|the perfect breakfast and snack, Dragon Fruit with Mango|
|One of my new favorite fruits, the Custard Apple|
So why all the lounging around and fruit eating here in Northern Thailand? Yesterday morning on my way to volunteer at TacomePai Organic farm I had a motorbike accident. I never thought it would happen to me. I’m not severely hurt, thank God; but I do have a nasty scrape on my knee that became a tad bit infected while spending time on the farm yesterday. The accident happened on the narrow road in between my hotel and the Pai river. I simply gave the bike too much gas and skidded, the motorbike’s wheels in the mud, my body trapped underneath the fallen bike scraping across the gravel. Gross; and quite embarrassing None of this would have happened if I had just taken my time, and taken it easy. Well, now the crash has forced me to take it easy, and I’ve actually enjoyed doing so.
I had planned on spending two nights at TacomePai farm, but after dinner I realized I should head back into town where I could sleep in a real bed, shower in-doors, and apply all of the necessary treatments to my oozing wound. I did, however, learn quite a bit in my short stay. There’s currently a permaculture course taking place, and I was invited to follow the group on a lecture through the farm.
First off we learned that the sweet potato will be the crop of the future, the nutritious plant that will save us if and when global warming occurs because of it’s ability to grow in almost any climate and location, and for the fact that a plant will grow just by planting the leaves; no seed necessary! I felt an ironic tint of pride, and whispered to a girl in the group that the sweet potato is my favorite food and my blog is named for the tuber.
|sweet potato leaves. plant this and grow a sweet potato!|
Next Sandot, the owner of TacomePai, took us to observe some good soil that has been nourished by compost and dying leaves. Honestly, I didn’t understand a lot of what they were discussing, but it felt exciting to be among a group of individuals dedicated to learning about sustainable practices of farming and living, so I just smiled and nodded like everyone else.
Before lunch the group even planted a mango tree in an unlikely location, and built a little house over it to simulate the environment of the forest in which this type of tree thrives.
|Sandot and the group at TacomePai
If I had stuck around spent today on the farm I’m sure I would have been able to get my hands dirty. That wasn’t my first taste of farm life (aside from Karen Waddell’s Bali farm). Late last week I volunteered for two days at Pun Pun Organic farm outside of Chiang Mai; a tremendous accomplishment for a city girl like myself.
At Pun Pun farm I had my first experience of sleeping under a mosquito net, and in northern Thailand a mosquito net is highly appreciated. I got past my fear of bugs, especially creepy crawling centipedes and worms. I even took cold showers and used a squat toilet like a pro!
The work was difficult, and if it weren’t for the morning group yoga I’m sure I would have been very sore the following day. We began the task of planting cucumbers at 9am. Later we spread bat manure on another plot of land and hoed it. Then we cleared the weeds around slightly neglected eggplant bushes by hoeing and raking; I was sweating profusely throughout this, and by noon I was ready for a break.
The food at Pun Pun farm was so delicious. The cook, Pedang, prepared Thai specialties like fried noodles using freshly harvested ingredients. The first night I was at the farm Pedang made an avocado dressing that had everyone begging for the recipe (I got the ingredients, and hope to replicate it when I get back home). The food at TacomePai was also very tasty. Last night, before I left, I helped make a stellar banana flower papaya curry!
|Pedang in her kitchen. Banana leaf wilting over the fire.|
|Mushrooms steamed in banana leaves, Delicious!|
Spending time on these two farms has been a rewarding experience. In just a few days spent so close to nature I learned quite a lot about myself. I am proud to have discovered that I am willing to step outside of my comfort zone. In me a new curiosity for sustainable living and farming has been sparked.
|View at Pun Pun Farm from the meeting house|
I’ve got to go back to TacomePai later this week once my wound has healed a bit, as I have forgotten my sneakers and diary. It’s pitch black there as soon as the sun goes down, so there’s no telling what you’re leaving behind. On my next visit I hope to work with the volunteers, and bring some more knowledge back home to New York with me. Maybe I’ll start a firescape garden, and check out the city’s rooftop gardens.
I have helped out in the kitchen at these two farms, but haven’t cooked anything or come up with any new recipes myself. Chiang Mai and Pai have the best vegetarian restaurants in Thailand, and I’m constantly ordering the fresh spring rolls when I’m out. Every restaurant does them differently, and here’s a recipe for May Kaidee’s peanut dipping sauce for spring rolls. As far as making spring rolls goes, I love it when they’re made from fresh rice paper rolls which are available in the States at many Asian grocery and specialty stores. I’m also very into the idea of using leafy greens as the wrapper and filling them with shredded green papaya, carrot, bean sprouts, cabbage; you can get very creative with these rolls.
Tomorrow morning I am taking another cooking class here in Pai. The restaurant where the class is held is called Charlie & Lek, and serves some of the tastiest food I’ve ever had. I’ll learn to make their Papaya Pad Thai, using green papaya instead of the classic noodles!
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 tomato, coarsly chopped
1 tsp red chili paste
6 tablespoons, coconut milk
1 tablespoon peanuts or sesame seeds, roasted and crushed
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tsp lime juice
1/2 tablespoon mixed light and dark soy sauce (one of the two should be fine)
In a wok, or saucepan, heat oil and add chopped tomato. Crush the tomato with a spatula. Reduce heat a little, then add red chili paste. Fry until fragrant.
Add coconut milk, peanuts or sesame seeds and stir. Add more coconut milk if sauce becomes too thick. Add sugar, lime juice, and soy sauce. Stir, and season more to taste. Serve at room temperature.
P.S. I wanted to say THANK YOU to everyone who has been following Sweet Potato Soul. I appreciate your lovely comments!