Tag Archives: foraging in Mexico

Let’s talk about food in La Yacata

Our whole purpose in living in off-grid rural Mexico is to become self-reliant. After 9 years of slow progress, we still aren’t there yet. But we are closer than we were.

ears-of-green-corn

Our microcosm provides us with regular food stuff. We grow corn, beans and squash ever year in the traditional way on sharecropped land. (See Las tres hermanas) Our non-GMO organic corn not only provides year-round foods for our animals but also allows for equally healthy tortillas–the very foundation of Mexican cuisine. My sister-in-law runs a tortilleria (See Failing at your own business–Tortilleria), so I am relieved of this very time-consuming task. Corn is also used in tamales, pozole and a plethora of other traditional dishes.

tamal

Corn and lime boiling in preparation for milling for tortillas.

We also grow garbanzo (chickpeas) after the corn growing season is finished.  It makes for a nice snack, either raw or steamed, with the added benefit that the entire plant is eagerly consumed by our grazing animals.  Fiona, the donkey, is especially fond of garbanzo.

garbanzo

Steamed garbanzos

Our organically fed animals also provide us with delicious foodstuff. From our small herd of goats, we have daily milk and occasional meat. The milk we don’t drink right away is pastured right on the stove for later. We use it for creamy hot chocolate or honey-dripped oatmeal. The honey is from a local organic hive and delicious!

pasturizing milk

As we don’t have refrigeration, we dry our leftover meat into jerky strips. The dried meat theoretically should last several weeks. However, it rarely does due to the presence of a pre-teen, always ravenous, boy.

drying goat meat

Our chickens, ducks, and turkeys provide us with daily eggs and occasional meat as well. Just as with the goats, this means butchering. My husband has had years of practice at this and, therefore, our animals do not suffer needlessly.

butchering

We also keep rabbits and have recently added sheep to our backyard barnyard. Both provide occasional meat. (See Waskely Wabbits and Old MacDonald’s Farm). I’m hoping that our sheep will give us wool and perhaps milk later on as well. But as we haven’t had much success with sheep herding (See Birth and Death) it remains to be seen if that will actually happen or not.

full of tunas

Tunas are not hard to find after the rainy season.

La Yacata provides food, free of charge, for us as well. Cactus fruit is abundant towards the end of the rainy season. It’s not unusual for us to spend an afternoon foraging for pitayas (See Picking Pitayas) or tunas (See Picking tunas) or harvesting nopales (cactus leaves)(See Harvesting Cactus) for dinner.

feverfew

Feverfew

Tea can be made from hojas (leaves) or roots of a variety of naturally available plants. (See Feverfew tea and Lentejilla). Wild mushrooms are also found aplenty during the rainy season.

acebuche

Acebuche berries

Mesquite trees provide a chewy sweet treat for a snack. Acebuche trees have tart red berries that can be eaten right off the tree or made into a refreshing drink. Even the grass is edible. Quelite can be boiled like spinach.  (See Women in the Revolution–Marcelina)

chirimoya

Cherimoya fruit

We have moras (blackberries), chirimoya, guayaba, limones (lemons) and durazno (peach) in season in our own garden. We anxiously awaiting fruit from our granada and nispero trees this year. Our orange tree up and died last year, so it looks like no oranges this year. I hope to do some container gardening as well. Backyard gardening hasn’t been very successful with our free range chickens and rabbits out and about.

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Picking Capulines

The rainy season hadn’t begun yet, but my husband insisted that the capulines were ready. He said he saw some sellers by the Bodega, their buckets brim full and was impatient for some of his own.

So on Sunday, we went in search of the elusive capulín, (Prunus serotina subsp. capuli), otherwise known as the wild black cherry or capolcuahuitl in Nahuatl. According to my little guidebook Antiguo Recetario Medicinal Azteca, the capulín is useful for the treatment of dysentery, spasms, nervousness and pain caused by abscesses and tumors with the application of a leaf poultice.

Excess should be avoided and care should be taken in the ingestion of the capulín leaf because it seems that wilted leaves become toxic due to the release of cyanide in the wilting process. Ingesting 10-20 lbs of foliage can be fatal. The tablespoon every 2 hours of tea made from 4 fresh leaves per liter for nervousness should be safe enough.

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We had gone once before with my husband’s mother. The trip was longish, and our then 4-year-old son fell asleep, so I stayed in the car with him. Boy, was I glad that I did! Not 20 minutes after they left, there was such a hail storm that it dented the roof of the truck. Eventually, my husband and his mother, and the passel of local kids that had come along to show them the way, came back into sight, drenched to the skin. My mother-in-law had her bucket on her head and was hollering Bloody Murder. There were no capulines to enjoy on that trip.

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This time, we drove Myrtle up past la basurera (dump) through La Barranca and Santa Gertrudis to Los Amoles, at the very peak of the mountain. We had to leave Myrtle behind when the trail got too rough and hoofed it the rest of the way.  The path was well-traveled, no espinas (mesquite thorns) like there is in La Yacata, and as we were already so far up, it wasn’t as difficult an uphill trek as I thought it might be.

wpid-cam00897.jpgcool rock

The earth in the area was a deep rust color, and the wildflowers were spectacular. My son, who has recently developed a keen interest in rocks, was in seventh heaven with all the new samples he slid into Dad’s backpack.

conversationWe encountered an older man on his horse coming down the mountain, and my husband stopped to chat. It turns out that he knew this man from when he was a boy in Cerano. They talked about trading donkeys and horses, although I don’t think anything will come of it. My husband is pretty pleased with Fiona, our current burra (donkey) and Beauty is due to foal any day now. As my son and I had a shady place to wait, we didn’t mind the rest period.

a little bit sour

That one was a little bit tart!

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Just a few capulines!

We did finally come across some capulín trees. However, most of the berries were still green. We managed to get a handful to enjoy, though. They taste like mini-cherries and were well worth the hike.

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The way back was just as pleasant a hike as the way up. At the risk of repeating myself, how amazing it is to live where the earth’s abundance is so readily found.

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