Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Nutmeg: Yummy Fruits A-Z

(Nutmeg trees grow 40-70 feet;
the fruit often splits when ripe)
Did you know that nutmeg is actually a fruit? Two spices are derived from this aromatic fruit, nutmeg from the seed (nutmeat), and mace from the seed's red membrane (aril). The yellow fruit surrounding the seed and membrane is also edible, which in Malaysia is often candied or pickled as a snack.

The origin of the nutmeg tree can be traced back to the island of Banda, the largest of the Molucca islands (or Spice Islands) in Indonesia. It is also grown in Malaysia, the Caribbean, India, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea. The history of this spice is long and colorful, dating back to medieval times when a monk in Europe first sprinkled nutmeg over his pudding. Nutmeg was later thought to ward off the plague during Elizabethan times. 

Others recorded its use as well, like Roman author Pliny in the first century, who liked nutmeg's two flavors. Emperor Henry VI had the streets of Rome scented with nutmeg for his coronation, and Constantinople received his first nutmeg from visiting Arab merchants. The price of nutmeg soared. By the fourteenth century, a half kilogram is said to have cost three sheep or a cow. 

(Nutmeg fruit is 0.8 to 1.2 inch long)
The Dutch went to war over nutmeg in 1621, gaining control of its production in the East Indies. The price soared even higher. In 1760, a pound of nutmeg cost 85 to 90 shillings in London. The monopoly lasted until World War II.

Apparently, nutmeg was used for centuries as a form of snuff in Indonesia and India, and also as medicine. However, high doses sometimes caused nutmeg poisoning, which is still possible today. A little goes a long way. Some claim it can sharpen the brain, ease joint pain, rev blood circulation, and help with digestion. But for most of us, nutmeg is a flavorful spice for our eggnogs, breads, cookies, and cakes.

Nutmeg Recipe

(Spices I purchase)
"Overnight Nutmeg Cookies"

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
6 tablespoons half-and-half
3 tablespoons orange juice
Grated rind of 1 orange
3 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

Cream butter with sugar in medium bowl. In second bowl combine cream, orange juice, and rind; blend well. Sift flour and stir in nutmeg and salt. Add butter mixture alternately with orange juice mixture. Add more flour (if needed) to form stiff dough. Shape into roll and wrap in waxed paper. Chill overnight. Slice chilled dough 1/8 inch thick and place on greased baking sheet. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven 8-10 minutes. Yield: 4-5 dozen. 

(Grating nutmeg seed. Can we buy in U.S.?)

Nutmeg Books

--Nathaniel's Nutmeg: Or the True and Incredible 
Adventures of the Spice Trader Who Changed the Course of History by Giles Milton (2000) (nonfiction)

--Tumtum & Nutmeg: The Rose Cottage Adventures 
by Emily Bearn and Nick Price (2013) (ages 8-12)

--The Nutmeg of Consolation 
(book 14) 
by Patrick O'Brian (1993) (adult) 

--The Nutmeg Princess by Richardo Keens-Douglas 
and Annouchka Galouchko (2014) (ages 6-9)

Nutmeg Song

--"My Nutmeg Phantasy" by Macy Gray


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

M is for Mango: Yummy Fruits A-Z

(Mango trees can grow more than 100 feet)

Mangoes are native to South Asia and were first grown in India over 5000 years ago. Later, around 300 or 400 A.D., the fruit was introduced to the Middle East, East Africa and South America. Today it is the national fruit of India and the Philippines, while the tree is the national tree of Bangladesh. 

Mangoes are an important part of South Asian culture. For instance, taking a basket of mangoes as a gift to someone in India is considered a gesture of friendship. In several cultures the fruit and leaves are used as decorations for weddings, religious ceremonies, and other public gatherings.   

Nutritionally, mangoes are full of healthy dietary fiber, vitamin C, Vitamin A, vitamin B6, potassium, minerals and anti-oxidant compounds. Health studies have claimed that mangoes protect against certain cancers and help control blood pressure and heart rate, and more. The skin of mangoes has been linked to lowering high cholesterol, and diabetes prevention. However, people should be aware of the mango latex allergy, which affects some individuals when eating unripe or raw mango. 

Mangoes were first imported to the U.S. in the 17th century, but they had to be pickled prior to shipping for preservation. Today fresh mangoes are grown and distributed worldwide. The fruit sold in the U.S. mostly comes from Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala, and Haiti. Although India is the largest producer of mangoes, production is mostly for its population.

A common way to eat a mango in Latin America is on a stick. The skin is peeled back and the flesh is seasoned with salt, lime juice, and/or chili powder. In India, people squeeze the fruit and suck the juice through a hole at the top. Other ways to enjoy mango are in fruit smoothies, salads, salsas, chutneys, sauces for fish, chicken and pork, and desserts.

Mango Recipe

"Sassy Mangoes"

1 cup granulated white sugar
1 cup water
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks 
4 cups mangoes sliced (3-4 medium fruits) 
1 cup brandy
1 tablespoon (plus 1 teaspoon) cornstarch

In 12-inch frying pan, add sugar, water, and cinnamon sticks. Bring mixture to boil. Turn down heat and simmer 2 to 3 minutes until liquid is clear. Add mangoes and gently stir to coat with sugar mixture. Simmer for 3 minutes. Remove mangoes with slotted spoon, and place in quart-size jars, filling jars 2/3 full. 

Add brandy to remaining syrup in pan. Dilute cornstarch with 1 tablespoon cold water; add to brandy syrup. Stir over medium heat until thick. Cool mixture. Pour cooled mixture over mangoes in jars. The jars can also be sealed and stored for future use. Serve over vanilla ice cream for a special treat, or alone as an after-dinner cordial. Yield: 2 quarts. A holiday treat! 

Mango Jokes

Q: What is red, yellow, green and goes up and down?
A: A mango in an elevator!

Q: How do you make a mango shake?
A: Take it to a scary movie!

Mango Books

--A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass (2005) (young adult)

--The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1991) (young adult)

--Mango Lucky by Bill Myers (2012)
(adult fiction)

--Castle Mango by Narise Konoh 
and Muku Ogura (2014) (adult fiction)

--The Mango Bride by Marivi Soliven (2013) (adult fiction)

Mango Movies

--The Mango Tree (1977) 
(set in early 1940s; Australia) 

--Mango Yellow (2002)
(Brazilian underground; 
set around bar/hotel)

--Mango Tango (2009)
(comedy; thriller in New York City)


Monday, April 14, 2014

L is for Lime: Yummy Fruits A-Z

Limes are rather famous, and deservedly so. This smaller of the citrus fruit family saved untold numbers of British sailors from getting scurvy in the nineteenth century. Scurvy is a disfiguring disease that in advanced stages can cause one's teeth to fall out, oozing skin sores, jaundice, fever, neuropathy, and even death. 

Scurvy is caused by a deficiency in vitamin C, of which the lime happens to be high in, as is its competitor, the lemon. In fact, a lemon is four times higher in vitamin C, but limes were more available in the 19th century (from the West Indies), and became the main fruit of the British navy sailing the high seas. The sailors even acquired the nickname, "limey." 

Lime trees grow to about 16 feet high and can be found in tropical and subtropical climates. The origin of limes is not known. Some speculate they may have come from the Indonesian archipelago or nearby Asia. Christoper Columbus is credited with taking the first lime seed to the West Indies where it was planted in 1493. Today limes are grown all over the world. Brazil is the top producer, followed by Mexico, the U.S. (mainly Florida), and the West Indies. 

Lime Recipe

"Perky Lime Sauce"

1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon grated fresh lime (rind)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

Combine sugar, cornstarch, water and a dash of salt in small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until mixture thickens and turns clear. Remove from burner. Add butter, lime rind and juice. Mix well. Cool before serving. Yield: 1 cup 

(Best served over diced cantaloupe and scoops of vanilla ice cream, but you can experiment. Try over bananas and gingerbread).  

Lime Joke

Lime Books

--A Lime, a Mime, a Pool of Slime (More about Nouns) (2008)
by Brian P. Cleary and Brian Gable

 --Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange (2009)
 by Amanda Smyth

--A Parachute in the Lime Tree (2012)  by Annemarie Neary

Lime Songs

--"Corona and Lime" by Shwayze (2009)
--"The Lime Tree" by Trevor Hall (2009)

--"Lime in the Coconut" by Kermit the Frog (2008) (video link)


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Africa Mercy - Goodbye Congo: One Nurse's Journey

A parting post from Marilyn in the Congo, as she prepares to come home for a break. Those of you following the Ebola outbreak in Guinea will find this interesting. .....Sharon

(This is a running email post written by a volunteer nurse serving on the Africa Mercy, a hospital ship that travels the African coast).

Goodbye Congo
11 April 2014

Our time in Congo is fast drawing to a 

(a patient)
close. Because of the long follow-up required after cataract surgery, we have to stop surgery several weeks before the ship leaves the country. In fact, our last day of cataract surgery was yesterday. We will do some pterygium surgery next week because the follow-up is not so long for them, but after that, my job is done. The ship leaves Congo around June 1, but I will be leaving Apr 23rd, headed for the good ole USA and visits with family and friends.

As I was thinking about this email, a band of about 30 minstrels marched slowly up and down the hall outside the hospital wards, singing at the top of their voices, some of the dancing a bit, all of them harmonizing and moving from one praise song to the next 
without missing a beat. 

They were dressed in hospital gowns, and each carried a Foley bag (collects urine from a catheter). Who was this strange choir? The VVF ladies! VVF stands for vesicular vaginal fistula. This is a condition that can happen to a woman as a result of a long, difficult labor without proper medical attention. The baby's head presses so long on surrounding tissues that some of them die, leaving her internal plumbing a mess.

Many women die, of course. I've heard that one in ten women around here do die in childbirth. Many others survive, but with scar tissue and fistulas between the vagina and bladder and/or bowel. The incontinence makes them social outcasts. Husbands move on. Families put them in a shed out in back to sleep and eat and won't let them come into the house. It's not a nice life. 

Then Mercy Ship comes, and they get repair surgery. Recovery takes weeks, and the women are with us at least until the catheter can be removed. So our wards are brimming with very happy, hopeful, thankful women. No wonder they march up and down the hall several times a day, singing their thanksgiving and praise to God. We give each woman a new dress before she leaves to celebrate her recovery. I'll try to attach a photo of some of our decked-out ladies.

(decked-out ladies)

I think I told you about the edict that we will not do eye surgery on anyone whose blood pressure is over 200/110. This is Africa. Probably half the population over the age of 40 has high blood pressure, and most of them don't take medication for it. We tell them to see their doctors and get on medication before surgery. We call them to remind them to take their medication before they come to the ship for surgery. But, pretty much every day, we have several people arrive with pressures over the limit. We tell them to take their medication if they've brought it with them; we tell them to relax, even take a nap. But mostly, we pray.

An amazing number of times, their pressure will eventually dip low enough to allow surgery...and then immediately rise again once we're finished. It feels like God's blessing, parting the "sea" to rescue these people. I can almost hear him chuckling, "I want these people to get help, so I'll make it possible, and never mind your rules."

One such fellow was our very last patient yesterday. He arrived early in the morning, as scheduled, but his blood pressure hovered around 230/125. He is only 50, but he has dense cataracts in both eyes. He could see hand motion, maybe even count fingers held in front of his face, but he is a teacher, and he needs better vision. He'd taken his medication as directed. He took a nap. Still, his pressure remained above the limits. 

He waited on the dock all day, and every time we brought a patient out after surgery, we'd check his pressure again. It dipped slightly, to about 210/115, but time was running out. We checked about 1:30...nope, still too high. Did he want to give up? No, he'd wait some more. More prayer. Finally, about 3:30, it dipped to 198/110. We rushed him onto the ship and did a fast prep for surgery to get him in as last case, just in the nick of time. It was a beautiful finale to our surgical year. Wouldn't it be fun to follow him home to see what a difference the surgery makes in his teaching and in his life?

As you know, we are supposed to go to Guinea for our next field service.

Now there's an Ebola outbreak in Guinea. We don't know if that will affect our ability to work there or not. Can you imagine a crowd of thousands gathering for our main screening, and then an epidemic breaks out? Ebola is spread by body fluid contact, so that's better than respiratory transmission when it comes to crowds...but hospital wards and surgical patients are abundant sources of body fluid contact. We have up to twenty patients, twenty caregivers, and half a dozen nurses and aides in a single room, and they mingle freely, use the same bathroom, etc. Mix in one Ebola patient... Well, Mercy Ships is studying the situation carefully, including our own on-the-ground assessments as well as WHO and other experts' input. They will make a careful decision and let us know.

Meanwhile, please pray for Guinea. It is quite possibly the most needy nation in our service area. They are too poor and too turbulent to attract foreign capital, but without outright war, they don't get international aide and rescue, either. Jobs are extremely scarce, and poverty is everywhere. Medical care is desperately needed. We always have more patients than we can handle every time we go there. It's like tossing the starfish back into the sea--you can't help them all, but you can make a difference to some. I really hope that conditions will allow us to go there next year. So...stay tuned...


(Marilyn in front)

[Click here to learn more about the nurses and doctors on board the Africa Mercy]