Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Survival after Disasters - Sustenance in Your Yard

One of the things that has stuck out for most of us as we look on at the struggle in Haiti after the quake is that people have to go so long without food, water, basic amenities. The whole quake and subsequent warnings about imminent and overdue similar sized quakes in the eastern Caribbean has made me feel extra conscious about survival

As far as food goes, we in the eastern Caribbean and many other parts may be much better off than the Haitians just by dint of the number of food trees and plants that abound around us, even though many of us have no vegetable garden that we might be able to dig out from under the debris in our back yard.

But when it comes to electricity, and water – as our current drought is forcing us to realize, are we much better off? Well most islands have one single main power plant – some have a few substations, so what if the main plant gets wrecked? What then? And what if water pipes get broken and even though there’s water in rivers or small lakes – well we know we can’t drink that.

So what can we do to make ourselves less reliant on the things we take for granted and able to survive if we suffer a major disaster? Well, I think this will have to be a series of posts as, thankfully, there’s a lot we can consider! So here goes, instalment #1.

Food is not just a product that is manufactured or grown by someone else!

It is not that long ago that in fact, food was something that was harvested, farmed and fished, so it’s not at all impossible to make some preparations for yourself, or if you really can’t get a real veg patch going (like, you’re a Farmville Ace, but don’t know what soil looks like), then you might be surprised what sustenance is merrily growing around you…despite you.

Lemongrass – yes, that lemony smelling grass is lemongrass. Grow some in a pot or in the corner in your yard, it’s easy to grow, multiplies on it’s own, is fairly drought hardy and makes a delicious tea – aids sleep, calms the stomach. In good times it flavours chicken and fish pretty nicely too.
Pear Leaves– avocado that is – the tea is said to taste like anise mixed with bay and is good for calming gas, diahorrea and worms apparently – and that would be the Mexican-Caribbean variety, not the North American which it seems has a little bad stuff in it. And of course, eat the pears if you have them!
Soursop (Annona Muricata)- Take the leaves and make tea – full of sickness fighting goodness – some research suggests it fights viruses and even cancer. So even if your tree has no fruit, use the leaves.
Guava leaves –the very young ones, most West Indians know this, make a tea or just chew them to stop diahorrea. And this ‘lowly’ fruit is one of the highest sources of Vitamin C, so get eating.
And some of us have drank ‘Gwo Ponpon’ for curing the flu – this is Leonotis nepetaefolia – which (I read on the internet) has an effect somewhat like a mild marijuana… it might be useful for calming the nerves and apparently it does work for treating flus too.
Today I read a release that Bitter Melon extract has proven to help fight off Breast Cancer – well some of you may know it’s used in treating Diabetes as it helps regulate and lower blood sugar. Do you know what it is? Cerasee. Mormodia Charanta. Chinese Lantern we used to call it. Just don’t eat too many fruit – they can cause hypoglycaemia and some people say are a little toxic too.
Prickly Pear – Opuntia cactus – some people know the red fruit is edible – quite full of antioxidants and – just remove with care and knock off, cut off or singe off the prickles. What you may not know is that the pads can also be eaten. The young ones (tunas) – when they’re still flexible can be eaten raw – after prickle removal, so you don’t even have to cook this. Find some seasoning, chop them up and they’re nopales – Mexican food.
They do lower your blood sugar, which is great if you’re diabetic, not so good if you are hypoglycaemic so be cautious if you don’t know. They can also be cooked.
How about ‘River Tamarind’? Leucaena leucocephala, the young, green seedpods can be opened and the seeds eaten. Caution though as they contain mimosine – a toxin if eaten in high quantities., soaking and washing will reduce the amount present more than enough to eat them
Amaranth – it grows in most of our yards. We have Amaranthus spinosus - spiny amaranth
here – you can eat the leaves and stems raw or cooked and the tiny seeds too. A close relative of this plant is considered one of the most beneficial ‘Ancient Grains’ – all varieties are edible and full of goodness. Apparently one is the Indian food ingredient Bhaji. Has Oxalic acid (which interferes with Calcium absorption) but cooking generally destroys this.
Fence Post Tree – Glory Cedar – Gliricidia Sepium. The lovely flowers are edible – toss them in a salad or just pick ‘em, wash ‘em and eat ‘em. Sorry, couldn't get a copyright free image of the flowers - will check my files:)
Do you have banana trees in your yard? You can eat the banana flower you know. Here are some links to info and a recipe, but Google it, you’ll get loads of info. Also can contain Oxalic acid
Cashew nut fruits are full of juice – eat them fresh or squeeze out the juice to drink it. Contains high tannin content so you may want to steam them before eating.

So that’s enough for today – I’m including a few links below to sites with info – next time I’ll look at some of the other things we can think about for survival…

Be safe and get out of Farmville and into the yard people! (even if that’s a few pots on your concrete tower-block balcony).

Do you know of other ‘weeds’ or less known foods that you’d like to share? Please do!

And if you enjoyed this article – send it on, share, share and share some more :)

All photos from Wikipedia

Silent Doctors - Barbados Herbal Info
Bitter Melon Breast Cancer info
Amaranth info