Another long trip had been planned for today (for long, read half an hour in the car!) as we went to a jardin arborifique in Deshaies, Basse-Terre, with a group from our church. We set off in a convoy as apparently the place was not straightforward to find, and boy was that an understatement! There is a jardin botanique in Deshaies, but we weren't going there. Ours was an invisible place up a steep road that you had to know was there to be able to take! The words Basse-Terre always strike fear into my heart and it means hills hills and more hills, and I am never quite sure if our car is going to make it!
When we finally found the place and parked (on a hill, of course) we received a warm welcome from the owner and shown around the place, all set on a very steep hill! The view above is pretty much like the view from the land, but we were further away. A beautiful sight, as we watched the tiny white sailing boats dotted around and I taught LissaLou the word 'horizon'.
The tour was very much based on the nutritional values of the different trees and fascinating stuff indeed. It seemed that practically every tree's leaves can be made into a tisane, and pretty much all of them can be used to cure colds and flu. Really, there is no excuse for anyone here to have a cold! The basic facts to remember are that you use 3 young leaves or the equivalent to 30 grams each time, and they have to be picked before the sunset. Some examples:
- The corossol leaves can be put in a bath to calm hyper children or stressed adults.
- Coconut water is excellent for your health, especially when convalescing, and is also antiseptic when it comes straight out of the coconut.
- The liquid that comes out of the banana tree trunk can be used to heal wounds.
- The aloe vera plant is very toxic so to be used with moderation (3 drops at most). It can be used for a purge every month when mixed with water, or for eye problems.
There was so much information that I have unfortunately forgotten, for example one tree is good for migraines and another is good for regulating your periods. Oh, and for those seeking a bit of vitamin C, one kilo of cerises pays is the equivalent of 40 kilos of oranges! But be warned, caramboles (starfruit) are bad for those with kidney problems.
The owner explained that they also plant according to the moon, either three days before or three days after the full or new moon, but not on the day itself, or the plant will be thin and spindly. I chatted to her about Papy's Gwada myths and she agreed that you should certainly not let anyone else pick your fruit (during their period or not), as it can affect the fruit, due to the capricious nature of the trees! One of my favourite anecdotes was that some trees can be lazy and not bear any fruit, as they can't bear the weight! So to help them, you can hang some stones on to the branch with string and you can be sure that it will bear fruit the following year!
The land belonged to her grandparents and given the relatively small size of the trees, she has not been running it for that long, so it would be interesting to return in a few years time and see how it had changed. One tree, the jacquier, bears fruit will grow to 50 kilos, which would be interesting to see! They are too heavy for the branch so they grow on the trunk like a papaya.
We picknicked together (another lovely phrase - here they take un repas tire du sac!) and then it was time to set off. Unfortunately, the exit was so steep and angled, that three cars in a row got their front bumper wedged onto the road, of which we were the third. The first two eventually had to empty the car of passengers, and for ours all these passengers then lifted the car. Thankfully we got back on the main road with no damage to the cars, but it didn't inspire me to return there again! The rest of the group went to the beach for some more fun but we decided to return home and rest, which was apparently well-needed for us parents but not so much for the girls!
The visit today is one of various ways we have seen recently of making the most of what Guadeloupe has to offer (although ironically, none of the flora and fauna here is local, it has all been imported over the years from Polynesia!). It has also given me interest in seeing what we have to offer in our own dear land - what Blighty Myths are there?!
There is a campaign at the moment to eat more local products, with brochures showing the nutritional qualities of various fruit and veg. This has the advantage of addressing the increasing obesity problem here (diabetes is a major issue), and improving life for local producers and the economy. Although as ever, it doesn't go far enough in my opinion, as many people are not going to buy local tomatoes for €5 a kilo when there are imported tomatoes for €2 or €3. Bertie has also been approached by a lady from the church who is starting a radio station about environmental issues, with a view to him doing a summary of news items in English and LissaLou and I given English conversational lessons! If it can bring to the forefront even small steps like recycling than that will be a very good thing, and people like myself would benefit from recipes on how to cook these local delicacies.