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RE: adapting crops to cultural cuisine

  • Subject: RE: [cg] adapting crops to cultural cuisine
  • From: Sharon Gordon gordonse@one.net
  • Date: Thu, 20 Mar 2003 17:12:08 -0500
  • Importance: Normal

We are developing a training on food growing and nutrition in a primarily
Puerto Rican neighborhood. We are seeking to find the balance between
culturally appropriate foods and what actually grows in this climate. Thus,
we're looking for recipes and stories around adapting crops to cultural
cuisine, specifically Puerto Rican cuisine.

***Puerto Rican food you could grow as gardeners in PA usually do***

Grapes for raisins
Vinegar--may want to teach apple cider vinegar making


Chick peas/garbonzos--ask Rodale which varietes they have had luck with
Kidney beans
Navy beans
Pigeon peas

Vegetables(term used loosely):
Onions, scallions
Peas, green
Peppers, hot and sweet, paprika, chili, pimentoes
Turnip greens

***House Plants***

***Spices to get at grocery store***

***Possible substitutions***
Bread Fruit--Sweet potato
Chayote--summer squash
Lime, Lime rind--lemon or lime basil, orange/lemon/lime thyme
Nuts--I don't know anything about Puerto Rican nuts,
  but you could try sunflower seeds and peanuts and any
  others you can grow.  I would however have a nurse with a sack of
  epi-pens ready incase of adverse peanut reactions.
Plantains, white potatoes, yukon gold potatoes, waxy potatatoes,
   apples, zucchini, pumpkin or butternut squash
   may work depending on rest of recipe
Plantain leaves as wrappers--depending on recipe, cabbage leaves,
   lettuce, lettuce leaf basil or corn husks may work
Rice--Can you grow wild rice in your area?
Sour Orange Juice, as above for lime rind or verjus

***Fruit strategy***
The big hole in the diet is in the tropical fruits.  What I'd try
is having fresh fruit tastings when the local PA/NJ fruits are
in season.  People may have tried some of the imported northern US
fruits and not liked them because they were picked green and crunchy.
So I'd let them try some apples(all sorts), blackberries, blueberries,
cherries, cranberries, figs, pawpaws,peaches, pears,persimmons,
strawberries, watermelon, and whatever else grows well there.

***Misc ideas***

I'd also ask around for who the really good local PR cooks are.
Then I'd ask them in several different sessions to taste
various other easy to grow PA foods raw or plainly baked/boiled/roasted
and ask them what sort of Puerto Rican dishes each food would
go well in.

I'd also look for similar categories of PA foods to put in
Puerto Rican recipes.  For instance, I'd see if gai lon,
broccoli, or pak choi would go well in cabbage or greens recipes.
If a recipe was using pineapple for a fruity, sour flavor, I
might try cherries in it.

Since a shorter growing season represents a major change,
I'd teach Coleman's four-season strategies, canning, solar
food dryers (and recipes for dried foods), pickles, kim che
and sauerkraut, and growing seeds for sprouts.  Though I'd
probably do all those except Coleman next year so you can test
to get acceptable recipes during the coming year.

It might be fun to have challenge potlucks where you ask people
to bring a dish that contains at least one new PA food, and then
have some cook-interviewers collect recipes of the successful dishes.
Recipe booklet might make a good fund raiser in both spanish and

Some of the local hospital nutritionists or local dieticians
or regional friends/colleagues of Joan Gussow may have come up
with Puerto Rican friendly healthy dishes using local foods
that you could use for starting points as well.

Another thing you might try is to have a varied group of
Puerto Ricans rate how important the Puerto Rican foods that
will grow in PA are to their diet and give some idea of the
frequency with which they'd like to eat them.  Then use that
info to develop a model Puerto Rican One Circle Diet Garden.
That could create a healthy start and buy you some time to
introduce lesser known and unknown foods.  It looks to me like
you could easily get enough calorie and vitamin crops for a
sustainable garden.  The compost/grain crops might be a little
tricky given the high preference for rice in the Puerto Rican


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