Once again, surprise, it’s a new year!

Wow, that was fast. Where did 2021 go?!

Before writing today’s post, I was curious to see what I wrote as my first post for 2021. I hadn’t remembered that we had bought plants from an individual Craigslist seller on Christmas Eve day. Maybe people finally have time to put up their listings on holidays.

Because guess what we did on New Year’s Day (other than eating our traditional ozoni soup with mochi as our first meal of the year)? The Craigslist listing was made on New Year’s Eve day, and it was something I’ve been wanting for a long time, but I hadn’t seen it around and didn’t want it badly enough to hunt it down and acquire. I didn’t need it right away, and I really didn’t feel like picking it up on New Year’s Eve Day or New Year’s Day. But with Craigslist, if you want something, you have to act. Luckily, the seller didn’t really seem eager to sell it that day either, so we arranged to meet the next year, i.e., January 1. It had the makings of an illicit drug deal, since we met at an agreed upon location, not our homes.

What is it, you’re wondering? First, why did I want this thing? For various reasons, though I love coffee, I no longer drink it every day. For a few years, I bemoaned that nothing else substituted for that indulgence and the simply good feeling of coffee first thing in the morning. Tea didn’t cut it. I even experimented with expensive teas. Nope.

Then I discovered Indian-style chai, brewed with real spices and herbs, not the tea bags or chai syrup that the chain coffee shops serve. I had had chai many years before, homemade by friends from India. But I had forgotten about it.

I now make a chai concentrate that lasts me almost two weeks. I put some in my cup, add my milk product of choice, usually soy, and heat it up. I might love it more than coffee. When I make this concentrate, I end up with almost four cups of spent cinnamon bark, ginger, tea, and the other spices. There’s so much, I’ve even tried brewing another batch of chai from it, but it is weak and inferior. So that bowl of spent chai ingredients goes into the compost once it has cooled.

I have a fuzzy goal of locally acquiring or growing the chai ingredients. My experiment growing edible ginger has worked. I’ve tried growing it in a few spots on our land as well as a pot. Because it can problematically spread (not my problem yet), I think I’ll grow it in pots. It burst its pot in under a year, though.

I buy Ceylon Cinnamon bark (look up the difference between it and the usual cassia cinnamon) from nearby Adaptations, where I get weekly locally grown produce. They’re very close by and their farm is about the same elevation as ours.

In any case, what I’ve been wanting for years was Ceylon cinnamon, also known as true cinnamon, Cinnamomum zeylanicum or Cinnamomum verum. The bark is expensive, and the plant is expensive and a slow grower. It will be many years before we could ever grow the amount I consume, but why not get started and plant the tree? I just need one or two trees for now, for my personal consumption and to learn about the tree. They can apparently attain a height of 30-45 feet! Mine won’t, though, because I want to harvest it.

I recently read about Tommy Greenwell growing black Pohnpei pepper commercially. Pepper and (true) cardamom are other plants on my scout-out-list. I’ve grown cardamom before from a plant I bought at a California farmers market, but I think it was a “false cardamom,” no fruit (the seller said as such). The leaves were wonderfully fragrant if you’d bruise or squish them in your hand. Bea took part of that plant many years ago, and her plant grew and flourished and eventually was even exhibited at the Orange County Fair.

The handover of the cinnamon seedlings was made in the Home Depot parking lot. The seller has various health issues. Growing cinnamon and intending to sell seedlings locally and by mail is a side job he thinks he can handle. I wish him luck. And myself, too.

2 thoughts on “Once again, surprise, it’s a new year!

  1. An interesting narrative, Sharlene. I’ve not tried any chai. My image is that it is too sweet and, I will confess but don’t tell anyone, it strikes me as too “girly.” (Give me a break. I’m an old fart, not fully reformed.)
    I am distressed to think that the cardamom plant I adopted from you may never bear fruit. I’ve read that the plant needs 4 or 5 years to mature and fruit but now I expect never. This, however, is only an emotional blow with no practical consequence because I don’t recall ever consuming cardamom.

    1. Chai is often served sweet, but it doesn’t have to be. I make my chai unsweetened. Then whoever drinks it can sweeten it to his/her taste. Yes, I think that cardamom is a “false cardamom,” not sure if it’s Alpinia mutica or Alpinia nutans. Just enjoy it as a plant, and divide and share when you think the pot looks too full.

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