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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Plenty-o Pele, Potatoes, Papayas & Bananas – Oh My!


Laura of SeaKey holding a handful of spinach-like pele leaves.
“Yes, yes, groceries and other supplies are very cheap in American Samoa.  Here, though, you can get produce for free.  What would you like from the plantation?” Sia asked.

Sia handed out plantation produce on the island tour we took when we first arrived.  At the time we were not well prepared to accept any more than a handful of pele leaves.

Later, sharing Niuatoputapu’s produce bounty was Sia’s thank you for the canned mackerel, crystallized eggs, and several yards of fabric I’d heard were in demand on the island.

The bounty? 


Our oversized bunch of bananas from Nuiatoptapu’s plantation.
A HUGE stalk (hand) of bananas, 4 green papayas, a kilo of (spinach-like) pele leaves and one sweet potato?

We gave all our fruit and veg all a good dunking, a good habit for all fruit an veg before coming aboard, and bananas in particular are notoriously buggy.

The challenge? 

How do a mere two people use up a HUGE hand of bananas, 4 green papayas, a kilo of (Spinach-like) pele leaves and one sweet potato?

We gave quite a few though not nearly enough bananas away to Dirk and Gretchen of Peregrine, as well as two green papayas.  The sweet potato we figured has a decent enough shelf life to wait. 

The first of the pele went into bacon-lettuce-tomato sammies.  That was a rare treat as gluten-free bread is scarce and precious, but we still had some and the last of the tomatoes purchased on American Samoa.  Some of the pele went into a curry, followed by a green banana curry (recipe from Mike Greenwald’s “The Cruising Chef”), where the bananas act as a stand-in for potatoes.

At long last, the green papaya was the impetus to try out Jodie of Blue Pelican’s fabulous Thai-style green papaya salad.  The other green papaya was great in the stir-fry recipe from Kay Pastorius’ “Cruising Cuisine” cookbook, also good.  Green papayas are more or a vegetable than a fruit before they ripen.


Sia of Niuatoputapu Tonga points out the bushes
the pele leaves come from.
Bananas, though, have a nasty habit of ripening all at once.  In addition to the curry and snacks, we’ve spread peanut butter on them, made shakes (Lauren’s Bananaliscious Shake recipe follows), a gluten-free banana bread from blackened bananas (from America’s Test Kitchen “How Can It Be Gluten Free” cookbook, good, except I under-baked it so was more of a pudding in the middle) and a dessert with cream cheese, brown sugar and cinnamon (also from “Cruising Cuisine” though I added vanilla paste to it as well and it tasted a bit like a cheese danish)…..

Alas there is sometimes simply too much of a good thing.  Some bananas were jettisoned because they were too immature to ever be useable.  Others were tossed due to fruit bat incursions, transit and getting too nicked when trying to break loose other bananas from the bunch.  Others still needed to take a swim – no matter how creative you are, two people can only eat so many bananas at a time… Perhaps they’ll sprout on some distant isle in need of bananas.

The sweet potato? It’s still waiting to be used…. 

If you’re interested in any recipes for the dishes mentioned, let me know.

Lauren’s Bananaliscious Shake
(GWT’s Non-Veg Boat version)
My niece, Lauren, turned me on to banana shakes using tahini – the sesame paste used to make hummus.  On the boat, I make lots of substitutions based on what’s available, and if it’s early enough in the day (due to my caffeine sensitivity), I add Tipu’s Chai, an instant chai tea powder.  On board, my blender is a DC version, created for tailgater parties.

Ingredients
1 large or 2-3 small bananas, peeled and sliced
1 ½ c milk*
2 T tahini (adjust to your taste)
1 T sweetener (adjust to your taste – on board raw sugar is my favorite; Lauren uses agave)
1 T vanilla extract (or 1 t vanilla paste if you’re lucky enough to have it)
½ T Tipu’s Simple Chai powder (optional) or cinnamon or nutmeg to taste (optional)
3 T vanilla protein powder (optional)

Directions
Blend.  Taste.  Adjust to your taste and enjoy!


*Lauren uses vanilla soy milk; on board, I use a full-fat powdered milk mix

Location Location
This was written at our first Tonga island stop, Niuatoputapu (meaning 'Very Sacred Coconut') (S15.56.395 W173.46.125).  This was set to pre-post from Neiafu, Kingdom of TONGA (S18.39.842 W173.58.915).   By the time it posts, we expect to be cruising some of Vava'au's outer islands.

Communication Access
There was no wifi in Niuatoputapu, so posts were written awaiting arrival for sporadic wifi access in Neiafu, of the Vava’u islands of Tonga.

Tonga wifi access is slow, so most posts will be set up to post when we’re in Tonga’s more populated areas.  Once we get to New Zealand in November, we expect much better wifi and will catch up on some recent cruising experiences and, eventually, some short video clips.

Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our current (September 26, 2015) travels around the Neiafu, Tonga are -- ~9 months, we’ve spent about a third of our time --120 days -- sailing and covered 8,724 nautical miles.  The prior 2 years combined, we sailed 3762 miles.  By the time we arrive in New Zealand in November, less than a year from when we set out, we expect we’ll sail over 10,000 miles this year.  That’s a lot of miles for a boat with a hull speed of 7 knots; we usually sail far slower than that.