Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Mangos Finished...

This morning I had the last of the mangos.

We had a great season this year: sold 100 kilos, gave away about fifty, and easily ate another 100 kilos ourselves, starting mid-August and finishing today. We have about fifteen trees, some of them wild, others grafted to four different varieties, and still others in the nursery that are only a foot high and waiting for Best Beloved’s best efforts with his grafting knife. We are the only producers of organic mangos in Cyprus and our fruit is the best because we pick individually and sell in small quantities when each piece is at its optimum ripeness.

Some days this summer we would feast on them out of hand – cutting six or seven at a time and slurping them at the table.

One unforgettable Sunday, I rediscovered that the best place to eat a mango is in the sea: we had gone with Li’l Bro (my youngest brother-in-law who lives abroad) and his children to a deserted beach in the Akamas. There I gorged in the shallows, salt water mixing with sweet juice – and an in-place clean-up. Perfect.

Most mornings Best Beloved and I enjoyed a smoothie. Pick 2 or three ripe mangos and a handful of figs. Blend with yoghurt, water, and ice-cubes. Beats wheatie-puffs hands down as breakfast of champions.

This morning was my last one… I walked the Littles to the supermarket to catch the bus, then went to the field where I spent an hour-and-a-half digging berms and basins for rainwater harvesting around the fruit trees.

Then I went home, sliced the last, perfect mango into the blender (no figs today), and enjoyed the closing of the season.

Blessings on the mangos, for they are the very best.

Monday, September 27, 2010

September Borscht

The first beets are ready in the garden and last night I cooked a goose that had plenty of leftovers. So what was for lunch today? Borscht.

I have loved borscht since I went to the Brezhnev-period Soviet Union on a school trip in 1981. It was a staple in the restaurants of all the hotels that we stayed – each recipe a little different, each one filling and warming and just wonderful.

When Leo was born, a lovely Ukrainian woman called Tania was doing my cleaning. She made me some wonderfully restorative borscht – and even better, taught me how to make my own. Except in the summer months, when beets cannot grow here, I make it throughout the year.

First I picked everything off the goose carcass, put the bones in a pan of water, and made some rich stock. Then I fried an onion and garlic in a spoonful of goosefat, added a couple of chopped beets, a chopped potato, a chopped red pepper, and a chopped carrot and let them all sweat a little. Three hundred or so millilitres of chopped tomato that I had frozen earlier this summer followed, along with the goose stock, the carcass pickings, and the finely chopped beet leaves. I simmered it for about twenty minutes, then served myself a big bowl complete with a spoonful of sour cream. Delightful. It could have used some dill, but I didn’t have any.

My children turned their noses up at it, silly darlings. So I enjoyed it all by myself.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kouklia Eyesore

The hill on the far right was created entirely from earth excavated in the development.

About a year ago, I noticed heavy machinery beginning to carve terraces in the hill on the other side of the valley. Best Beloved found out that a developer called Panaretou was planning to build seventy-odd maisonettes there.

Since then, Panaretou built a mountain, literally, from the soil that he carved from the hillside. Day in, day out, earth movers crawled, scoops dug, cement churned and spurted.

‘Who’s giving him the money for this development?’ we asked ourselves. And later: ‘And who’s going to buy these boxes and live in them?’

Driving past on the way to the beach last month, I realised that they faced the summer afternoon sun. We christened them The Ovens, and watched their progress with amazement and dismay.

This morning, Best Beloved’s first words (almost) to me were. Panaretou’s gone bust. And as I sat drinking my coffee on the verandah I looked out over the valley and saw the waste: the waste of the natural beauty (ok, it’s not a stunning hillside, but, unscarred it was comely), the waste of the resources, the pollution.

‘What will happen?’ I asked Best Beloved. ‘Will it be covered up, filled in, made safe, at least?’

‘After a kid or two dies playing in there, Kouklia council may fence it,’ he answered. ‘Meanwhile, it will just stay like that as no-one will want to take on that project now!’