Whaddyadoallday? Real Life on a Desert Island Rotating Header Image

I Ate the Last Mango on Bastille Day

Granted that is a little poetic license in mixing up two different Jimmy Buffett songs, but it’s true. I ate the last mango off of our tree yesterday.  And I, who doesn’t have an ounce of French in my ancestry, know that it was Bastille Day because that’s one of the nights every year when I watch for the fireworks on the French side of St. Martin just across the channel. And the French love food and gardening so we’ll work our way back.

As I mentioned before, certain plants like loblolly and palm trees, oleanders and bougainvilleas, buttonwoods and sea grapes thrive here. Farming, however, is not that easy (ask those plantation owners that gave up and went home). It’s a shame really. When I was a young girl growing up in Pennsylvania, my mother always had a vegetable garden. Then as adults living in California, Michael and I grew vegetables, herbs, berries, cherries, plums and apples. It was easy. Good soil, abundantly available fertilizer and few pests. Oh sure, every now and then Michael would have to whack a disgusting tomato hornworm against the wall, but not so often as to take the fun out of gardening. We had such good production in our little raised bed gardens that we even took up canning. We made jams and chutneys, applesauce and apple pie filling and pickled green beans for bloody Mary’s. Heck, in California herbs grew like the weeds they are in the face of abject neglect. Easy peas-y.

Here we fight a perpetual battle against the salt and the pests. Even my hardy herbs are under constant attack from white flies or caterpillars. One day my mint is big and bushy and flourishing and the next day it is a lacy, shadow of its former self. Leaves on cucumbers or melons suddenly look like doilies on a stick. When plants do manage to bear fruit, the salt takes its toll. Just like sea grapes that have big seeds and thick skin but a teeny, tiny fruit layer, our tomatoes stay small and tough. We’ve had no luck at all with melons and are struggling now with some bok choy and radishes.

Apparently the antidote to the ruinous salt is pepper. Hot peppers grow extremely well, and peppery arugula prospers apparently pest-resistant and immune to the salt. But how much of that stuff can a person eat?

So I rely on my papaya trees to keep me happy. Just like bananas, though, they produce in spurts. For months, we have no papayas; but right now I am picking 6 or 7 every couple of days. Of course, I can’t eat that many papayas (though my French island cat, Morbier, LOVES them and comes running to devour her little, wee bowl full in the mornings). And while, coconut papaya muffins with a ginger lime cream cheese frosting are fabulous, and I CAN eat a lot of those, that’s not good for my waistline. I can, however, can papayas. I can make chutney, at least. So that’s what I’m doing today: canning chutney.

But only papaya. Sadly the Edward mango tree we planted turns out to be a notoriously poor producer. We only got one fruit to reach maturity this year so that last mango was the ONLY mango. But what a mango it was: sweet and soft and juicy and simply sublime. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Comments are closed.