» Archive for May, 2009

Pulque - Ancient drink of the Aztecs

Sunday, May 10th, 2009 by Marie

The first taste of pulque is usually followed by a grimace.  The smell is strong and pungent, the flavor sour.   The drink is milky, a bit foamy, and slightly carbonated from the fermentation process.  We believe it to be an acquired taste - try it more than once and you’ll be hooked.

pulque next to a fish castle

Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting the aguamiel, or sap, of the maguey plant (pictured below).  Magueys, which are part of the agave family, reach maturity and flower between 6-9 years of age.  In order to make pulque, the plant is punctured repeatedly just as it reaches maturity, preventing it from flowering and encouraging the production of the aguamiel. Where the plant is punctured, a bowl is carved in order to collect the sap.  When enough has been collected, the sap is naturally fermented without adding yeast, and at the end of the rapid fermentation process becomes pulque.  Pulque is usually consumed right away, as the shelf life is quite short.

Maguey plants from agave family used to make pulque and mezcal

A more popular drink that comes from the maguey plant is mezcal - or, if it comes from the blue agave plant in the state of Jalisco, tequila.  Mezcal is made by distilling the heart of the maguey plant.  Below is a distillery owner from Opongio carving out the heart of a maguey to make mezcal.

Wikipedia states: In the Aztec pantheon of deities, pulque production was represented by the god of pulque, Tepoztecatl, (he of Tepoztlan) and the gods of drunkenness, such as Macuil-Tochtli or Five Rabbit and Ometochtli or Two Rabbit, both part of the pantheon of Centzon Totochtin, the four hundred rabbit gods of drunkenness.

While wildly popular after the Spanish conquest, pulque is harder to find now because of the popularity of Mexican beer and tequila.  At the very edge of a tiny village between here and Pátzcuaro, you can give a knock on a non-descript black door and buy some fresh pulque by the liter.  For those who do not enjoy the strong taste of pulque, honey or fruit juice can be added for a sweeter flavor.

brian with pulque in front of one of our maguey plants

At the Bosque there are many magueys at different stages of their lives.  Some large, just about ready to flower - others only the size of a fist.  Over the last three years we have planted over three thousand maguey seeds.  In a few more years we will be able to harvest the aguamiel to try to make pulque, or agave nectar (miel de agave), from the maguey plant.   If we use sanitary conditions, champagne yeast, and age the product as one would with mead, we might be able to produce a modern version of pulque - using an ancient idea with brewing techniques from today.

People at the Bosque

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009 by Marie

Who is the Bosque Village?

We’ve updated our People at the Bosque in order to include volunteers and teachers.

Our volunteers make up “Team Bosque” - they tend gardens, work on natural building projects, help cook and clean, and run activities for other volunteers and guests.  Each person brings a different vibe and spirit with them. The mix of different perspective and creative ideas let us improve our projects and spaces.  Some are certified in ecovillage design or have their permaculture design certificate; others come through organizations like WWOOF (Willing Workers On Organic Farms) and HelpEx.  They work hard for us five days a week, and spend off hours hanging out with other folks around the Bosque and exploring Pátzcuaro, Morelia, and other nearby towns.

volunteers

Our teachers are people in the local villages who offer classes ranging from bread making to stone working.  The teachers we have found are friendly, easy to communicate with, and incredibly knowledgeable.  Their warmness and sense of openness to students has made offering classes a pleasure.  We always look forward to students coming back from bread class, their stomachs stuffed and hands tired, but eyes bright from the experience.

teachers

Sometimes we get inquires about how many people are here or whether Spanish or English is dominant.  It always depends!  We have had people here from Scotland, Australia, England, USA, Canada, Mexico, France, Poland, Germany, Tunisia, Japan, Ireland, and more.  The dynamic is always different; there have been some weeks filled with yoga lessons every day, some with soccer games in the afternoons, others with meditation, discussions, volleyball, or lots of day-trips.  And, also dependent on who is around, language can range from Spanish to English to Spanglish, with occasional mixes of French, Japanese, and German.

Check out the new page to read our bios, as well as short bios on all our current volunteers and our teachers.

Mural, mural, mural, on the walls!

Monday, May 4th, 2009 by Marie

Some of our visitors use their time in the forest as a personal artist retreat.   This area of Michoacán is known for attracting artists such as Frido Kahlo and Diego Rivera.  We’re not sure if it’s the climate, the openness of the people here to receiving strange artist foreigners, or just coincidence.  Whatever the case, we enjoy that we continue to attract talented artists and artisans to the Bosque and invite them to create!

Over the last year, the amount of art in the woods has increased dramatically.  Sculptures hanging from trees, crafts being done with local artisans, and perhaps the most noticeable: murals!

Visitors and volunteers who have an interest in creating a mural at the Bosque submit a proposal which includes a sketch, ideas about what space to paint the mural, and estimated time to completion.  Our flexibility range with mural design and ideas is very wide, and artists happily paint away on the walls of the Casita, the art studio, and the bodega.  The Casita has been the most popular painting location.  We want to tattoo the entire building - completely cover it with an eclectic mix of murals.

For murals (and most painting here) we use acrylic paints - mostly house paints.

Below are photos of some of the murals that have been created here.

The Letter, Trevor

Naked Woman Spreading Seeds, Giovana


Ganesh, Katerina


Eyes and Symbols, Brian


Tree Woman, Melissa

Spring, Bethany

Colorful X-Man, Nadia


Studio Mural, Brian

Singing, Bethany


Recipe: Pumpkin, amaranth and garbanzo casserole

Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 by Marie

Bethany, one of our recent volunteers, inspired me to make up this recipe - she is a big amaranth fan! We’re also in a bit of a lull - lots of folks just left, and in a few days more will arrive - but with a small crowd I feel more freedom to experiment in the kitchen. Exciting to me, since while our menu provides new dishes for visitors and volunteers passing through, I’ve already tried them all. They’re excellent. But I’m always ready for something new.

Amaranth is readily available in Mexico. If you explore the nearby cities, you would find people selling little cookies and sweets made of toasted amaranth and honey. The history of amaranth is interesting - the Aztecs used to shape the grain into the gods to be cut up and eaten in ceremonies. When the Spanish invaded, the Catholic priests saw this as sacrilege and forbid the cultivation of the plant. Wild amaranth still grew (we have a wild amaranth - not edible - growing here in the Bosque), and in the 1970s, due to the significant nutritional value of the seeds and the leaves of the plant, edible amaranth was recovered from the wild plants and is now widely available. I can’t say how easy it is to buy in other countries, but in Mexico amaranth is inexpensive and everywhere! Amaranth is packed with protein, making it an important part of a vegetarian diet, and is also a great source of dietary fiber, important minerals, and iron.

If you can’t find amaranth where you live, substitute quinoa for this recipe. Another amazing food! (Anyone with information on where to find quinoa in Mexico, please contact me!) Amaranth and quinoa are both occasionally confused as grains - they are seeds, and exceptional for their taste and nutritional value.

To add to the goodness of this meal, pumpkins are loaded with beta-carotene, an important antioxidant. And garbanzos also add a boost of fiber and protein to the meal. The pumpkin seeds provide minerals and monounsaturated fat.

This recipe was enjoyed by a small crowd today - only 5 people on site! We’ll make the leftovers into a soup for dinner. Since we only have one solar oven, I am limited to how much I can make in it for the mid-day meal. But this recipe would be sufficient for about 12-15 people, with a side salad and fruit. If I was making it for 15+, I would serve it with brown rice to increase quantity.

And, about twice a year (once for Thanksgiving and once right about now), I make a dish with: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. This is specifically for my benefit, so that when I tell people what they are eating I can expect to hear some Simon and Garfunkel… so, if you don’t have those herbs, you can play around with the seasoning. It would be just as good if you took out the sage, or if you added some fresh basil or mint. Whatever herbs you have growing in your garden will be lovely in this!

recipe

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup dry chickpeas - soaked overnight, then cooked - reserve broth
  • 5 cups popped amaranth
  • 1 handful each of fresh parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped finely
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1/2 t tumeric
  • 4 cups broth of your choice - I used vegetable
  • water
  • 1 small pumpkin, cooked, chopped into cubes.
  • The seeds of your pumpkin, rinsed

DIRECTIONS

  1. In a large pot, heat oil and add onions, celery and garlic. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until onions are translucent
  2. Add broth and amaranth. Cook for 10 minutes. Add herbs (reserve parsley for garnish) and turmeric.
  3. Add chickpeas, chickpea broth, and pumpkin. Cook for 5 minutes more. If you need to, add a bit of water. Mixture should be the consistency of a very thick stew.
  4. Put mixture into a large casserole. If you are using a solar oven, it is best if the pan is black. Wet the pumpkin seeds and add a bit of salt to them. Top your mixture with the pumpkin seeds, and put it in the oven.

For our solar oven, the average temperature is somewhere around 220 degrees F, or 105 degrees C. I put the casserole in for about 2 hours. If you are using a normal oven, you could probably put it in for 45 minutes at 300. Take care not to burn the pumpkin seeds.

When the dish is cooked, pull it out of the oven and garnish with parsley. I also served this with slices of lemons, though if you want you could add lemon juice to the original mixture.

H1N1 Response Plan

Friday, May 1st, 2009 by Marie

The H1N1 flu virus continues to escalate world-wide. In Mexico City, churches, schools, and most public meeting places are closed. Restaraunts serve only take-out; customers may not dine in. Masks are worn by the military, the police, and the clergy. Even in rural Mexico, some people are beginning to wear masks. The good news is that swine flu, while more contagious than avion flu, is treatable with a lower mortality rate.

We are in a lucky situation here at the Bosque.  Far from cities and towns, we can limit our contact with the outside world very significantly until the threat decreases.  We certainly don’t want to respond with fear or paranoia, but reading about the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 and reading the CDC’s website, we’d like to take precautions to protect ourselves and our friends.  Day to day nothing will change.  We will continue building more ecological projects, making more art, playing, and signing around the campfire.  And, we’ll be keeping an eye on the news.

We’ve written up a full response plan based on suggestions from the CDC and WHO.  The plan includes only accepting long term visitors and setting up cabanas for new visitors to stay for 4-5 days until we can be sure they do not show symptoms.  Our visits to town to get supplies will be short and as infrequent as possible.  For the most part, we will be up here in the forest, waiting until the threat decreases.

For friends and family of the people in the Bosque, please feel at ease!  We are taking the necessary precautions to keep the Bosque flu-free, and don’t anticipate any problems.  Should illness occur, we will go to whatever lengths necessary to get the appropriate treatment.

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