early afternoon this truck comes by with a variety of items.  They are mostly known for their fresh cheese, butter and peanut products.

IMG_2983They also carry different vegetables and fruits. This varies with each visit, some days they have avocados, melons, watermelon, oranges, carrots, potatoes…

IMG_2986 IMG_2985IMG_2984Thursday they had grapefruits, watermelons, pineapples, potatoes, carrots, garlic, long beans and white beans like a lima, corn, fresh cheese, fresh butter, peanut butter, salpietra, peanut pieces and avocados.  The items are fresh and he is very dependable. Now, what shall I make from this?  Hmmmm…………

Vendors Part 1 – Gonzalo: Veggies and Fruits At My Gate

Everyday at around noon Gonzalo (on the right in the photo below) and his brother Christian come by the house with their cart filled with great fresh produce.

IMG_2963These guys are great! Gonzalo has four boys with the last just starting preschool a few weeks ago. And mommy is Paola who is also as sweet a person as you will ever find. They tease me about broccoli which is my least favorite vegetable and bring me bunches of fresh acelga (chard) each week. When Joe and I were researching moving to Panama we looked at every picture we could find on the internet that showed the food items that were available.  See the pictures below for close up pictures of what Gonzalo sells.

IMG_2967His produce varies each day but most days you can find potatoes, red onions, scallions, cucumbers, beets, cabbage, mandarin oranges, juice oranges, pineapple, cantaloupe,  other melons in season, watermelon, tree tomato and naranjilla.

IMG_2966Some days he will have both the choclo and the yellow corn along with a green vegetable that they stuff with cheese and bake.

IMG_2965Fresh mora berries, green peas, peanut butter, sal piedra, crushed peanuts, tamarind, garlic, white onions, long beans and green beans. Tomatoes, green peppers and carrots are also available.

IMG_2964Today he had strawberries, fresh red beans, cilantro, cauliflower, broccoli and radishes.  I did see lettuce and white cabbage somewhere in the cart as well.

He also carries raisins, other fruits in season, grapefruit, apples, hot peppers, fresh peanuts, watermelon, yucca, the purple sweet potatoes they call camote, celery and bok choy called nabo here.  And if you do not see what you want, ask and he may even be able to get it for you in the next several days.

I depend upon Gonzalo for most of my fresh fruits and veggies.  His produce is fresh, reasonably priced and he always has a smile on his face.

Panna Cotta

IMG_2110I tried making Panna Cotta with the Kefir instead of buttermilk and it works great and tastes wonderful. Not just an every day dessert, it’s nice enough to share with company. Turn the cups out onto a dessert plate add a sprig of mint or slice strawberries and it is fancy enough for guests.

Panna Cotta
2 T of cold water
1 1/2 t powder gelatin

1 C cream
1/2 C sugar
2 C buttermilk or Kefir
2 t vanilla extract

Put gelatin and 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl to soften for 5 minutes. Pour cream into a saucepan with sugar heat just to melt sugar, remove from heat. Add softened gelatin and stir to be sure it is incorporated. Add kefir and vanilla extract. Pour into small pudding cups and refrigerate. Yum!

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Fruits and Peppers in the Garden

We have such an abundance from our garden.  Below are just a few of the fruits that we gather each week. I am happy to say that many of my neighbors and folks on my daily walk like guava or guayaba, everyone here uses lemons on almost a daily basis so we are happy to share what our garden produces. Some of our other trees do not yet produce enough to share a great deal. I just cannot use all that we get from our garden so giving the egg delivery guys a bag full of guayaba is a wonderful way to thank them for their service and use the extra fruits that Joe and I can not eat.

San Clemente 8.4.2014 048We are blessed to have found a home that had a garden filled with fruit trees. Each day we pick fruits for our table and share with neighbors and friends.

San Clemente 8.4.2014 036San Clemente 9.23.2014 011San Clemente 9.23.2014 029San Clemente 9.23.2014 027The above four photos are our pomegranate or granadas.  I have made Pomegranate Syrup to use on pancakes.

San Clemente 8.4.2014 043San Clemente 8.4.2014 046These are one of several lemon trees that give us fruit almost year round. The trees have just finished blossoming and we have picked all the old fruit to allow the new fruit all the nourishment the tree can give them.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 030San Clemente 9.23.2014 031San Clemente 9.23.2014 026The pepper plants in the ground are not as happy as the ones in the pot. Our soil is basically sand, I am amazed anything can grow in it.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 028San Clemente 8.4.2014 037Star fruit or fruta china is an exotic fruit, sweet, juicy. Wonderful for juice but they never make it to the juicer. With only one ripe at a time it is so easy just to wash it and eat it right out in the yard. And that is what I do most times.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 024This papaya is located outside our fence but it started from seeds that I tossed so I think of it as mine, ja ja  They are getting close, I just hope they are sweet with dark fruit, some of the lighter fruit papayas are tasteless.

San Clemente 9.23.2014 025San Clemente 8.4.2014 040Naranjilla is another exotic fruit and I do not think its natural habitat is on the coast. This is a sierra fruit but I found a tree and am babying it hopefully soon to put it in the ground.  The leaves and stems have thorns and can cause some good pinches. You can use the fruit for juice by boiling it for about 10 minutes and then blending and straining, adding water and some sugar. I like to use it in Seco de Chivo or Seco de Pollo.

San Clemente 9.25.2014 024Our guava or guyaba tree seems to be always producing. I make marmalade and paste from the fruit as well as an occasional batido. The tree is also a wonderful shade tree to keep our little yard cool during those hot sunny days.

San Clemente 9.23a.2014 002San Clemente 9.23a.2014 001Thanks for taking the tour of our garden which is only 20 x 30 feet. Small but filled with such surprises. And smiles.

Naranjilla in Bloom

The other day while watering my plants I took a good look at my naranjilla plant (gift given to me by Deborah Millard just a few months ago) and was very surprised to see it was in flower. It is so small I just did not feel it would start to bear fruit for years, much less in a handful of months.

San Clemente 9.5.2013 007 San Clemente 9.5.2013 006 San Clemente 9.5.2013 004From searching online it looks like even this little plant can have fruit.  Not sure if I should allow it to continue to fruit or get rid of the flowers so that the tree itself would strengthen, if anyone has any experience with naranjilla let me know what you think.