Local farmers learn to make jam

With an overabundance of fruits often going unsold at markets, farmers could be making more money from preserving their produce in jams and chutneys.

That’s why the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (S.W.A.G.) has gathered 20 of their members to learn not only how to do just that, but how to teach others, thanks in part to a T$13,433 (US$5000) grant from the US State Department small grants scheme.

S.W.A.G. hosted a workshop at the home of Beverly Arp, where she and Louise Main gave a tour of medicinal herbs and fruits, followed by a careful demonstration of basic jam and chutney making.

President Shelley Burich said after this workshop, two more will be held in August across villages on Upolu, where the newly-trained women will share their skills with representatives from 20 village women’s committees.

“We’re here to give them that opportunity to share knowledge. It’s been amazing how much knowledge these two women [Beverly and Louise] have – and they’re willing to share with this group of 20,” Ms Burich said.

“We will hopefully encourage women in the villages to start utilising what is in their backyard, turning them into pickles and jams.”

For some, preserving their fruit will add to their own kitchens and family cooking, hopefully improving their diet. Others may choose to develop their work into a small business.

“And if they want to do that they have an opportunity to join the S.W.A.G. Sunday market. We’ll give them a platform where they can sell their product,” Ms Burich said.

Ms Burich is a vanilla farmer, and also the Executive Director of the Samoa Cancer Society. She said eating organically, with food not treated with pesticides, can improve overall health but also prevent cancers from developing.

“The amount of plants we have that are cancer preventing, they are all out there, like papaya and sasalapa (soursop).”

The workshop hopes to alleviate some people from unemployment, with this year-round income making opportunity.

Trainee Aigaga McNeely said she has given jam-making a go but her jams won’t set. She was excited to get useful tips and tricks from Ms Main and Ms Arp to make better use of the fruits and vegetables that grow in abundance at home.

Louise Main said the reason she and Ms Arp have become "chutney queens", as S.W.A.G. member Papalii Mele Maualaivao described them, is because they hate to see food go to waste. And, when fruit falls unheeded to the ground, it attracts fruit flies and pigs to the land, which no farmer wants.

“I always find that starfruit, mangoes, pawpaw, and vi (ambarella) are some of the fruits that are very abundant, so those are the ones we tend to jam, pickle and chutney because they are otherwise falling on the ground,” Ms Main said.

“Then we got to the stage where they said to teach preserving and I realised we don’t use recipes.

“We had to go back to basics to teach the class.”

She said across the board, there are superfoods and healthy plants that can go in everyday cooking, that can improve not only flavour but nutritional benefits of your meal.

Moringa (tamaligi aiga), Island cabbage, (laupele), amaranth, curry leaves and kumara leaves can all be added to soups, Ms Main said.

“What I teach is that food is your medicine. Don’t be scared to throw it into whatever you’re cooking.

Ambarella (vi) and papaya (esi) are two underestimated fruits which can be pickled, preserved and made into jam which not only keeps it for longer but creates more varied ways to eat it.

These fruits have excellent properties themselves, and their leaves can be cooked into teas which are rich in anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

“I think we become lazy in foraging for our food and gathering up what is around us.

“Some of it takes effort but once you get into that practice, it’s actually quite easy.”

But Ms Main also encourages people she teaches to research as much as they can about natural medicines, and the many ways to use local food. There are certain risks with eating too many papaya seeds, though in small quantities can improve the digestive system.

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