Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pineapples!


Every once in a while I have these strange realizations about my life in Asiri here. For example, I may be the first white pineapple farmer in this part of Africa, or at least the first in a while, like since the British pulled out of my market town sometime in the first half of the 20th century. I think I’m probably the only foreigner to have seen some aspects of the traditional culture that are unique to this town. My sister and I may have been the first foreigners to enter the sacred caves, and Hannah may have been the first white woman to take shots of Schnapps with the Chief Linguist (the speaker for the Chief) when we poured libations for the local Gods.

But anyway, about the pineapples. I’ve been reflecting a lot on the last couple years lately (always dangerous) in preparation for the Big Decision, which is whether or not to stay for a third year. The last few months were a difficult stretch, Peace Corps seems to be a series of ups and downs, but we’re shifting back into the farming season and it’s a reminder of a lot that I enjoy about living in Ghana. Including pineapples, since every pineapple you eat in Ghana is the best pineapple you’ve ever had in your life. This time of year they’re fresh off a local farm and cost less than a dollar. Let me be clear: in May and June I make a serious attempt to eat my weight in pineapples.

Pineapples are also one of my favorite crops to plant, since they’re ridiculously easy to cultivate and increase the total amount of deliciousness in the world (an important tonic in these dark times). You can plant them in two ways: either by planting the top part of the fruit or by cutting a section of the rooted part that produces the fruit and transplanting. In either case you just need to strip the bottom few leaves away to expose the roots and then stick it into a piece of fertile ground.

Unfortunately, I did not get to eat most of the pineapples I planted because of a phenomenon peculiar to these parts: marauding gangs of children, armed with slingshots all Dennis the Menace style, who roam the bush stealing pineapples. I am not good with small kids, and I have a lot of Mr. Wilson moments when it’s all I can do not to actually shake my fist in the air while yelling the local equivalent of “You damn kids!” However, I don’t really mind about the pineapples. It’s just so cute.

One of my projects this year is planting a moringa and pineapple garden on a piece of land in front of my house that is unsuitable for other food crops because of the sheep. Pineapple leaves have a sharp, serrated edge coated with some kind of irritant that hurts like a bitch if it cuts you, so animals usually don’t mess with them. As to why the sheep don’t eat the moringa, I can only say that the sheep in my town are particularly stupid, even for sheep. In theory you could also, by continually pruning the trees, use the moringa leaves as green manure for the pineapples, since pineapples won’t produce fruit if the land isn’t fertile enough. But I’m mostly just doing this because I like pineapples, and I want to try propogating moringa from cuttings as opposed to planting seeds.

That said, I’m not going to get the chance to eat these pineapples either. Once the pineapple stalks get big they produce fruit once a year, and if you plant the tops they usually take 2-3 years to get big enough to produce fruit. I’m planting the tops of the pineapples I eat, and trying to buy some of the larger cuttings, but either way I’ll be gone from Asiri by the time they produce (if I stay in Ghana for a third year it won’t be in this town). However, one of my semi-regrets is that I’ve pretty much been a straight agriculture volunteer here, everything we’ve done (or, more accurately, tried to do and hope will work out) has been about agricultural income. I haven’t done much with the young people other than smile a lot, try out my Twi and generally be a goofy guy in the neighborhood. So this is my small gift to the children of Asiri, a field of pineapples with nobody paying attention.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

Sam, you write like a god.